Klopp’s “biggest challenge” as Reds go from “believers to doubters” – Media on Liverpool 1-4 Man City

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The media felt Liverpool’s 4-1 loss to Man City ended the title defence and leaves Jurgen Klopp facing his “biggest challenge” as the Reds go from “believers to doubters.”

Liverpool’s faint hopes of retaining the Premier League crown were ended after a humbling third successive Anfield loss.

Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for the Reds, as City ruthlessly punished awful Alisson errors and another lethargic performance from Klopp’s struggling side.

The Reds looked drained mentally and physically, and the players and staff will somehow have to muster the energy for what is going to be an intense fight for a top-four finish.

Here’s how the media reacted to the brutal defeat.

 

Reporters declared the title defence over and aren’t confident on the Reds’ chances in the top four race…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 7, 2021: Manchester City's Raheem Sterling celebrates after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Mail‘s Ian Ladyman assessed that “there will be no recovering from this” for Liverpool:

“This time their race would appear to be run. There will be no recovering from this.”

Jonathan Smith, writing for Goal, can’t see any other team stopping City from going on to claim the crown:

“With Liverpool now seemingly out of the race, it is difficult to see who can stop them claiming another title.”

ESPN’s Mark Ogden thinks finishing in the top four is going to be a tough ask for Klopp’s side given how they are so drained and void of any energy and spark in performances:

“Keeping West Ham, Everton and Chelsea at bay in the battle for fourth is the priority and that is not a foregone conclusion for a team that lacks energy and ideas and will be without their best defender, Virgil van Dijk, until next season.”

The Mail‘s Martin Samuel suggested that Liverpool’s top-four rivals are all looking better positioned than the Reds for the race ahead:

“By the end, Liverpool looked toasted, exhausted, their race run. It is not just about the ten points that separates them from City now. It is seeing Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy back for Tottenham and Leicester, Chelsea’s resurgence under Thomas Tuchel.”

Elsewhere, Ladyman is already tipping the Reds to “return with renewed fire and vigour” and be back in the title shakeup next season:

“Liverpool’s decline is likely to be temporary. It will be an enormous surprise if they don’t return with renewed fire and vigour next season.”

 

The media saw the look of a beaten team in Liverpool’s performance as the Reds have gone from “believers to doubters”…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 7, 2021: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker looks dejected as Manchester City score the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

To write that was the Liverpool Echo‘s Ian Doyle, who explained how the Reds are “completely bereft of self-belief” and have turned from “believers to doubters”:

“From believers to doubters, Liverpool have come full circle under Jurgen Klopp.

[…]

“Having been urged by assistant manager Pep Lijnders to show character in response to their difficult recent run at home, Liverpool were instead almost completely bereft of self-belief.

“Save for a 20-minute spell before half-time, Klopp’s side didn’t give any indication they thought they could win against a City side who, with no striker in the starting line-up, would clearly have been happy to take a point.”

Doyle also noted how the absence of the Anfield has played a big part in this, with the Reds missing the driving force that the fans provide to drag them through tough moments:

“Without their 12th man, Liverpool are finding it almost impossible to rebuild fortress Anfield by themselves right now.”

Following that, Paul Gorst, also of the Echo, assessed the collapse of fortress Anfield as the main reason behind Liverpool’s failed title defence:

“This is now a place where Liverpool lose. Routinely, as it goes. Goals are scarce, confidence has gone and perhaps the one small mercy of it all is there is no-one here to witness it.

[…]

“It is this run that has signed the death certificate on Liverpool’s title challenge.”

Ladyman explained how this post-Christmas collapse has in fact been coming for a while as Liverpool have been “some way short for much of this campaign”:

“Some say it goes back to their home draw with West Brom on December 27 but in truth it predates that. Relative to where they were last season and indeed the one before, Jurgen Klopp’s team have been some way short for much of this campaign.

“What we have witnessed since Christmas has been coming down the tracks for some time.”

 

Journalists discussed the tactical battle at Anfield and how and where the game was lost for Liverpool…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 7, 2021: Manchester City's Phil Foden celebrates after scoring the fourth goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

ESPN’s Nick Judd felt the Reds were punished for sloppiness in possession and being too “hesitant” in attack when presented with opportunities to hurt City:

“The hosts gifted Manchester City possession time and time again and while that may have been to their benefit defensively, it showcased the growing hesitancy that is bleeding into their style — which comes from a lack of confidence in front of goal.

“They were often slow, lethargic and constantly held back when in dangerous positions on the counter-attack.”

The Independent‘s Melissa Reddy pointed out how key to Liverpool’s struggles was the way City nullified the counter-press and denied space for the Reds to run into:

“The new-and-improved City do not succumb in transition, though and their diligence without the ball starved the hosts of space to run into.

“When Liverpool turned the ball over, with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane ready to morph into weapons, they met a wall of bodies already in position to break up any danger.”

Ogden thought key to City’s triumph was the exploitation of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, and also noted that the Reds were too “one-paced and predictable”:

“It was City’s control of the ball, movement in the attacking third and determination to target Alexander-Arnold and Robertson that made them so devastating.

[…]

“Liverpool had no response and looked one-paced and predictable, even though Mohamed Salah gave them hope of a victory by scoring from the penalty spot on 63 minutes to cancel out Gundogan’s opener, scored just after half-time.”

The Mirror‘s David Maddock thought Liverpool failed to match City’s intensity, assessing that the Reds once again missed the energy of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in midfield:

“They looked not just lethargic, but a good yard off the pace of City, the use of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson again as emergency centre backs, robbing them of the vitality of press in midfield which has so often been the undoing of Pep Guardiola at Anfield.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 7, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp reacts during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Judd thought Liverpool paid for the price for a lack of urgency and felt Klopp’s cautious substitutions backfired:

“Klopp stuck with what he knows by not risking either of his new centre-backs for this game, and that conservative approach was pretty evident throughout the course of the encounter.

“There was a real lack of urgency from the Reds in comparison to what we’re used to seeing from them, and the manager’s substitutions clearly showed that they were playing for a draw after the equaliser.”

The Mirror‘s Freddie Keighley provided some tactical analysis on a change of shape in Liverpool’s midfield, but also noted that it didn’t quite have the impact intended:

“With the change of personnel came a tactical tweak. Off the ball, Liverpool defended in a compact 4-3-3, with Jones, Thiago and Wijnaldum rotating roles to fill in across the centre of the pitch where needed.

“Whereas in possession, two of the midfielders would form a double-pivot, while the third joined the frontline as an auxiliary attacker. The extra man in attack bore little fruit in the first half but the strategy showed signs of promise as the game became more open following City’s opener.”

Meanwhile, Gorst challenged City to produce such a performance when the force of the Anfield crowd is in play:

“The challenge for them will be to make sure they can repeat the feat when the white-hot Anfield atmosphere one day returns. History has shown them unable to.”

 

Alisson came in for heavy criticism for his errors but reporters were also unimpressed with other Reds…

Alisson, sad, mistakes, vs Man City (Jon Super/PA)

Keighley labelled the goalkeeper’s display “his worst performance in a Liverpool shirt”:

“And Alisson endured his worst performance in a Liverpool shirt.

[…]

“The shot-stopper has proved himself one of the world’s best in recent seasons, but his moments of madness may just have sealed the title for Manchester City.”

BBC Sport’s Phil McNulty reflected on Alisson‘s “nightmare” but reminded that the Brazilian has been a “game-changer” and “one of their most reliable figures” since arriving at Anfield:

“As Liverpool have won Premier League and Champions League titles, the 28-year-old Brazilian has been one of their most reliable figures, a game-changer to place alongside the arrival of defender Virgil van Dijk.

“However, he suffered arguably the biggest nightmare of his Liverpool career on Sunday.”

Meanwhile, the Telegraph‘s Jason Burt thought City were “by far” the better team even without the goals gifted by Alisson‘s mistakes:

“Even without Alisson’s mistakes City were by far the superior side.”

Judd was unimpressed with Gini Wijnaldum and felt the Dutchman should have done better defensively for two of the goals conceded:

“Was like a deer in the headlights for large spells of the game and can be held responsible for not tracking his man in the lead up to two of the opposition’s goals.”

McNulty said Thiago Alcantara had a poor game and thinks the No. 6 is “struggling to adapt to the pace of the Premier League“:

“Of course, Liverpool injuries will take a heavy toll, but this was a tough 90 minutes for midfielder Thiago Alcantara, who is struggling to adapt to the pace of the Premier League and made life difficult for himself with a needless early foul on Gundogan that brought a yellow card.”

Judd picked out one bright spot – that being Curtis Jones‘ performance and felt that Klopp’s decision to take off the youngster “deserves to be questioned”:

“The youngster was confident in making quick and important judgements, and because of that, the decision to take him off deserves to be questioned.”

 

Certain journalists discussed what Liverpool need to do to pick themselves up for the top-four race…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 7, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah and team-mates remove their anthem jackets before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. Manchester City won 4-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Matt Stead, for Football365, thinks introducing the new centre-back signings to the fold will help, and assessed that Klopp must do it against Leicester next time out:

“That has to be the last instance of Klopp’s experimentation with central midfielders in defence. One can vaguely understand why he has persisted with it for so long, particularly in the case of Fabinho as he looked so comfortable in the role at first.

“But the risk now outweighs the reward by a laughable amount. Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies would have been sacrificial lambs here, to be fair, yet they have to start from the next game onwards.”

Neil Jones, writing for Goal, says Klopp is now facing his biggest challenge since arriving at Anfield and that the German needs to restore the joy in his side’s football:

“They look like a team – and a manager – who stopped enjoying their football some time ago at the moment.

[…]

“He needs to recalibrate his defence and repair his midfield, rebuild his players’ fractured confidence and get them smiling again.

[…]

“It might be his biggest challenge yet, but he’ll relish it.”

“Energy and confidence” are the two key ingredients that Liverpool need to rediscover in order to ensure of Champions League qualification, according to Ladyman:

“Liverpool must find energy and appetite and confidence. They must find rhythm and adventure. They simply must find a little of their true selves.”

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