Two draws in a row give cause for concern for Liverpool as they head into the busy festive period.
The Reds now find themselves out of the top four and four points behind Chelsea With a gap opening between third and fourth, Liverpool – as well as Arsenal and Spurs – will have to be careful because the three of them could end up fighting over one Champions League spot come the end of the season.
Although Jurgen Klopp’s side finished fourth last season, it’s been harder this time around. Champions League football has forced Liverpool to be more aggressive in their rotation policy, whilst the injuries suffered last season are also potentially a reason why Klopp is making some rotation calls that many have questioned over the last few weeks.
Having been burned late on in the Merseyside derby at the weekend, Klopp reverted to starting all of his ‘fab four’ at home to West Brom on Wednesday night. You may wonder why he didn’t do the same against Everton at the weekend, but the fact they drew with Alan Pardew’s side shows that it may not have made all that much of a difference anyway.
But the performance of the front three against the Baggies showed how frustrating life has been for the Red half of Liverpool over the last few weeks. Mohamed Salah’s starts in particular show a cause for both optimism and for concern.
A frustrating 0-0 draw at home to a side like West Brom isn’t unheard of for any team, especially on the back of such a frustrating derby. But on Wednesday night against the baggies, Salah attempted five dribbles and, impressively, completed all of them.
And yet, he managed to play only 25 passes in the whole game, making one key pass. That’s not always the sign of an ineffective performance, but the key to Liverpool’s success this season is in the forward players linking up as often as possible. That hasn’t always been the case, but when they do, they’re very very good.
But the most worrying stat for Liverpool fans is probably the six times that Salah was dispossessed on Wednesday night. There’s no doubt that, given the Egyptian attacker is such a threat, other teams will look to close him down straight away and get their tackles in early. That probably accounts for the high number of tackles he suffered, especially in comparison with his wonderful dribbling stats.
But when an attacker like Salah is having an off-night, or if he’s being closed down well by the opposition, that’s when other players have to step up. Perhaps on another night, Dominic Solanke’s disallowed goal would have stood and given the Reds a winner, but relying on such fine margins to win a game of football is never a good situation to be in, just as they found out on Sunday afternoon.
Last season, Liverpool relied too heavily on Sadio Mane, and when he left for the African Cup of Nations or when he succumbed to injury, Liverpool were left rueing their situation. That’s why they bought Salah. And now they need to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again with their new signing.
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