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Lack of goal threat spells concern for Champions League – 5 talking points from Liverpool 0-1 Fulham

Liverpool have lost yet another Anfield game in the Premier League, going down 1-0 to Fulham for a sixth straight league loss on home soil.

Liverpool 0-1 Fulham

Premier League (28), Anfield
March 7, 2021

Goal: Lemina 45′

Changes of fury, warning or preservation?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 7, 2021: Liverpool's Rhys Williams during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The boss made seven changes to the lineup from the defeat to Chelsea, perhaps inviting supporters to make up their own minds on the reasons.

Two were enforced, with Bobby Firmino and Ozan Kabak out injured, but Trent, Mane, Jones, Thiago and Fabinho were all benched.

The possible reasons, then.

Was it a response to poor performance levels? In many cases it would be justified, certainly by points earned of late.

Was it the normal rotation that Jurgen employs, ie. very little at all, then all at once? Or was it with midweek in mind?

We face Leipzig on Wednesday and with the league season effectively over for us, that game is all-or-nothing, after all.

As for whether the changes themselves ‘worked’, that really depends on which reason took precedence, as there was scant evidence of freshness or players seizing their chance to come into the team.

First-half ‘goal threat’

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 7, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool aren’t scoring many at all, and especially at Anfield. But even when we are managing to find a route to goal, we’re having to wait for it, bide our time and hopefully still be in the game.

A fast start, once a hallmark of the team, no longer exists.

The Reds’ last first-half goal came against Spurs, in the 45th minute from Firmino. Nine games since then haven’t seen Liverpool register early.

And more than that, the few shots taken and chances fashioned have been largely hopeful, half-sights of goal.

In the last eight games – home or away, all competitions – the Reds have netted precisely two goals which cannot be put down to opposition defensive mistakes of one type or another.

Jones against Sheffield United and Salah against Leicester were created and scored by the Reds; the other four in that period were own goals, penalties and clear individual errors.

Returning faces

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 7, 2021: Liverpool's Diogo Jota during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Positives? Naby Keita and Diogo Jota making starts.

Both have been out for a long time and both are, when fit and in a functioning team, players who can break the lines and accelerate into space away from defenders – real disrupters who allow others to shine.

Of course, neither will be right at the top of their game right now, but both provided a few moments to remind why they can be starters on merit.

Keita was the most progressive player in red, showing individuality and intent to attack, fashioning a few openings and running at Fulham whenever he could.

Jota started brightly and had one good hit in the second half which might have found the net.

Perhaps competition for places is a factor which will push others to return to good form, if the manager allows that to be something that decides starting lineups.

Are fans done with the season?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 7, 2021: A plane banner flies over Anfield with the message "Unityt is strength - Lets (sic) go Reds YNWA" during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

They can’t be in the stadiums until the final game of the campaign. They can’t have a voice, other than the first-half aeroplane in the sky or the echo chamber of social media.

There doesn’t appear much to look forward to in the short term, a last-16 second leg aside – more on that in a moment – and the last stretch of league play looks a plod.

Both the teams below the Reds have two games in hand as it stands, so dropping to at least eighth looks realistic and we’ve not beaten anybody in the last seven other than one of the worst top-flight teams in history.

After an absolute rollercoaster of success over three years, these past few weeks and even months have been a desperate drop for supporters.

Add in the external issues which football is usually the escape from, the backdrop of worldwide factors which affect work, family, finance and more on a day-to-day basis, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to find that plenty are willing to call it a day with 2020/21.

Being a fan comes with huge emotional investment and there are likely many who just don’t have much more to give at this stage.

It’s not about not supporting the team, wanting any individual out, hating the game or whatever other nonsense – just a bit of a reset is required.

With the Euros to come and next season sure to swiftly follow, the upcoming couple of months might just be a time for some supporters to put themselves back on an even keel, which is absolutely fine.

Unless, you know, Europe…

Second leg…at ‘home’

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

We might have been less inclined to play a home Champions League on neutral territory if there was the most remote possibility of a positive result being returned from a game at Anfield.

As it is, our midweek encounter will see Liverpool head back to Hungary to play Leipzig at the Puskas Arena once more.

Perhaps that’s now a good thing.

Make no mistake, Leipzig are good enough to turn the tie around and they’ll be confident after a recent comeback in league play – 2-0 down to 3-2 up over Gladbach – that they can overcome their error-strewn first-leg loss.

Put simply, Liverpool have to be better, or another dismal beating is on the way.

It’s not even about staying in contention to win the Champions League – that’s a sad delusion at this stage for a team who can’t create, score or stop a counter.

But there must come a turning point of sorts at some stage, a game where mentality and determination returns and sees us over the line.

Maybe that has a knock-on effect to spark a revival late in the season, but for now there’s only disappointment and a horrible lack of confidence.

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