KLOPP’S LAST GAME SOUVENIR

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 21, 2024: Liverpool's Diogo Jota celebrates after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC at Craven Cottage. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Trent’s timely return as Reds get job done – 5 talking points from Fulham 1-3 Liverpool

Liverpool returned to Premier League action with a fairly routine, if not entirely exciting, victory at Fulham on Sunday – perhaps just what the doctor ordered after recent outings.

Fulham 1-3 Liverpool

Premier League (33), Craven Cottage
April 21, 2024

Goals: Castagne 45+2′; Alexander-Arnold 32′, Gravenberch 53′, Jota 72′


 

Hit and miss midfield

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 21, 2024: Liverpool's Ryan Gravenberch (L) celebrates with team-mate Harvey Elliott after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC at Craven Cottage. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Among the wider changes in the lineup was a complete about-turn in midfield: Wataru Endo, Ryan Gravenberch and Harvey Elliott in for Alexis Mac Allister, Curtis Jones and Dominik Szoboszlai.

It hinted at the lack of energy and performance levels of late, as well as the quick turnaround for matches this week.

The one who received the most attention and the most jeers was obviously ex-Fulham man – or boy, at the time – Elliott, and he didn’t do much to silence the crowd if we’re honest.

Misplaced passes, poor first touches and a rolling free-kick straight into the wall all made it another occasion where he failed to produce his “impact sub” form when handed a rare start.

Endo was better than his last showing at the base, fairly strong in the challenge, reasonable on the ball without being metronomic and always available for a pass out of the defensive line, but little more than that.

But yet again the biggest disappointment mostly looked Gravenberch. He doesn’t raise the tempo, commit players out of position enough or hold onto possession well enough.

And yet, this midfield trio combined to give the Reds around 70 percent possession, our No. 6 tallied a 93 percent pass success rate and stopped Fulham even having a shot in the second half, while the two No. 8s combined for one to assist and one to score.

Perfect performance, then?!

 

Open play goals at long last

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 21, 2024: Liverpool's Ryan Gravenberch scores the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC at Craven Cottage. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Four-hundred-and-thirteen minutes. That’s how long Liverpool have had to wait between goals in open play: Cody Gakpo‘s last-minute finisher against Sheffield United to Ryan Gravenberch lashing in a long-range strike.

In between we drew blanks against Atalanta and Palace, managed a penalty against the former in the second leg and scored off another penalty and a corner against Man United.

The tempo of play was poor in some of those games, the finishing even worse in others.

It coincided to mean we went out of one competition and fell out of the running in another – the lack of clinical concentration the most costly aspect of our recent drop-off, with the Reds failing to win three in a row for the first time since the end of our terrible run last March and April when we didn’t win in five.

With Jota scoring from open play later on in the match too, let’s hope the Reds have put that lack of confidence and misfortune behind them.

 

Options and conundrum in attack

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 21, 2024: Liverpool's Diogo Jota (R) celebrates with team-mate Cody Gakpo after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC at Craven Cottage. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For almost the first time this season, Jurgen Klopp has all five of his senior forwards available. Usually, that’s a real conundrum in terms of who should be picked because they are all dangerous, have quality, are capable of scoring and so on.

This time instead it feels a bit like a conundrum in selection because they are all out of form, back from injury or looking too lightweight for the task in hand.

Yet there were real positives to take mixed in with the usual frustrations this time around.

Jota’s first goal after injury was indeed his 100th in English football, including his time at Wolves.

Cody Gakpo set him up and the Dutchman had a decent outing, if not relentlessly dangerous, showing a few times his capacity to turn and beat a man and also getting the odd shot off this time too.

Off the bench, however, Salah and Nunez still looked well off it, both with timing of runs and their eventual finishes. Should both be left as subs for the midweek derby, too?

 

Trent’s making a timely return

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 21, 2024: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates after scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC at Craven Cottage. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Enough talk about who hasn’t quite hit the heights – Trent Alexander-Arnold was pretty damn good at the Cottage and scored an absolute peach of a free-kick.

True, the right-back wasn’t given the biggest defensive test of the season as Fulham were a bit robotic, a bit passive and a bit crap all around. Plus, Trent departed before the time Adama Traore came on, which might have been a bigger test as he tired.

But for what he was asked to do it was mostly a decent job, perhaps with the exception of not closing down the original cross which led to their equaliser.

Going forward, though, this was much more like what we’ve missed from our No. 66, who played plenty of raking passes right to left, some fizzing ground-balls through the Fulham defence when in his central position and delivered a couple of nice set-piece crosses into the box, too.

There’s more to come – this wasn’t an elite showing, though some of his passes fit in that category, just a really good step forward after his injury.

Goals home and away against Fulham this season – only one league assist in 2024 so far, in part, of course, due to his absence. Hopefully more are on the way across the next week.

 

Title still there, but no margin for error

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 21, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC at Craven Cottage. Liverpool won 3-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Given this win put Liverpool joint top of the table with only a handful of matches left to play, we should be joyous, full of anticipation, optimistic and bullish about our prospects.

And, perhaps if matters go for us in midweek, that’s what will be the case: back to looking at where others can drop points and simply expecting that the Reds will do their part.

But right now, after the last handful of games, that’s simply not the case – not for a majority of fans in any case, it seems.

Yet if only points matter, it was job done at Craven Cottage. If simply finding a way to win is the overriding prerogative, the boss has found the formula again.

Despite minimal celebration and barely any noticeable impact in silverware possibilities, it is two wins in a row again for Liverpool.

Onto the Merseyside derby, then, where victory is always the prerequisite regardless of context – and this time around it’ll be of far more value for us than for them given their own Sunday afternoon breathing-space-earning victory.

Win that, and every ounce of title-chasing optimism might suddenly surge once more from the Kop.