KLOPP’S LAST GAME SOUVENIR

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, April 11, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp attempts to gee up the crowd during the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and BC Atalanta at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Anfield’s worst night and a defining week? – 5 talking points from Liverpool 0-3 Atalanta

Liverpool are very close to having the old cliche of ‘concentrate on the league’ apply to them after a shock, and shocking, 3-0 home defeat to Atalanta.

Liverpool 0-3 Atalanta

Europa League Quarter-Final 1st Leg, Anfield
April 11, 2024

Goals: Scamacca 38′ 60′, Pasalic 83′


 

No flags on the Kop

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, April 11, 2024: Liverpool supporters' protest against Ticket Prices before the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and BC Atalanta at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool’s announcement of a two percent ticket price increase was met with disappointment from supporter groups at the lack of consultation on the matter.

The immediate result of that was the decision to have no flags on the Kop for this first leg, a rarity on a European night and a notable protest in terms of the culture and atmosphere usually seen in such a game.

Jurgen Klopp has said he’s sure a “solution” will be found and that he understands the fans’ concerns.

But it’s debatable whether there’s really any totally happy ending to be had if the simple fact is that the club want, need or intend to raise prices and those who pay them don’t want or can’t afford it.

It’s the football way: prices here rise, just as with everything else.

 

Cup keeper Kelleher?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, April 11, 2024: Liverpool's goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher during the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and BC Atalanta at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

No question that Caoimhin Kelleher has been integral to Liverpool’s continued trophy charge this year in the absence of Alisson – and also no question he was at the centre of everything at Anfield.

First there was the tactical battle: Atalanta’s man-marking approach left the Irishman free with the ball at his feet with regularity and he had to try and find a way to play out.

Often that meant going direct, and only five of 16 long passes found their mark in that first 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, he made two absolutely incredible saves – one with his face from point-blank range – and yet will feel he should have saved the opening goal.

Nothing he could do for the second, mind, and he almost prevented the third single-handedly when left exposed yet again.

There’s a big argument to make that he should remain our Europa League ‘keeper for whatever remains of our journey this term – possibly just the second leg – as recognition for his efforts in cup competitions, and in the league over a long period, too.

 

Worst game of the season at Anfield

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, April 11, 2024: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah looks dejected as his goal is ruled out for off-side during the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and BC Atalanta at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Down a goal at the break, there was no messing about from Klopp and no doubts about how much that scoreline displeased him.

Mohamed Salah, Andy Robertson and Dominik Szoboszlai all came on for Harvey Elliott, Kostas Tsimikas and Curtis Jones: the latter two hadn’t started a game in an age due to injury and Elliott was arguably hard done by, one of very few decent first-half performers.

It certainly brought more speed to our play and our across-the-ground movement, and yet Liverpool offered more of the same: disjointed at the back, sloppy in the final third, incapable of finding the net.

Don’t think it was just the forward line though.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, April 11, 2024: Atalanta's Teun Koopmeiners (L) is challenged by Liverpool's captain Virgil van Dijk during the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and BC Atalanta at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The midfield gave up space and possession too easily, the back line was all over the place – what was that second goal?! – and the counter-pressing was fragmented, sporadic and largely ineffective.

This wasn’t a totally first-choice Atalanta lineup, they had switched away from a back three and their best defender is out – yet we only had two shots on target. They scored more than that.

A first defeat at home in all competitions this season was the result.

 

Cody out of second gear at last

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 10, 2024: Liverpool's Cody Gakpo applauds the supporters after the Football League Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

One positive from the match was the much-improved showing of Cody Gakpo, particularly first half.

Right from kickoff the Dutchman was far more forceful and aggressive, showing his strength as well as his close control and ability to surge away from challenges.

He beat his man or turned into space with regularity, fed team-mates to open up the pitch and was deservedly left on as the subs were made, switching from left wing to centre-forward along the way.

Gakpo also created two late half-chances with balls into the box when most others had long since stopped playing.

Other than that, we’re scraping the barrel for plus points: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Stefan Bajcetic and Diogo Jota were back on the bench after injuries, with the latter playing 15 minutes or so.

 

A fading force or the last-saloon kickstart we need?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, April 11, 2024: Liverpool's goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher looks dejected as Atalanta score the third goal during the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and BC Atalanta at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s not too much to suggest that Liverpool’s season can be dictated and determined entirely in the next week.

After two really poor performances – and three bad results in five games – the Reds have little option but to improve matters considerably and immediately.

Home to Crystal Palace, nothing but three points will be acceptable if we’re to stay in the title race, if we’re even to make it a race in fact.

And then it’s off to Italy for the second leg and an enormous job to do.

We have seen similar issues in previous campaigns, where the Reds look tired and somewhat burned out under Klopp at this stage of the campaign: a combination of injuries, fixture pileups, a smaller squad of established seniors and a few who just haven’t quite kept the consistency levels up.

Whether 2023/24 is to be the same lines, or these most recent results be a fast-acting reminder of the standards we need to set, will be shown in the next seven days or so.