Since Jurgen Klopp‘s arrival, Liverpool have earned plenty of plaudits for their set piece routines in both boxes, but defending dead ball situations is becoming an increasing problem this season.
Liverpool have conceded four goals that originated from set piece situations since the resumption of their season after the World Cup, but in truth, there could easily have been more.
In their first game back, a Carabao Cup defeat to Man City, the winning goal for Pep Guardiola’s side came when Kevin De Bruyne took a short corner to catch Liverpool off guard, before delivering a cross that found Nathan Ake free at the back post.
Only one of the goals was allowed to stand, but it was the clearest of indications that Liverpool simply didn’t know how to deal with the routines Thomas Frank’s side had obviously worked on.
In the 0-0 draw with Chelsea, the Blues had a goal disallowed that came from a corner in the opening stages.
Liverpool were fortunate to see Kai Havertz’s strike chalked off for offside, but yet again, the defence were all at sea from a set piece.
The first of which was a long range strike from Tariq Lamptey that went in off Lewis Dunk in the second phase of play, but the second epitomised the Reds’ recent issues.
From a free-kick deep into stoppage time, Pascal Gross was easily able to find Pervis Estupinan, who Liverpool had left completely unmarked at the back post.
His lofted ball caused all sorts of panic, before Kaoru Mitoma was able to finish for the winner.
Why is this happening?
Put simply, if Liverpool’s results are to improve in the coming weeks, then so must their ability to defend from these situations.
Yes, in recent weeks they’ve been without their defensive leader Virgil van Dijk, and for the foreseeable future, they will also now be without Konate.
But serious work needs to be done on the training ground to ensure that these problems do not linger.
Jurgen Klopp was clearly very disappointed that both of Brighton‘s goals originated from set pieces last Sunday, but he certainly can’t argue that Liverpool haven’t had the training time to work on things recently.
In seasons gone by, his teams have found ways to win football matches every few days, with next to no training time.
By contrast, since the resumption of their season in December, Liverpool often had a week between matches. Plenty of time to iron things out on the training pitch.
Perhaps a lack of height is also to blame for the Reds’ problems defending in their own box. The midfield, in particular, has only got smaller.
With Fabinho and Jordan Henderson struggling for any kind of form, Klopp has opted to field a trio of Stefan Bajcetic, Naby Keita and Thiago in the centre of the park, none of whom are the tallest or most physical.
Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez certainly aren’t lacking in height, but both will not yet be fully accustomed to the way in which Klopp and his coaching staff ask their team to defend from dead ball situations.
For now, Liverpool’s issues defending set pieces is one of many problems, but with Van Dijk and Konate absent for the time being, you fear it is one that has the potential to get worse.