Reds “recognisable” but undone by FSG’s transfer “negligence” – Media on Liverpool’s FA Cup exit

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The media saw positives in Liverpool’s performance in the FA Cup exit at Man United and attributed the defeat to FSG’s transfer “negligence”.

The Reds exited the famous cup competition a round earlier than last season following a 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford.

While the result was disappointing there was reason for optimism over the performance, with Jurgen Klopp‘s side much-improved in attack as Mohamed Salah netted a classy brace.

The improved display must act as a springboard for further progress ahead of Thursday night’s clash with Tottenham, where the Reds need to return to winning ways.

Before attention turns to that showdown, here’s how the media assessed the FA Cup loss.

 

Members of the media saw positive progress in Liverpool’s performance from recent games…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 24, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the first goal during the FA Cup 4th Round match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Mail’s Spencer Morgan described that the Reds looked “recognisable” again as they played with more of the customary “hunger and imagination”:

Liverpool – without a meaningful win now for more than a month – were better than in recent games. They played with more hunger and imagination. They scored two lovely goals and were brave enough to press United hard in their defensive third. Much of this was recognisable.

The Mirror’s Mark Jones explained how the key to the improved attacking form came from the Reds rediscovering their attacking patterns and set-up:

The muscle memory is there though, and as both full-backs pushed high suddenly Roberto Firmino could turn and face goal with play fairly stretched ahead of him, with his threaded ball to Mo Salah exactly the sort of thing that you expect to see when you watch Jurgen Klopp‘s sides.

Salah’s fine finish can be put into that bracket too, as the Reds showed that they haven’t suddenly forgotten what it is that they do best when they’re on their game.

Karl Matchett, writing for the Independent, saw Salah’s return to goal-scoring form as the big positive and says Klopp’s side must now build on an improved attacking dislay:

They ended up on the wrong side of the result, but a big positive for the Reds on the day was the return to scoring form of Mohamed Salah.

[…]

It’s four games without a goal in league play for the Reds, so this improved game in an attacking sense has to be taken forward to the game against Spurs on Thursday.

And Matchett explained how a subtle tactical change in formation from Klopp helped breathe life back into Liverpool’s attack – but also brought problems at the back:

After recent struggles to create clear openings, Jurgen Klopp switched up the team shape on Sunday to go with two at centre-forward and two, Curtis Jones and Gini Wijnaldum, playing as narrow attacking options from the sides of midfield.

[…]

That was a positive going forward, but it was an issue at the back – with United able to overload and exploit their left, Liverpool’s right, when Shaw got forward and Marcus Rashford went one-on-one with Rhys Williams.

 

Reporters reflected on an error-strewn defensive display but had sympathy for Liverpool’s centre-backs…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 24, 2021: Liverpool's Rhys Williams during the FA Cup 4th Round match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The BBC’s Simon Stone thought Fabinho was “exposed” by Edinson Cavani, but pointed out how Klopp needs a more serious solution to the defensive crisis:

Evidently, what Klopp needs is to find a solution in defence. Williams was shaky and at fault for Rashford’s goal, while Fabinho was exposed by United in this game and Cavani exploited the Brazilian’s defensive inexperience to earn the free-kick that won the game.

The Liverpool Echo’s Ian Doyle also had sympathy for the Brazilian, explaining that the No.3 made a mistake of a player who simply isn’t a natural defender:

The Brazilian has surpassed all expectations but that he isn’t a centre-back by trade was apparent when fooled by Edinson Cavani for the free-kick from which Bruno Fernandes struck the winner.

[…]

Was it a foul? Possibly not. But by diving in, Fabinho gave Cavani an opportunity to force lamentable referee Craig Pawson into making a decision. Sure, any defender could have made the same mistake. But that it was Fabinho making it spoke volumes.

Doyle followed that by jumping to Rhys Williams‘ defence, instead lambasting the Anfield hierarchy for failing to sign a defender which has forced the youngster to be thrown in to a level he’s not ready for:

Lazy and unfair assessments will no doubt point the finger at 19-year-old centre-back Rhys Williams, who made a horrible mistake for United’s second goal and was guilty of other errors the home side couldn’t capitalise upon.

[…]

However, when Williams reported for pre-season in the summer, he couldn’t have envisaged he’d be featuring in a game of this magnitude. […] But, for their own reasons – some understandable, some we don’t yet know – Fenway Sports Group haven’t sanctioned a signing this month.

On a similar note, the Guardian’s Barney Ronay praised Williams for showing “great resilience” and going on to improve after his error for United’s second goal:

Williams looked distraught, although to his credit he showed great resilience for the rest of the game and actually improved after that point, when he might have fallen apart.

 

The media are in disbelief that FSG won’t buy a new centre-back and criticised the club for “standing still”…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, January 21, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Burnley FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Telegraph’s Jason Burt believes Liverpool simply cannot afford to not bring in a new signing before the window shuts:

With Klopp searching for solutions the brutal truth is that Rhys Williams is not the answer, while Fabinho was also at fault. Can Liverpool afford not to buy before the transfer window closes?

The Mirror’s James Whaling urged the Anfield hierarchy to bring in a centre-back before the transfer window closes:

In the unlikely event anyone from the Anfield hierarchy is reading – there’s still a week of the transfer window left.

The Liverpool Echo’s Paul Gorst pulled no punches, labelling FSG “negligent” for failing to back Klopp with the defensive reinforcements needed this month:

The fact that Klopp has been expected to continue to keep Liverpool as the country’s dominant side in the midst of this injury crisis, without the reinforcements he has readily admitted he would like, is borderline negligence from the owners.

Melissa Reddy, of the Independent, explained a centre-back is desperately needed not only to improve the team, but to protect the youngsters suffering as a result of being thrown in when not quite ready:

It’s not. It’s a fact. Liverpool really need a good centre-back. For the sake of the system, for the sake of young players not being unfairly vilified when they’re asked to take on more than they’re primed for and for the sake of the season.

Ronay believes Liverpool are paying the price for “standing still” and can’t understand why FSG won’t break from their transfer strategy given how successfully it worked with Virgil van Dijk:

Liverpool’s owners don’t want to pay over par for a match-ready centre-back in the transfer window. This has not been the model. The model has been smart, considered, value for money. The model has worked.

But the game never stays still. Breaking that pattern, signing the best centre-back in the league, validated the rest of the model. Buying Virgil van Dijk helped make buying Andy Robertson such title-winning good sense. One doesn’t happen without the other. And the stitches are starting to show back there.

Finally, Doyle said the Reds’ season will be defined by what happens in the last week of the transfer window:

What happens over the next seven days – on and off the field – will shape the remainder of a Liverpool season that has now reached a defining crossroads.

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