It’s just so difficult to pin down this particular incarnation of a team representing Liverpool Football Club. Everything good and everything bad about the Jurgen Klopp was in plain sight in the thrilling game with Norwich City earlier today.
A painfully slow start to the game somehow resulted in a Roberto Firmino goal during the opening stages although the Reds looked just about as one-paced as a certain other North West giant going through a transition.
Mainly, it was due to the terrible defending of the home side. The Brazilian slipped behind the defence and fired in from an acute angle, though question marks surround Canaries custodian Declan Rudd about the fact he was beaten from there.
However, after that, it was Liverpool’s turn to defend comically. Yet another corner wasn’t dealt with sufficiently, though Dieumerci Mbokani pulled off a clever back heel in order to further compound their set-piece woes.
£8m man Steven Naismith then made a clever late run into the box, though both Lucas and Emre Can appeared to be innocently bewildered that the Scot was left with so much time in the box. Well guys, he did run directly past you.
The game continued at a relatively poor pace, sloppy passing and not much in the way of chances. Despite the high score line, it remained one of the major themes of the entire match.
As if being 2-1 down wasn’t bad enough, Reds defender Alberto Moreno then appeared to literally be doing his best in order to concede a penalty. After scything Naismith down in the penalty area, a crime that went unpunished, the Spaniard then barged him BACK to the ground as he was lifting himself of the floor.
No idea what planet he was on and I’m not sure he did either. So, the penalty was then coolly converted by Wes Hoolahan. 3-1. Game over.
Well, that was until the home side simply stopped defending. Where Moreno was rash, the Norwich rearguard were absent. Reds skipper Jordan Henderson was afforded acres of space in the penalty box to score a smart volley, before Firmino was handed similar space to level the scores following smart work from Adam Lallana.
As if the defending had not already comical enough, Russell Martin then somehow managed the worst back-pass in history to send James Milner, not the paciest let’s remember, clean through on goal.
The comeback was on, Liverpool led 4-3 and the game had appeared to be fizzling out.
Steven Caulker had been brought on to shield the defence, though was nowhere to be seen when a late free-kick was lofted in. As usual, the Reds failed to deal with a high ball, which found its way to Sebastian Bassong, who drilled in what appeared to be a late equalizer.
Five minutes deep into injury time, the visitors besieged the home box and a spot of head tennis resulted in an Adam Lallana volley that took an age to enter the net. But it did. 5-4.
A poor game. An incredible game. An incredibly poor game.
But what did we learn?
Jurgen Klopp is an experienced manager who will have no doubt sussed out that Norwich are often dominated in the air. The fact they had conceded the most goals from crosses in the Premier League was seemingly the stage needed to give the under fire Belgian the chance to earn some confidence.
However, Roberto Firmino was preferred in the central attacking role. While he has been in decent enough form, the Brazilian is clearly not a natural centre-forward, a type of player the Canaries have struggled to contain all season.
Granted, it did work in the end as Firmino netted twice. Still, the deeper meaning of leaving Benteke out in a game seemingly tailored made for him may be a signal of Klopp’s future intent.
If he’s not going to play in games like this? When will he?
Ivan Pinto arrived from Dinamo Zagreb earlier this week and much was made about the fact he had played in the Champions League. No easy feat at all, but the Portuguese defender looked well out his depth today.
As is so often the case with modern day full-backs, the attacking intent was there, but lapses in defensive concentration were all too often prevalent. In fact, most of the joy Liverpool had today was when the new signing was isolated, affording their attackers acres of space.
While the entire backline should be blamed, the glaring inefficiency of Pinto to cover Jordan Henderson in the box was almost dumbfounding. The 26-year old had not a soul to mark as the ball drifted in, yet still failed to pick up the Reds skipper who was stood directly in front of him.
Harsh to judge the man too harshly on his maiden voyage in the Premier League, but he did not fill Carrow Road with universal confidence.
The Liverpool backline contained four internationals today, as well as their defensive midfield adding a further two. You wouldn’t have guessed it.
Whenever a ball is lofted in, a theme that is not solely constricted to just corners anymore, the Reds simply look as if they are about to crumble. For the opener, they failed to deal with another corner in both the first and second phase.
Not one man took leadership into clearing the ball, leaving Dieumerci Mbokani with all the time in the world to pull off a clever back-heel. A fine improvisation no doubt, but he was flanked by both Mahmadou Sakho and Kolo Toure.
Even for Bassong’s late goal, a lofted free-kick was headed about without ever really being dealt with before it found its way to the centre-back on the edge of the area.
It’s not as if these players don’t know how to defend such set-pieces, it’s just something about them right now makes seasoned professionals crumble.
In the midst of this relegation battle, a few of the teams can boast top class players to provide them an extra something when the going gets tough. Jermain Defoe at Sunderland, Newcastle have Giorgino Wijnaldum and Bournemouth have the likes of Benik Afobe and Charlie Daniels.
Now, you can add Norwich City to that list following their signing of Steven Naismith. Okay, he wasn’t enough to secure three points today, but the 29-year old was promising.
Popping up in dangerous areas all day, the Scot made a clever late run into the box in order to finish off a good Norwich attack and put the side 2-1 up. While we rightly lambast Moreno for his awful defending, it’s important to remember Naismith was the one causing the Spaniard problems.
The former Everton man provides a creative link between midfield and attack. He may not be enough to keep the team in the Premier League by himself, but he bridges the gap somewhat.
Only really Nathaniel Clyne can hold his head high after such a poor performance. The England international hasn’t truly been at his wonderful best since a summer move, though was excellent today.
Well, as excellent as you can be when playing in such a woeful defence. An extremely athletic individual, the former Southampton man is a fine example of a modern day defender who take his defensive abilities as seriously as his attacking ones.
With a summer of upheaval likely to be on the way, Clyne is surely the only member of that back four that can all but guarantee he won’t be shipped in the summer.