Liverpool’s return to Anfield saw them held to a 1-1 draw by Crystal Palace, with the Reds still waiting for their first Premier League win of the season and now set to lose Darwin Nunez to a three-game ban.
It’s not been the start to the league campaign that many Liverpool fans were expecting.
The impressive Community Shield victory over Man City gave off the impression that Jurgen Klopp‘s side were more than ready for 2022/23, but having drawn their first two matches, they already find themselves four points behind Pep Guardiola’s side in the table.
Their extensive injury list hasn’t helped, and they will also now have to do without their new £85 million striker Nunez for three matches, after a headbutt on Joachim Andersen saw him sent off against the Eagles on Monday.
Here, This Is Anfield’s Jack Sear (@JackSear) is joined by Adam Beattie (@beatts94) and @TaintlessRed to talk the Reds’ winless start, an underwhelming return to Anfield and Nunez’s moment of madness.
Still winless – How worried should we be?
ADAM: I’ll start with the positives. I thought we looked really bright in the first 10 minutes or so, then responded really well to the red card.
Luis Diaz turned water into wine with his goal on the hour and his overall performance was superb. Man of the Match, for me.
Harvey Elliott also looked really sharp and has made a really strong case for a start at Old Trafford. If that sort of form continues it could be a really big season for him.
Four points dropped already, it’s not the end of days just yet, but it certainly feels like it when you’re chasing Man City and 90+ points.
TAINTLESSRED: Exactly. In seasons gone by, drawing your first two games isn’t a big deal at all. However, conceding a four-point deficit to this impressive City side is far from ideal when the title winners often have to get to the mid-90s in points. We’ve twice lost the league to City by a single point.
Other than the result I thought there were plenty of positives from the game. Liverpool played well, and responded very well to going a man down. This wasn’t like the first half against Fulham where most of the team were sloppy and lacked tempo.
Liverpool showed good movement, pressed hard and created good chances – 24 shots with 2.34xG. However, only getting four shots on target and not really testing Vicente Guaita in the Palace goal was an issue.
I agree that the performance from Elliott was a highlight. Yet again he was one of our best players and he surely made a strong claim to keep his position as the advanced right-sided midfielder.
The main concern will be the volume of injuries. Klopp talked about wondering if there was “a witch in the building” during the previous week. The reticence to enter the market again this summer doesn’t look like it’ll change.
Liverpool are conceding the first goal too often, a record six league matches in a row, and that’s even with Alisson making big saves! We aren’t solid enough.
JACK: Agreed. The injuries have made it a really difficult start and I think, given the circumstances, the performance against Palace was generally very good.
10 injuries at this stage of the season is madness. Caoimhin Kelleher, Joel Matip, Ibrahima Konate, Calvin Ramsay, Thiago, Curtis Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kaide Gordon, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota weren’t able to be involved and it then emerged that Joe Gomez and Jordan Henderson weren’t able to start having also picked up knocks in recent days.
You to have to wonder whether the recent exit of club doctor Jim Moxon has anything to do with this!
We could and should have scored at least one goal in the first half. If Nunez’s effort just before half-time goes in, it’s probably a very different story!
Adam, you were at the game, what was the general feeling inside Anfield?
ADAM: I thought the atmosphere was a bit flat in the first half considering it was the first one back but, as is often the case at Anfield, whenever there’s a bit of jeopardy, the crowd take it up a notch or two.
The supporters and players responded really well to the sending off and when Diaz scored you could sense that everyone was into it, trying to make it happen.
If that intensity had been matched the whole way through I think we might be discussing three points and being in much better shape.
Should we be concerned that Nunez was so easily riled up?
ADAM: Being completely honest, I missed the red because I’d nipped down to the toilet! At first I just assumed he’d been subbed off!
JACK: It wasn’t that much clearer on TV, to be fair! Sky Sports missed the incident at the time!
ADAM: Having watched it back it’s a really daft moment of madness which will have lasting implications over the next few games. I’m sure he’ll learn from it and the players and staff will make sure he responds in a positive way. I hope he doesn’t take too much stick for it.
With the current injury problems it’s a big blow for us, particularly after the start we’ve had, but hopefully he can use it to fuel a huge season once he gets back into the side, and at the very least it gives Klopp the chance to integrate him on the training pitch as he so often likes to do with new signings.
JACK: It’s the last thing we needed, really. I am slightly surprised he was so easily wound up. What was he used to in Portugal?!
I think the frustration of his missed chances in the first half probably played a part, but even so, you simply can’t let those kind of dark arts get the better of you. There’ll be plenty more of that to come for him in the Premier League. Palace were at it all night. The time-wasting started in the first half!
I don’t see it being a long-term worry. Klopp and the senior players will make sure he knows he simply can’t react like that. Having a bit of fire about you is a great thing to have as a striker, but you can’t let it take over.
TAINTLESSRED: You’re right. South Americans at Liverpool are fiery and that’s partly why we love them. They give their all and fight for everything. Sometimes that spills over.
Nunez’s frustrations built up and exploded. Although he threw his head back a few moments prior, I think after Andersen’s shove, when Nunez spins around, he didn’t realise Andersen was so close to him, so I don’t know if he initially intended to headbutt him on the mouth/chin area, but regardless, he did follow through. It was a clear red card, no complaints and Nunez knows he let his team down.
What Nunez needs to learn is how to channel his aggression and fire in the right way. You can make yourself an absolute nightmare for centre-backs without risking getting sent off. Players like Mark Hughes, Alan Shearer, Kevin Davies, Bobby Zamora, Didier Drogba were absolute nightmares in terms of how they dealt with centre-backs. Nunez has the frame, height and strength to be just as much of a nightmare at close quarters.
Nunez should speak to Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani in terms of shithousery which falls just on the right side of the line, and where that line is in the Premier League!
I’m certain he would’ve scored against five-foot-nine-inch Lisandro Martinez next Monday, but that’s not to be now!
How do we go about replacing Nunez in the coming weeks?
JACK: A lot depends on whether Klopp can get rid of “the witch in the building!”
He seems pretty confident that Firmino will be able to play against United next week. In one interview he said he could be back in training by Wednesday.
Despite the injuries, that would leave us with a nicely balanced XI. A Salah, Diaz, Firmino front three could be ideal for picking apart that United ‘defence’, but like TAINTLESSRED says, I’d love to have seen Nunez up against Martinez!
Interesting that Nunez’s first game back will be the derby at Goodison. He really will need to keep his emotions in check for that one!
TAINTLESSRED: Yeah, with Jota still out, Liverpool will miss Nunez. He’s an agent of chaos. He always creates havoc and gets chances. He missed a few decent chances before the red card on Monday, but he’ll learn from it.
If Firmino isn’t back for United, then Liverpool can maintain their 4-3-3 with different personnel, switch to a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2.
If we play 4-3-3, Fabio Carvalho could start wide left where he often did for Fulham and where Klopp has tended to use him so far. It would be a big ask to have your first start away at Old Trafford, but the lad has pace, skill and a maturity beyond his years, so he could rise to the occasion.
That would then mean either playing Diaz in a free role in the centre or moving Salah central where he’s played before, with Diaz on the right. I personally wouldn’t want to play Carvalho as a false nine yet, maybe in future he can learn that role, but not vs. United.
Elliott’s flexibility is useful to Klopp’s tactical decision-making, too. He was excellent as the right-sided eight, but he can also play any right-sided position in a 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3.
What may influence the selection and tactics is that Naby Keita will have had a full week’s training after his illness. Keita has played well against United in the past, so if he starts, Klopp will likely stick to his favoured 4-3-3.
JACK: True. I was quite surprised he didn’t throw Keita on against Palace but with another week of training, he’ll definitely be an option to consider at United.
A nice place to secure our first league win of the season!