KLOPP’S LAST GAME SOUVENIR

BERGAMO, ITALY - Thursday, April 18, 2024: Liverpool's lm' waves to supporters after the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg match between BC Atalanta and Liverpool FC at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Salah’s costly miss and Wengerball – 5 talking points from Atalanta 0-1 Liverpool

Liverpool were deservedly knocked out of the Europa League with a 3-1 loss to Atalanta over two legs, with their display in Bergamo another worrying sign.

Atalanta 0-1 Liverpool (1-3 agg)

Europa League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg, Stadio di Bergamo
April 18, 2024

Goal: Salah pen 7′


Trent brought a rare positive

TOULOUSE, FRANCE - Thursday, November 9, 2023: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold during the UEFA Europa League Group E match-day 4 game between Toulouse FC and Liverpool FC at the Stadium de Toulouse. Toulouse won 3-2. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There is little to be optimistic about given the manner of Liverpool’s exit, but the second leg at least brought the return of Trent Alexander-Arnold to the starting lineup.

During his prolonged absence, Alexander-Arnold saw a debate emerge over whether his understudy, Conor Bradley, had in fact dislodged him from the best XI.

But the vice-captain showed glimpses of why he has been so important to the entire system under Klopp, and not least this season in his inverted role at right-back.

Alexander-Arnold’s ability to create chances from deep was central to Liverpool’s strong start, including an unbelievable pass that sent Cody Gakpo through in a move which, unfortunately, broke down in familiar fashion.

Earlier in the week, the No. 66 spoke of his (muted) excitement of life under a new manager – and it is something fans should embrace given the links with Real Madrid.

 

Salah’s miss the turning point

BERGAMO, ITALY - Thursday, April 18, 2024: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah reacts after missing a chance during the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg match between BC Atalanta and Liverpool FC at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

On Divock Origi‘s birthday of all days, Liverpool looked to have set themselves on course for a re-run of Barcelona at Anfield as Mo Salah converted his penalty in the seventh minute.

Salah blanked in the first leg against Atalanta and then miserably against Crystal Palace at the weekend, and the hope was that it would mark a resurgence from the No. 11.

If he had been on song, though, Salah would have lifted his chance over Juan Musso and in after being sent through by Gakpo with five minutes left in the half.

Instead, his attempted lob sailed well wide, and with half-time approaching, it proved the turning point.

Had the Egyptian found the back of the net and put Liverpool 2-0 up before the break, things would likely have been much different…

 

When did we start training Wengerball?

BERGAMO, ITALY - Thursday, April 18, 2024: Liverpool's Cody Gakpo during the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg match between BC Atalanta and Liverpool FC at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

…instead the patterns of play became more and more predictable, and the efforts of Klopp’s front three (or four as it ended up with the introduction of Jayden Danns) more and more wayward.

Even early on, the likes of Gakpo and Salah appeared unwilling to shoot, instead putting together intricate moves which were snuffed out by a game Atalanta defence.

Things somehow became even worse when Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez came on, with neither able to gain a foothold and, crushingly, neither seemed to fit into whatever gameplan was in effect.

It became a cliche during Arsene Wenger’s latter years at Arsenal that his side would look to walk it in, and there has been more than a measure of Wengerball about Liverpool’s play of late.

With the proven attacking talent at Klopp’s disposal, it is a bizarre and sad turn in these final weeks of the season.

 

Klopp’s European reign crumbles

BERGAMO, ITALY - Thursday, April 18, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg match between BC Atalanta and Liverpool FC at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This 1-0 win, which felt nothing like a win, marked the final European game of Klopp’s tenure at Liverpool.

He has led Liverpool to four European finals, including in the Europa League in his first season in charge, but will depart with only one Champions League triumph.

Those runs to showpiece clashes in Basel, Kyiv, Madrid and Paris have brought some of the best memories fans could have wished for when Klopp arrived in 2015.

But this latest exit serves to taint that remarkable legacy, with fans right to ask: what exactly happened to make the wheels fall off so dramatically?

 

Our success hinges on Man City

BERGAMO, ITALY - Thursday, April 18, 2024: Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister (L) and goalkeeper Alisson Becker looks dejected after the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg match between BC Atalanta and Liverpool FC at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Out of the FA Cup, out of the Europa League.

Liverpool now only have the Premier League to fight for as they aim to avoid holding an end-of-season parade for winning the Carabao Cup.

Sadly, the title race is no longer in their hands, either, with the Reds left hoping for Man City to slip up in at least one of their remaining fixtures.

That would, of course, still require Liverpool to be perfect, or at least near-perfect, in their final run of games against Fulham, Everton, West Ham, Tottenham, Aston Villa and Wolves.

Fingers crossed that Man City‘s own European exit lets air out of their tyres in time for back-to-back trips to Lallana and Milner’s Brighton and Origi’s Nottingham Forest.

After the fortnight Liverpool have had, you’d forgive us for not holding our breathe.