Liverpool 3-3 Brighton
Premier League (7), Anfield
October 1, 2022
Goals: Firmino 33′ 53′ Webster OG 63′; Trossard 4′ 17′ 83′
Maybe we should be looking forward to international breaks instead of dreading and hating them.
After one game in four weeks the players should have been raring to go, particularly as the results and performances prior to the Ajax win were absolutely stinking.
Instead, what happened was the Reds stunk the place out for 25 minutes, an Anfield display as bad as anything we had seen this season.
Supporters and media have mentioned several times how Liverpool’s slow starts have led to conceding first, and how that in turn has led to so many dropped points or much bigger battles in games than might have needed to be the case.
Jurgen Klopp hasn’t liked that question, or having to explain it but that’s now the 12th time in 15 games, in all competitions, that Liverpool have conceded first.
But when a fast start and positive outlook was needed, they were instead again dire, sloppy, slow, reactive, utterly unable to match the speed of play or movement from the visitors and, quite frankly, lucky not to be three or four down by the half-hour mark.
Paying back a manager’s faith
We all know the background and the discussion by now: Trent Alexander-Arnold can’t get in the England squad, was called out for defensive deficiencies by Gareth Southgate and backed by Klopp.
Couldn’t have been much worse timing for him to put in a bad shift from a defensive standpoint, then.
Trent was garbage first half.
And let’s not have any airs and graces about it being due to a high starting point or a ball in behind him when he’s trying to counter or any of that – this was one-on-one defending, clearing headers, tracking runners just a few yards away and choosing the right pass out of the defensive third.
Second half was not improved enough in this regard either, with the added non-bonus of swiped and mis-hit clearances.
He was directly culpable for at least three really good openings for Brighton, including being involved in both of their goals.
If we take partisan favouritism out of the equation and just judge on seasonal performances (even though the England manager doesn’t do that, either), would Trent genuinely be in the team? He would not.
He’s capable of so much more, and so is this team as a whole.
While on the subject of England internationals, Jordan Henderson was another who in that first half-hour was once more simply abysmal.
He improved on the ball for sure as the game went on, but being hooked before the hour mark, again, had as much to do with a poor showing as it did for his lower fitness levels after the latest injury.
Top scorer for Liverpool this season? Roberto Firmino, with five to his name.
An early birthday present for the Brazilian, who didn’t play a single minute with the Selecao over the international break, with two really good finishes to level the match and one or two chances to net his hat-trick, too.
This was close to peak Bobby, with some really good link play at times, lots of clever channel movement and a thoroughly deserved ovation as he went off for the final 15 minutes.
In truth it might have been a surprise to see Firmino in the lineup at all; Diogo Jota started against Ajax and was reasonably good, while Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz were also away in South America but got a bit of game time too.
What comes next for the No. 9 is important.
We’ve made the point here before that he was tremendous in front of goal up until around this time of year last season, before suffering a string of injuries and absences which meant he fell well out of favour, playing fewer than 1,000 minutes in the top flight across 2021/22.
He’s up to about 420 already for this season and must keep up this consistency and effectiveness if he wants to be part of the biggest go-to trio in attack, in the final year of his contract.
Changing the flow of the game, and failing to
Key moments helped Liverpool get this match back under some sort of control, though it certainly wasn’t controlled entirely at any point.
Even when leading, Brighton had several opportunities where they were in behind the defence and playing inside the six-yard box.
Then the subs also had a good impact: Diaz’s half-time introduction, bringing Harvey Elliott on and even Jota’s cameo wasn’t bad in terms of having a fast outlet.
But no change whatsoever gave Liverpool an air of feeling as though the game was wrapped up, nor that they had any idea of how to kill it.
It remained chaotic, open and way too easy to get behind the defence, which ultimately proved enough to deny victory – Leandro Trossard’s hat-trick strike was the third time Brighton got behind the right half of the back four in the space of about 15 minutes.
Whatever the identity of this season’s team is, it’s certainly not intensity, and it’s hard to say it even has one this season.
Six weeks, non-stop
This was game one of 13 Liverpool must play across the next 44 days – an insane schedule before the World Cup, and a make-or-break one for how good (or otherwise) our season can be.
Not the best of starts, then.
It goes without saying that in Europe, back-to-back games against Rangers have to yield six points – and should do. They are not of elite calibre.
But the bigger focus still has to be on getting their own performance levels right, on and off the ball, as quickly as possible, and with better control defensively.
So much has to change in the next week for us to have a reasonable level of optimism that a win will be forthcoming at the Emirates.