Liverpool have lost four in a row at Anfield after Everton won there for the first time in over 20 years, taking the Merseyside derby 2-0.
Liverpool 0-2 Everton
Premier League (25), Anfield
February 20, 2021
Goals: Richarlison 3′, Sigurdsson pen 82′
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That’s about where we are now, with Jordan Henderson the latest to go down injured, an apparent pull or over-stretch midway through the first 45. It looks like a hamstring or groin issue.
Kabak and Nat Phillips thus became the 180th partnership of the season at the back, or close to that anyway.
They got on largely as you’d expect: very little understanding, one dropping when the other didn’t, safe in possession but suspect in particular to balls over the top.
It’s a partnership that looks like it will need to be worked on considerably over the coming days – while Ben Davies is also now likely to get a chance, meaning yet another new pairing to develop.
Fabinho should be back next week, so expect him to be alongside Kabak for partnership number 19 of the season.
2. The Anfield run
After coming on for four years without a single league defeat on home soil, Liverpool have now lost four in a row in the top-flight for the first time since 1923.
And it’s more than just that.
Four defeats, but six without a win. An unheard-of run considering recent times.
We’ve also scored one goal in our last five at Anfield – a penalty against City. The last goal in open play was against West Brom, on December 27. Almost nine hours at Anfield without scoring from open play.
The last win at Anfield was even before that, mid-December against Spurs to send us top.
It’s 19 shots on target across the last five matches, six of which came in this derby.
If you haven’t already blanked the game from memory, you’ll probably remember that of the half-dozen probably only Sadio Mane‘s header and Mohamed Salah‘s late toe-poke were in any way half-credible openings.
There is such a lot to work on when it comes to getting back to confident ways at Anfield.
3. Lack of attack
The first half was not a fun watch for many reasons, but a particularly important – and regularly repeated one of late – was the absence of any real cutting edge in the final third.
There were a couple of long-range strikes which troubled the Ev in the first half, but beyond that… nothing. No runs behind, no combinations in the box, not one clear sight of goal created in open play.
A sum total of zero shots on target from inside the 18-yard-box in the first 45 minutes summed it up.
Within 10 minutes of the restart, 83 percent possession had translated to two headers from Mane, one saved and one over, one almost-shot from the same player in the box which was stopped by a last-ditch tackle and two runs, Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold, to the byline down the right channel.
It was much quicker, much sharper, more dangerous and difficult to deal with – but as has been the case too often, it simply didn’t last.
Salah missed the best chance, Firmino hit the wildest effort, nobody showed enough composure and perfect link-play.
If you’re wondering why the absurd, farcical, unbelievably wrong penalty decision isn’t a ‘talking point’ here, it’s because of the other end of the pitch.
Even without the second for the Ev, Liverpool didn’t look like scoring here if they stayed out on the Anfield pitch until Wednesday.
4. Bench options
Yes, there are injuries that limit this and yes, another in-game injury similarly reduces Klopp’s chances of switching things around.
But it was very notable that, beyond the Shaq for Jones switch which has occurred with regularity in one direction or the other, there were basically no fit, in-form players to turn to.
A formation change seems to be the logical route, then, to force different movements and buildup patterns, but Jurgen Klopp has remained resistant to that.
Divock Origi was a Hail Mary late sub, Naby Keita clearly not sharp enough to be relied on to have a late go, no young forwards hammering down the door and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the midst of a wretched run of his own.
Jota’s return, another fit midfielder… either one might be a boost, but otherwise Klopp might just need to wipe the slate clean and devise a bit of a new plan this week.
5. Week to reset
Speaking of this week, it must be made best use of, whether that’s drilling into the players that there wasn’t enough shown in a game of such magnitude, whether it’s rebuilding the team spirit or devising the changed tactical plan.
Sheffield United away is next up.
They are bottom, and we’re not at Anfield – it’s basically a ‘perfect’ chance (if such a thing exists for this team at this time) to get back to winning ways in the league.
This is a real, real low point in Liverpool’s already difficult season.
The bounceback must be of equal proportions.