Burnley 0-2 Liverpool
Premier League (19), Turf Moor
December 26, 2023
Goals: Nunez (6), Jota (90)
Failure to “kill games” – a major concern?
Only earlier this week, Jurgen Klopp said of his Liverpool team: “There are things that we have to improve, especially killing games. With the amount of dominance we are showing, some of the games are too close.”
And his point could not have been better rammed home by a first half in which the Reds took 12 shots (with eight on target) worth 1.32 xG but only had a single goal to show for it.
Liverpool will surely struggle to keep getting away with not taking their chances, and so Klopp would perhaps be wise to subject his charges to finishing drills in the coming days.
The boss joked post-match that this was the Liverpool way at present, to make it closer than it might need to be: “We could have made it easier. As long as I’ve been at Liverpool, we haven’t done it the easy way – why start now?!”
Jota return could mask flaws
Of course, if recent weeks have raised the question of whether this Liverpool attack is truly good enough to win the Premier League, then it is only fair to point out that it has been shorn of Diogo Jota of late.
And the Portuguese underlined why that has been such an important factor in returning to action with a goal here.
He competes with Mohamed Salah for the title of best finisher at the club and is without doubt the second most important forward behind the Egyptian.
As such, keping Jota fit for the remainder of the season could be the key to going on to lift silverware in May.
Quansah is ready for Matip role
With Liverpool struggling to make their dominance pay with goals, it ended up being utterly vital that they kept a clean sheet.
And that was earned thanks in no small part to Jarell Quansah, who added another hugely impressive performance to his growing list for the season.
The decision not to sign a replacement for the injured Joel Matip in the coming January transfer window can only be justified by Quansah emerging as a worthy first-team option.
On the evidence of Klopp’s continued use of him and his efforts so far this term, it seems the 20-year-old is absolutely ready to take on a big role.
The academy graduate won a very impressive nine out of 11 aerial duels at Turf Moor.
Nunez must use goal as springboard
As he caressed a beautiful finish into the bottom corner of Trafford’s goal after just six minutes, Darwin Nunez certainly didn’t look like a player who had failed to net in his last 12 games.
But a combination of poor finishing and the loss of a knack for constantly generating chances meant the Uruguayan was in the business of ending a lengthy drought.
Of course, if this moment is to have any significance for Nunez, then he must build on it and ensure there is no repeat of his recent barren run.
With Salah set to depart for the Africa Cup of Nations imminently, now would be a good time for the forward to get on a roll.
Interestingly, he returned to the central role after last week’s action on the left of the attack.
Disallowed goal shows flaw in VAR process
Klopp did not need another reason to dislike either Paul Tierney or Simon Hooper, but he was certainly given one here with the disallowing of a first-half Cody Gakpo strike for a foul in the build-up.
However, while it’s generally difficult to summon any sympathy for referees, you do wonder if both men weren’t exactly helped by the daft rules around VAR interventions.
After Tierney (entirely reasonably) felt he had seen a foul by Nunez on Charlie Taylor in real time, an overturn was only possible in the event that ‘clear and obvious’ evidence to the contrary could be found.
And unfortunately, in this situation that would probably require daylight between the two players that is simply never going to exist when they are challenging in the box.
Ultimately, that is a huge flaw in the VAR process and one that has compromised the referee’s ability to simply settle on the right call.
“Only somebody who never played football could make this an offside decision,” said Klopp post-match.