Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with Manchester United was yet another example of the title jitters that have gripped both the Reds and Manchester City at times this season.
Jurgen Klopp’s side had a chance to move three points clear at the top of the Premier League table, with City playing in the Carabao Cup final on the same day, but their draw again United leaves them one point clear with 11 games to go.
Liverpool’s point extends their lead at the top of the table but the performances of their forward trio, so usually feted and fabled, will surely be a cause for concern.
Roberto Firmino, first off, picked up an unfortunate injury in a first-half that saw more substitutions than shots on target.
But Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah had no such excuses.
Both wing wizards, usually so reliable both on the flank and in front of goal, were risible at Old Trafford.
Per WhoScored, Mane had a total of 53 touches of the ball but did precious little with them. He attempted 40 passes but had an accuracy of 65%, the lowest of any Reds player by a considerable distance. That he attempted zero shots is an indictment both on his ability to get past right-back Ashley Young and also his own creativity.
And, amazingly, Salah was even worse. Practically marked out of the game by the impressive Luke Shaw, who looks a player reborn under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Salah had one shot on goal. It did not even trouble David De Gea.
He attempted three dribbles but completed just one and was dispossessed six times, double the amount of Marcus Rashford on the other side.
Salah’s performance was so poor that Divock Origi was thrown on with 10 minutes of the game remaining, as Liverpool searched for a winner.
Klopp will surely be worried as the pressure of the title run-in cranks up. With Salah and Mane both out of form, and Firmino perhaps injured, the Reds need to find a solution fast.
Liverpool have built their title challenge on their defence.
While City have scored 74 goals in the Premier League, the Reds have netted 59, but they have conceded just 15, five fewer than Guardiola’s side.
It is perhaps surprising to consider that Liverpool’s Achilles heel could, ultimately, end up being their forward three – something that became particularly evident at Old Trafford.
Mane has been terrible against both United and Bayern Munich in recent weeks, while Salah has gone missing in important clashes – he was nowhere to be found at Old Trafford, nor in the draws with Leicester City and West Ham United.
Should Firmino miss this week’s clash with Watford, it may be Origi or Daniel Sturridge up front alongside the misfiring duo on Wednesday.
They cannot afford to drop any more points, so Klopp had better hope they gel swiftly. If they don’t, the title could start to slip away.