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That Salah sub and goal drought misery – 5 talking points from Liverpool 0-1 Chelsea

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Liverpool‘s dire, and historically bad, home run in the Premier League continued for a fifth straight match with a 1-0 loss to Chelsea on Thursday night.

Liverpool 0-1 Chelsea

Anfield, Premier League
March 4, 2021

Goal: Mount 42′


Fabinho’s return

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 30, 2020: Liverpool’s Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' prays before the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

So the Brazilian made his latest return, one game earlier than would have been ideal, according to the boss.

Fabinho came back early against Man City and, not only did it show, it was costly – he missed more matches thereafter.

Here he started well, but a lack of fitness and sharpness quickly seemed to tell and he was far from dynamic with his movements.

The No. 3 is officially Liverpool‘s best-available defender (mostly available), so it’s imperative we do now keep him fit and on the pitch whenever possible.

Neither he, nor returning sub Jota, were at their best on this occasion, but having them back is at least a step forward.


18 and counting

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, March 4, 2021: Liverpool's Ozan Kabak during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

What ridiculousness is this? 18 different starting centre-back combinations this season in all competitions.

At what point in the vaguely recent history could we even have gone close to this number? Would previous squads have had enough midfielders capable of dropping back to be defenders? Were there kids trying to break through?

Was a combination of Lucas Leiva and Jack Hobbs ever really a possibility? Zak Whitbread and Salif Diao, perhaps?

The way they keep going down in turn now is almost as bad as the fact we have none of the three seniors available; there’s next to no chance for a duo to get accustomed to each other and even the one individual who has suddenly become a regular – Ozan Kabak – isn’t in any way clued up about his role.

He doesn’t yet fully understand the team’s method in the press, the midfield play, passing and switching combinations in possession and all manner of other aspects. For that very reason, Klopp often gives new signings weeks, or months, before they earn a regular spot in the team.

Added into this, Kabak has had three partners in five games (plus two goalkeepers), has switched between right of centre and left and has been asked to both play short and simple (natural, his first games) and now quickly take on more responsibility with longer, more direct passes.

The tactic-integral Van Dijk pass, if you like.

It’s a lot to take in, a lot to get right and it’s no wonder really that the Reds have seen so many errors of judgement.


The Salah sub

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, March 4, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah on the bench after being substituted during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Mo didn’t like it. The initial reaction from thousands, probably millions, of fans was largely the same, no doubt. Salah’s agent didn’t like it either, judging from his Twitter.

But when Klopp turned to Diogo Jota and Alex Oxlade-Chameberlain as his first subs, our No. 11 was first off the pitch.

On the face of it, not an ideal choice: our top scorer, the league’s top scorer, the Reds losing by a goal and not having had a single shot on target all game.

But the flip side of the argument was firstly that Salah hadn’t really done anything to try and change that fact, and secondly – as noted by pitchside reporter Matt Critchley – the manager had been bellowing at Mo to track back minutes beforehand, without getting much of a response.

Perhaps a case of an example being made, but to remove the league’s top scorer when you can’t buy a goal is odd to say the least. Expect it to dominate post-match discussions.


Record-breakers, but not as you know it

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, March 4, 2021: Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Five league defeats at Anfield in a row.

For the first time ever in the club’s 129-year history.

We’re so used to seeing this Liverpool team break records, game after game it seemed at one stage, but this is the polar opposite end of the spectrum.

Never have we been this consistently poor on home soil in the club’s history. It’s approaching three full months since we won a match at Anfield.

It’s six home full games – over 10 hours in total since Mane’s goal against West Brom – without a single goal being scored in open play. A penalty against Man City is our only return in that period.

This is beyond absurd, beyond embarrassing. It’s an outright problem that must be addressed next time out, with no excuses. Change the players, team, tactics, whatever is required at this stage; what’s left of the season depends on our ability to win again at home.

Seven home games without a win, is it good we’re not there to see it, or bad we’re not there to help ensure it never happened?


Top-four hopes fading fast

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, March 4, 2021: Chelsea's manager Thomas Tuchel (R) with Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp at the final whistle during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. Chelsea won 1-0 condeming Liverpool to their fifth home defeat on the run.(Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We’re seventh, but still have a reasonable shout at the top four because other teams are doing their best to keep pace with the Reds… in terms of dropping points.

We do lead the way, though, or nearly – only Southampton (one) have taken fewer than the Reds’ three points from the last 18 available.

Chelsea have a great defensive record under Tuchel, so that alone will likely see them get third or even better.

But Leicester’s injuries, West Ham‘s inconsistencies and Everton being Everton mean more chances for the Reds yet lie ahead.

Time is running out though and Fulham is now nothing short of must-win.

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