Liverpool made hard work of it but eventually secured a very useful three points at home to Nottingham Forest, with a 3-2 win at Anfield.
Liverpool 3-2 Nottingham Forest
Premier League (31), Anfield
April 22, 2023
Goals: Jota 47′ 55′, Salah 70′; Williams 51′, Gibbs-White 67′
One avenue that looked fruitful for the Reds all afternoon was set-pieces.
A Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick swung in for Virgil van Dijk produced the first real problem of the game for Forest ‘keeper Keylor Navas as he tipped the ball over the bar.
There was another chance from the ensuing corner, leading to another corner which saw a Cody Gakpo shot cleared off the line by Neco Williams.
Diogo Jota then missed a good chance at the far post from an Alexander-Arnold free-kick, but couldn’t miss as he opened the scoring in the second half, going in bravely to nod in from close range after Fabinho headed across goal from another corner.
His second was a superb touch and finish from an Andy Robertson free-kick. The delivery from both full-backs was impressive all afternoon.
Line of attack
The movement of Alexander-Arnold into midfield from right-back during Liverpool’s buildup play has a natural knock-on effect further up the pitch.
There was often a line of four in attack consisting of Jota, Gakpo, Mohamed Salah and Curtis Jones. Sometimes a five if Jordan Henderson moved up.
The pair would regularly switch places, while Gakpo could often be found dropping deep into midfield to take part in the buildup.
Jurgen Klopp commented recently that the games towards the end of this season are useful for planning for next, so it looks like the Trent-in-midfield experiment is here to stay.
The most important thing will be how it impacts the rest of the team’s shape, assisting with defending from the front as well as attacking play.
Decent depth…in most areas
Liverpool do need added depth in one obvious area that has been mentioned all season, but the bench versus Forest was quite impressive in other positions.
Luis Diaz returned from injury, offering a lively threat off the bench in the second half, as Darwin Nunez also came on to keep Forest defenders on their toes into the final minutes.
These two would be starters for many other teams, so are pretty good options to have in reserve for a game like this.
On top of this, Thiago should in theory add some added control in midfield, though control of a game seems beyond Liverpool this season for some reason and Forest were still threatening in moments late on.
Joel Matip and Joe Gomez would be a pretty good centre-back pairing for many sides, too, while Harvey Elliott is one of the most promising young English players in the league.
Liverpool do have issues, and there could be some turnover this summer, but at least in two areas of the pitch they are building from positions of existing strength.
Deflecting to blame
The goals Forest scored were not from clear-cut chances, far from it, but it felt typical of Liverpool’s 2022/23 season that they went in anyway.
The first was a speculative shot from Williams that hit Robertson and as a result evaded Alisson, even though he did get something on it.
The second hit two players, Ibrahima Konate and Alexander-Arnold, before finding the back of the net, even though it was a well-hit volley from Morgan Gibbs-White.
The xG on these shots, per Infogol, was 0.03 for Willams and 0.12 for Gibbs-White – and the biggest chance of the game for Forest was the Brennan Johnson effort that hit the bar.
Don’t mention the top four
Just when you think Liverpool are well out of the race for the top four this season, you look at the table after a win and think, hmm…
Perhaps a Conference League spot – just a point behind Villa with a game in hand.
So maybe a Europa League spot is gettable – three points behind fifth-placed Spurs with a better goal difference.
It’s only then you realise Liverpool are just six points behind the current team in fourth, Newcastle – although the Reds do have a slightly worse goal difference and have now played a game more.
But it’s not as impossible as first thought, and with Newcastle and Spurs having to play each other, will only get more realistic with each win.
Klopp’s side just need to keep winning. That hasn’t been easy this season, but there’s no bad time to start.