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Liverpool “unrecognisable” as media ask: “Surely they won’t play this bad again?”

Liverpool’s insipid performance against Arsenal was rightly criticised by the watching media, as a worryingly flat run of form continues.

The Reds could only draw 0-0 at home to the Gunners on Thursday evening, despite Granit Xhaka being sent off in the first half.

In truth, Jurgen Klopp‘s team rarely looked like finding the net and they now face an uphill battle to reach next month’s League Cup final against Chelsea.

Here’s a look at how the media reacted to Liverpool’s frustrating stalemate.

 

A woeful performance was dissected in brutally honest fashion…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, January 13, 2022: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the Football League Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Goal‘s Neil Jones bemoaned a shocking performance – one that has arguably made Arsenal favourites to progress:

“Liverpool were unrecognisable. It was Arsenal, in Bukayo Saka, who had the game’s most dangerous attacker, and had it not been for two pieces of alertness, one from Joel Matip and one from Alisson Becker, the visitors may well have had a lead to take back with them to north London.

“For Jurgen Klopp, there were more questions than answers. Liverpool gave up the luxury of home advantage in the second leg after the postponement of last week’s scheduled clash at the Emirates, and they have given Arsenal – a depleted Arsenal, let’s not forget – even more encouragement with their performance here.

“They had more than 75 per cent of the ball and yet failed to register a single effort on target until stoppage time. Their crossing was poor, their set-pieces worse. They made too many basic errors, sloppy passes and heavy touches. Henderson, Milner, Firmino, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, they were all guilty.”

The Liverpool Echo‘s Ian Doyle was similarly unimpressed:

“Can a team miss an opportunity when they don’t manage any?

“Such is the poser Liverpool coughed up here as they dismally failed to make the most of a gilt-edged chance to take control of their Carabao Cup semi-final.

[…]

“Having eventually overcome the plucky but limited Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup at the weekend, the visit of Arsenal represented an altogether different proposition.

“And boy did it show.”

Melissa Reddy of the Independent was disappointed by Liverpool’s response after Xhaka’s red card:

“Liverpool were living life at the corner flags, but not making Arsenal truly uncomfortable which was disappointing from a strong XI.

“The teamsheet read like this was Liverpool’s’ first domestic cup semi-final in five years; a stellar opportunity to lift silverware this season with the club lagging in the league and having no guarantees in Europe.

“Yet even after Xhaka’s red, they toiled to conjure anything of merit.”

 

The absence of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane was clearly felt…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, January 13, 2022: Liverpool's Takumi Minamino looks dejected after missing a chance during the Football League Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Paul Joyce of the Times thought it was clear how badly missed the world’s best player was on the night:

“The next time Mohamed Salah looks to highlight his importance to Liverpool and prod contract talks along, he does not need to do a photoshoot and interview with a glossy, high-street magazine. A DVD of this game would act as Exhibit A.

“On a night when Jürgen Klopp would have expected his side to take a giant stride towards a significant cup final, his players instead produced only a single attempt on target.

“That they faced the ten men of Arsenal for the final 66 minutes of this tie damned them even more. Shorn of their talisman, the hosts were all out of ideas, impotent as an attacking force.”

Jones felt it was clear see how important the African duo are to Liverpool:

“If you were wondering how Liverpool would cope without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, then here was your answer.

“Not particularly well.

[…]

“They looked, and felt, like a team missing the players they simply cannot be without. Not a huge surprise, maybe, but worrying nonetheless.

“After all, Salah and Mane aren’t coming back any time soon, and it seems unlikely that Liverpool will dip into the transfer market, as much as many fans would like them to.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, January 13, 2022: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino (L) and Arsenal's Calum Chambers during the Football League Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Samuel Meade of the Mirror echoed that sentiment, touching on Salah’s contract situation, too:

“It has often been a hypothetical question – how good would said team be without two of their most potent attacking weapons.

“Well AFCON meant we could get something like an answer from Liverpool.

“Klopp’s side were as good as full strength at the back and in midfield with Jota also in attack, but Roberto Firmino and Takumi Minamino came in for Salah and Sadio Mane.

“The Reds were certainly the better side, as you’d expect being at home and against ten men.

“But any sense of potency was seriously lacking and may increase the need to sort out Salah’s contract, which continues to wind down.”

 

The midfield is becoming a big issue for the Reds…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 27, 2021: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson passes the rainbow captain's armband to substitute James Milner as he is substituted during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Southampton FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This Is Anfield questioned the continued minutes that Jordan Henderson and James Milner are getting:

Fabinho, Henderson and Milner – in theory – gives the sort of solidity and big-time experience you might want in a serious fixture, with lots at stake against an opponent who fancies themselves somewhere close to your equal.

“But Arsenal aren’t. And, to be blunt, they don’t. The two 8s are too easily bypassed by runners, both tend to make the same passes and even ran into each other making recovery challenges more than once.

[…]

“Henderson’s form, meanwhile, is a massive concern right now – he has been atrocious in way too many games of late and it isn’t a secret or slight on his captaincy, he’s just not at the races in the slightest.

[…]

“Why is 36-year-old James Milner starting ahead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Curtis Jones; and why were neither brought on at half-time when it was abundantly clear they were needed against 10 men?!”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, January 13, 2022: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold (L) and Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli during the Football League Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Dominic King of the Mail criticised the midfield, but also a below-par Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson:

“No wonder Klopp was so bewildered by what he saw that he stood with his mouth open. Occasionally he bellowed to try and rouse his team but everywhere he looked there were shortcomings and uncertainty.

“The number of corners that Alexander-Arnold and Robertson put in that failed to beat the first man were staggering. There was no creativity in midfield, no zip or dynamism in attack.

“Klopp said before the game he was “desperate” to win this fixture but his team’s actions didn’t back up his words.

[…]

“Liverpool may yet end up at Wembley but, to face Chelsea, they will have to do it the hard way. It is, of course, something they have become accustomed to doing under Klopp. Surely they won’t play this bad again – will they?”

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