Liverpool suffered a second straight defeat at home in the league for the first time since 2012, losing 1-0 to Brighton and failing to even muster a shot on target.
Liverpool 0-1 Brighton
Anfield, Premier League
3 February 2021
Goals: Alzate 56′
The bottom 6 problem
Our record this season against teams down at the crap end of the table is absolutely awful.
Pre-kick-off it was one win from six this season, in fact, against those in the bottom six – with Brighton one of those we failed to beat earlier in the campaign.
Falling behind before the hour mark, it was very much a sense of deja vu because, quite simply, we’d created nothing up until that point.
Brighton defended extremely deep, but it’s not as though we’ve had no practice with that. They were great with organisation, far bigger for set-pieces and a lot more accurate with their passing in the final third.
‘Beat the dross, win the league’ used to be a bit of a mantra. This season, we’re getting neither at this rate. One win in seven games against the bottom-six sides.
My kingdom for a 68-match unbeaten run, hey?
Nearly a decade ago, September 2012 – that’s the last time we lost two league games at home in a row.
Then, it was Arsenal and Man United. With respect, Burnley and Brighton are slightly lesser lights to repeat that feat, but that’s what has happened over the past few weeks.
The last time Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds actually won in the league at Anfield was 16 December: the win over Spurs which sent us top of the table.
Simply put, since then our form has been an abomination – two draws and two defeats, one goal scored, eight points dropped to opponents in the bottom four.
It’s now 348 minutes without scoring at home, which points to bigger issues.
Too many absentees
It seems as though centre-back stole too much focus for this game: three are out entirely, so too the stand-in, but two new ones have signed and the starting pair here already had a massive 45 minutes together, so we’re fine, right?
Apparently not – but centre-back woes didn’t have too much to do with this defeat.
Instead, look at the entirety: the full defensive diamond of goalkeeper, middle defenders and holding midfielder were all out.
Sadio Mane, a critical and elite attacker, was out. And pacy, dribble-heavy attacking outlets of Diogo Jota and Naby Keita were out.
We could really have done with at least one of those change-of-direction attackers on a night so much was slow, to feet and in front of the defence.
How about it, then? We’ve been linked with the Brighton midfielder for several months, with the idea being an apparent summer move.
He played a real destroyer role here, blocking out the passing lanes, working hard to protect the Brighton back three and putting in as many challenges as were necessary, legal or otherwise.
In the other half, Bissouma had a decent shot and played a couple of neat passes through the lines to keep his team moving forward at pace – something Liverpool failed to do for most of the match.
Positionally it’s a very different role to that in a three-man midfield such as the Reds have, so he was often tracking back to challenge on the run rather than having play come towards him.
Overall? A decent outing and, on the night, sadly more effective than too many of those in Red.
Fourth and City
So the Reds stay fourth. Thursday night now bears watching, as Spurs play Chelsea and the winner will be four points behind us.
After a good week where we had made ground on United and overtaken Leicester, it has all flipped back again quickly: the top three all won and we’re seven points off the top as a result.
Next up is Man City – who are now seven points ahead and with a game in hand.
It’s tough to put into perspective what the match will mean: they are on nine league wins in a row, 13 in all competitions.
Yet it might be an ‘easier’ game to play – not win – than some of these against teams down at the bottom, simply because they’ll come out and attack, look to dominate and so on.
We’ll have to be at our very best, not just our best of this season but our actual best, to beat them and get back in the title fight. A big few days in training awaits.