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The good, the bad & how concerned are you? – Last word on Everton 0-0 Liverpool

There was much frustration after Liverpool’s goalless draw with Everton, but how concerned should we all be about the Reds?

Jurgen Klopp‘s side were once again a long way from their best form at Goodison Park, playing out a 0-0 that saw good chances come and go.

It is two more points dropped in the Premier League title race, although Liverpool’s current performances are not that of would-be champions.

Here, This Is Anfield’s Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) is joined by Leanne Prescott (@_lfcleanne) & Dave Hendrick (@EPLIndex) to discuss a disappointing result and assess the Reds’ general malaise.

 

The good…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 3, 2022: Liverpool's GOALKEEPER ALISSON BECKER during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 241st Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

DAVE: Not much, to be honest. It’s very hard to take any positives from that game.

There were a couple of good performances – Virgil, Fabinho and Kostas played well, but the rest of the starting XI were not.

Bobby looked lively when he came on as well, so that was good.

It would be interesting to see Firmino and Darwin play together a bit more often, especially while we have such serious midfield issues.

LEANNE: How many times has Alisson saved Liverpool?

On a day where few of his teammates performed to the level we know they’re capable of, the Brazilian once again proved how important he is to this side.

He read the danger and came off his line fast to deny Maupay from close-range, but the save of the day was his tip over the bar after the forward’s deflected strike looked like it was heading in.

Other noticeable callouts were Gomez, who despite a few shaky moments, showed great powers of recovery to deal with Everton’s threatening counter-attacks.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 3, 2022: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' (L) and Roberto Firmino applaud the supporters after the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 241st Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There is a sense he is still getting back up to speed given his injury lay-offs, but he was the best defender on the pitch in red.

The brightest spark for me, though, has to be Firmino, as Dave alludes to. There was so much talk in pre-season about whether he still had a role to play in this side, but he has emphatically silenced the critics so far.

His introduction completely changed the game, linking midfield and attack and adding a fresh injection of creativity into a side that looked as though it had scarcely played together before.

The movement, trickery and eye for a pass made Liverpool a different prospect altogether in the 10-15-minute spell after half-time, and but for some goalkeeping heroics, he could easily have had a hat-trick.

He’s surely got to start in midweek.

HENRY: I totally agree with Dave and Leanne about Firmino – he looks to have his spark back, even though he will probably never quite be the player he once was.

Alisson is the other clear positive – as Leanne says, it is incredible how often he bails Liverpool out in looks-certain-to-score situations.

We didn’t concede first, too, which I guess is something to shout about. I’m clutching at straws!

 

The bad…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 3, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 241st Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

DAVE: Where to begin. Let’s start with the midfield. There wasn’t one. There was Fabinho and lots and lots of space either side of him.

Harvey has been very good this season but he’s not a central midfielder, he’s an attacking midfielder or winger. He can play the right-sided role as long as one of Thiago or Keita is playing the left-sided one, as part of a double pivot with Fabinho, but not when it’s anyone else in the squad.

I get that everyone is very excited about Fabio Carvalho, and rightly so, but he’s not a midfielder. In time he could possibly play there, but he was a fish out of water. He is a 10, a second striker or a winger. He doesn’t have the attributes to play that controlling role.

Let’s move on to how Salah is being used. Why is the best goalscorer in the Premier League playing as a chalk-on-his-boots winger?

Klopp can claim he’s not playing wider than in prior seasons all he wants, but the eye test, the heatmaps and passing networks, and the numbers all show that he is. It’s a dreadful waste and it needs to be addressed.

The full-backs are a major concern. Trent is in a terrible run of form, as is Robertson. Tsimikas deserved his start and I thought he played well, but it’s not good that both of our first-choice full-backs are regularly stinking the place up.

And we have to mention Klopp. His in-game decisions were terrible. Why did he switch Darwin and Diaz for such a long period in the first half? It neutralized both of them.

His in-game subs were poor as well. He wasted a sub bringing on Milner at right-back because he then had to bring Matip on so Gomez could go to right-back and Milner could be moved again.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 3, 2022: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 241st Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Why not bring Matip on first? And then have the option to bring Arthur on in midfield to offer some control?

Lastly, Milner. That’s as bad a performance as you’ll ever see. He’s never been good at full-back, but he’d always been able to do a job. He can no longer do a job.

It was embarrassing to watch him constantly getting roasted by average players until Klopp finally dragged him out of the back four and put him in midfield, where he continued to look lost.

LEANNE: Ah, the dreaded derby draw strikes again.

Bar that brief spell in the second half, Liverpool just weren’t at the races. Yes, there was misfortune in hitting the woodwork, but the reality is they didn’t deserve to win.

Another game of immense frustration and a performance that leaves more questions than answers.

Adding to what Dave has said, there’s not many decisions Klopp has got wrong over the years, but one of the biggest errors lies with him.

Trent was far from his usual standards and could well benefit from some competition at right-back, but in taking him off for Milner, Liverpool relinquished all control.

At 36, he is too easy a target for opposition teams to run at and it gave Everton a huge confidence boost heading into the last 20 minutes.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 6, 2022: Liverpool's James Milner during the FA Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC at Craven Cottage. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

From being so on top and dictating the game to a chaotic end, it was one of the worst substitute performances I’ve seen in recent years and an experiment Klopp cannot afford to repeat.

The other rather worrying theme right now is Salah, as Dave also touched upon. Whether it’s a tactical tweak or due to the front three not quite clicking yet, he has been kept on the periphery of games so far this season, hugging the touchline rather than being in and around the six-yard box where he is at his best.

Liverpool’s new-look attack needs time to gel, but the biggest and most important puzzle to solve is getting Salah more involved in games. He has been Liverpool’s best player in the last five years for a reason.

HENRY: I couldn’t agree more here, on all aspects.

Watching Milner was a painful experience and it’s up there with the worst cameo performances I’ve seen in some time by a Liverpool player.

As Leanne says, we lost complete control of the game as soon as he came on and the match turned into a farce, quite frankly!

The use of Salah is mind-boggling and has to change, although I would say that doesn’t excuse him just running into players, appealing for free-kicks and grinning about things not going his way.

He’s not been himself since AFCON, and while lots of that is not his fault, he needs to step up and return to his former level.

As for the team performance, it was another display that was horribly lacking from minute one – barring Bournemouth, every game has had a similar lethargic feel to it.

It simply has to change.

 

And how concerned are you?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 3, 2022: Liverpool's Darwin Núñez during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 241st Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

DAVE: It’s a strange thing, because I trust Klopp and the world-class players to turn things around, but at the same time, it’s very clear that something is wrong at Liverpool right now.

There’s a lack of intensity, the tactical tweaks that the coaching staff aren’t working. There’s a massive disconnect in the team.

We seem to have built a machine that only Thiago can operate, while having no plan for what to do when he’s not there.

People keep saying “it’s ok because City have dropped points as well.” That doesn’t make it better, it makes it worse.

City are the only team that bother me – Arsenal and Spurs will have struggles and we’ll overtake them, but City are who we compete with for the title. And the title has to be the aim.

This new buzz phrase of it being a “transitional season” is nonsense. Teams with five legitimately world-class players in their primes do not have transition seasons.

Teams in transition don’t have one of the oldest age profiles in the league and don’t extend the contracts of 36-year-olds.

It’s an excuse for those who don’t want to accept the reality that Liverpool made a mess of the summer transfer window and are now paying the price for the negligence that’s been shown towards the midfield area over the last few years.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 3, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) challenges Everton's Vitalii Mykolenko during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 241st Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

LEANNE: It’s definitely frustrating. Granted Bournemouth look like a very poor side, but the 9-0 followed by the dramatic winner against Newcastle should have been key moments to ignite this season but Liverpool still haven’t really got going.

Most concerning is the fact that it’s still not quite clear what the plan is and too many key players are simply not performing.

Robertson, Trent, Van Dijk and Salah have all had slow starts to the season and the issues with injuries in midfield are well known.

Though Carvalho and Elliott have both impressed, the experiment to play both ultimately failed at the weekend and it leaves Liverpool increasingly reliant on Thiago’s return.

Should Arthur be able to hit the ground running, it would give us a timely boost, but it feels a lot to ask for a player who has played such little football.

These players haven’t turned bad overnight, but the tepid and lethargic nature of their play this season has got to be a cause for concern.

They will improve and the injury issues will ease up, but given the standards that have been set, Klopp will know he needs to get this team playing quickly.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 3, 2022: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' (L) and Roberto Firmino applaud the supporters after the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 241st Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Switching to a 4-2-3-1 brought the best out of the side at Goodison and with needs must at this stage, a formation change could be Klopp’s best approach.

HENRY: I think perspective is needed, but also not papering over the cracks. This is a concerning mini-blip but I do genuinely think that’s all it is.

Will Liverpool get back to the heights of last season? Possibly not. But they have had lots of injuries and the attack is still gelling.

Over time, I expect fluency and freshness to come back into the team, but for now, we may have to just accept some mediocre performances.

Thiago‘s return has the potential to transform the entire – that’s how important he is – and I have complete faith in the out-of-form players getting over their respective slumps.

I totally agree with Dave and Leanne’s assessment of the negatives, though, and fans have every right to be critical of current performances.

We’ll get through this.

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