Sunday, June 26

Jürgen Klopp needs the hesitant Firmino, Mané and Salah to re-ignite | Andy Hunter | Football

A Much has changed since Mohamed Salah sped up David de Gea’s goal to seal Liverpool’s 2-0 win against Manchester United almost exactly a year ago. 52,916 supporters were allowed within Anfield on that different planet, Alisson was able to run across the field to hug the striker without fear of government censorship and Liverpool fans finally acknowledged in public that the Premier League title was his afterward. of a 30-year wait. Of the many changes in Jürgen Klopp’s world since he last hosted Ole Gunnar Solskjær at Anfield, it is the dilution of that fierce belief into mounting doubt that will irritate the most.

According to Klopp, the perception of Liverpool’s current position and form does not match reality. While United arrive in Merseyside on Sunday emboldened to lead the Premier League after 17 games for the first time since 2013, and optimism abounds in Manchester City after seven straight wins in all competitions, Liverpool are reeling after three games. league without a win. despite being sandwiched between his two rivals and three points off the top.

At least that’s how Klopp assesses the external mood. He believes the champions are held to last season’s overriding standards and are not given concessions for the various mitigating factors behind the grind this period. His team, he insists, have performed poorly twice during the recession that has offered hope to both sides of Manchester’s division: during the 1-1 draw at Fulham on 13 December and in the second half of the 1-1 draw. with West Brom. fifteen days later.

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The Liverpool manager’s views are also open to debate, although perhaps the most misleading theory surrounding the recent fall of the champions is that well-publicized problems on defense are the main cause. The acclaimed attack that has made up for defensive gaps for much of the season is the main culprit and Diogo Jota’s absence has been felt more in recent weeks than even Virgil van Dijk’s seismic loss.

Liverpool’s defensive recovery has been impressive by any measure since the 7-2 aberration at Aston Villa. That has come after injuries to Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joël Matip, required inexperienced Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips to join midfielder Fabinho in central defense, plus Jordan Henderson, and included the weirdness of a Trent in distress. Alexander-Arnold underlines the formidable. quality of the template.

Mohamed Salah celebrates with Alisson after scoring Liverpool's second goal against Manchester United in January 2020 with a goalkeeper pass.

Mohamed Salah (left) celebrates with Alisson after scoring Liverpool’s second goal against Manchester United in January 2020 from the goalkeeper’s pass. Photograph: Martin Rickett / PA

Having conceded 11 goals in the first four games of the title defense, up until the 11th minute of the Merseyside derby, when Van Dijk was forced to retire, Liverpool have sent 10 in 13 matches since then. Only Manchester City have conceded fewer goals (six) than Liverpool since losing their main central defender.

Liverpool Statistics

That resistance has kept them on the lookout and given Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Jota the platform for 29 goals combined in the Premier League. Between them, Liverpool’s four forwards are responsible for 78% of the team’s league goals (United’s top four forwards, Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood, account for 34% of their total, 13 goals. ). With all three established forwards suffering a collective knockdown, Jota sidelined and the supporting cast ineffective, problems in the final third have been apparent of late.

Firmino, Mané and Salah need to shine again and have gotten into the habit of doing so in decisive matches, for Liverpool to dismiss United as a fleeting challenger and respond to the resurgent threat from City.

The destructive quality that punished Leicester, Wolves and Crystal Palace, when Takumi Minamino started in place of Salah at Selhurst Park, was painfully absent against West Brom, Newcastle and Southampton. Klopp described the performances at St James’ Park and St Mary’s as “good” and “a normal away game” respectively, although he criticized lack of composure in front of goal, poor decision making and inaccuracy in both.

Liverpool have failed to score in consecutive Premier League games for the first time since May 2018. Having been at their clinical best in the Palace rout, scoring seven times from eight shots on goal, they have made seven attempts on goal. in their last three games. There was only one in Southampton, from Mané in the 75th minute, the last in a first shot on goal in a league game in more than five years.

Jota has been a telling loss. The Portugal international scored nine goals in 17 appearances following his £ 41m arrival from Wolves, including decisive winners in successive league matches at home against Sheffield United and West Ham. His flawless introduction put more pressure on the three first-choice forwards than Divock Origi or Minamino, allowed Klopp to cover defensive woes with even more firepower, and provided a potent alternative to Firmino during what has been a relatively moderate season on the part. of the Brazilian.

The forward has yet to resume full team training after sustaining a knee ligament injury in the final match of the Champions League group stage in Midtjylland on December 9. It’s not wise after the event to question Klopp’s selection for that dead rubber. It was disconcerting at the time to see Jota, Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho and Salah start as their coach criticized his players’ demands, even though he made eight changes to the team that dismantled the Wolves three days earlier.

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With Salah later complaining about not being captain of that game, when he gave a rare interview to the Spanish sports newspaper AS, Midtjylland turned out to be a dead rubber with several preventable headaches for Klopp.

However, there is a remedy available at Anfield on Sunday, when the country’s two biggest clubs finally meet in a game with title consequences for both sides. An opportunity for Liverpool to regain faith.

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