Liverpool were left with the taste of defeat once more as Man City ruthlessly punished the missteps of Jurgen Klopp‘s side to put an end to any ambitions of retaining the title.
The Reds had been looking to stem the tide and end a two-game losing streak at Anfield when league leaders Man City arrived on Sunday, but it wasn’t to be.
Klopp’s men had started the stronger of the two sides and while Mohamed Salah had provided a lifeline from the spot after Ilkay Gundogan’s opener, it would prove only to be a consolation.
Two rare errors in possession from Alisson were duly punished as City ran away with the game to establish a 10-point buffer over the reigning champions with a game in hand.
The result all but ends Liverpool’s title hopes as focus now shifts on ensuring Champions League football remains at Anfield next season.
Here, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) is joined by Liverpool Transfer Room’s Stephen Killen (@SteKillenLFC) and fellow Reds writer David Comerford (@Dave_Comerford) to discuss the highs and the lows from the defeat and one of our new signings.
STEPHEN: It has to be Curtis Jones, it was refreshing seeing a Scouser play with his heart on his sleeve. His commitment was unrivalled across the park.
His future is definitely bright and he didn’t put a foot wrong in his 67 minutes.
At just 20 years of age, Jones is proving to be the creative outlet we’ve been lacking and now crying out for.
On the complexion of the game, this glimpse of positivity is a rose between many thorns.
DAVID: The Anfield scoring drought ended. That’s…something.
Klopp did draw genuine positives from the game. He said Alisson‘s errors disguised a broadly encouraging Liverpool performance and that if we played like that more often the gap to City wouldn’t be so big.
I’m not sure I can fully agree with that. I didn’t really notice a substantial improvement, but crucially I do trust him to console the players and coax the right reaction out of them.
In terms of individual performances, I have to agree with Stephen here. Jones repaid the manager’s faith and his reputation improved further.
I thought he was excellent before he was substituted, and but for a really good John Stones block he would have scored the biggest goal of his career. He’s shot up the midfield pecking order this season.
JOANNA: Absolutely no disputing what either of the lads have said there regarding Jones, he was the clear standout and continues to show why he can be relied upon.
He did cutback a few too many time in the first half when in promising positions but he just needs to keep playing on instinct as it’s served him well so far.
Unfortunately, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack for positives once more but I did think Gini Wijnaldum‘s performance was worthy of praise. It’s going to be tough to find a like-for-like replacement in the summer.
STEPHEN: We really are off the boil, we’re not playing like champions and our fear factor has gone.
Our play is slow, the attacking transitions are slow and our movement is non-existent. As a whole, it is dull to watch and I can’t see where the goals are going to come from. This has to be the longest disjointed spell in recent memory, it just won’t click.
Sadly, Klopp got it wrong and we were dealt a very harsh lesson, the decision not to field a recognised centre-back has heavy repercussions.
And we have to touch upon Alisson‘s mistakes, he is human after all. The errors are inexcusable but these things happen, hopefully, his confidence isn’t severely affected by these two uncharacteristic lapses.
DAVID: Adding on to what Stephen just said, I think my main problem with the Alisson errors is that they are so confusing and so charitable.
After a jittery moment shortly before the first, why not keep it simple rather than taking a risk? Mistakes happen but you have to learn from them. Neither he nor his defenders adjusted and they incredibly fell into the same trap.
I understand that Liverpool can’t just abandon a playing style but I think Klopp summed it up best when he said ‘we have stands, you can kick the ball there’ if it comes to it.
Alisson will recover, but confidence levels across the board are a long-term concern.
The circumstances surrounding next season could be completely different, but can the players fully recover from what has been a bruising, at times embarrassing title defence? That might be the real question.
This rejuvenated City side will take some beating.
JOANNA: I certainly to want to jump on the pile in regards to Alisson but his two uncharacteristic errors did hand City the game on a silver platter.
As the guys noted, it seems to be a symptom of the lack of confidence in this side at the moment.
But what has not been mentioned is the timing and choice of Klopp’s substitutions, it pulled the rug from under the Reds’ feet just five minutes after the equaliser and when we had the ascendancy. It was mind-boggling at best and I can’t understand Milner’s introduction for Jones.
And the other obvious point here is that the title defence appears to be over after just 23 games. This season really is no fun at all and I’m just anxiously awaiting the day fans can safely return.
And when should Kabak start for the Reds?
STEPHEN: He has to be thrown in as soon as possible doesn’t he! The longer this is dragged out for when he eventually does start the pressure will be insurmountable.
Klopp has put his faith in youth before, we’ve been forced into making moves for two central defenders but now is time to trust who we’ve signed.
It’s clear to see the midfield is lacking Jordan Henderson and/or Fabinho there, get them back there and get Kabak in before we fall further by the wayside.
DAVID: I certainly understand why Klopp left Kabak on the bench. I think throwing a player, particularly a young player, into a Premier League debut against the best team in the division carries too great a risk.
A start against Leicester is far more realistic, even if Jamie Vardy’s presence makes it something of a baptism of fire. He’ll have had a full week of training/preparation and he should be ready. If he were to perform well I’m sure he’d start against Leipzig.
I suppose his arrival gives us some reason for optimism. Playing with natural centre-backs and restoring the midfield could feasibly take the team up a level as we look to salvage the season.
JOANNA: I’m with Stephen and David, it has to be against Leicester now as there simply is no time to waste.
But it would have been a risk worth taking of starting him against City, in my view, to allow Henderson to move back into midfield in what was a must-win but Klopp obviously didn’t think the same.
With the Champions League the only realistic piece of silverware we can still win now, he needs the time to settle before he surely plays again three days later against Leipzig.
Time on the training pitch will prove invaluable and hopefully, his place in the side will coincide with a change in fortunes as we look to restore balance on the pitch for the remainder of the season.