Chippin’ around – kick my brains around the floor
These are the days it never rains but it pours
– Under Pressure, Queen, 1982
You had allowed for that odd hop to sneak into your step and an occasional song to meander along your train of thought after that emphatic 3-4 win against Arsenal at their citadel, the Emirates. And why not? Liverpool haven’t really had much joy there recently. After a loose first-half display, Juergen’s troops came out firing all barrels and punching holes into the Arsenal defence, leaving a hapless Arsene Wenger floundering in a sea of boos cascading down the steep (pricey) stands. All the while, Juergen Klopp was distributing high-fives and bear hugs. It was all a sight to see. But even in that sense of euphoria, lied and unnerving sense of knowing that the German carried at the back of his mind.
Liverpool for all their attacking assets showcased, also laid bare their glaring weaknesses at the Emirates. A porous midfield and a waddling defensive movement were infiltrated by the Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal front-foot play. Sean Dyche and Burnley scouts seem to have taken note and applied themselves brilliantly, winning the game 2-0.
Here’s JD of The 4th Official who dissects the key passages of play and areas where the battle was lost for Liverpool, who lost at Turf Moor in the league, for the first time since 1973.
#1 No Support for Ragnar Klavan
Ragnar Klavan is boss on the ball, but there’s only so much he can do. Starting his career as a central midfielder, he’s well able to play the ball out of defence and has shown his composure and the nous on more than one occasion in pre-season and against Arsenal. Burnley, initially, let Klavan have possession and then press him at key junctures, one of which forced a diagonal pass from the left-back position to Nathaniel Clyne on the opposite right-hand side flank. This was the manufactured pass that forced the error off of Liverpool, resulting in an awkward break and finished with a thumping strike.
Why it happened: There was no midfielder who came deep to pick up the ball from the backline, recycle possession, and drive forward.
#2 Jordan Henderson’s shoehorned role
Liverpool need a defensive midfielder, and they need it now – the second Burnley goal which was a result of the clarets’ midfield runner ploughing through the non-existent cover, typified the very fact. There is no way around it. Anything else is papering over the gaping fissures, and Juergen Klopp knows it all too well that those very cracks can lay waste to Liverpool’s season. For all of Jordan Henderson’s virtues, which are reasonably enough, he is definitely not one for the number 6 role, and further undermines the said qualities of his forward enthusiasm.
Emre Can and Marko Grujic aren’t the answers either, both more comfortable in their natural box-to-box roles.
#3 Moreno and Mane missed
The fact that Moreno was missed is bit ironic, but true, nonetheless. Most of all the Liverpool players on show, albeit clever operators who work the channels, aren’t exactly ones who can peg a team back by the virtue of their sheer pace as an outlet. That’s precisely what Liverpool lacked, as Burnley always looked to stay on the front foot, lurking for the break in play, without any threat of a Moreno or a Mane running in behind. An argument can also be made that if Moreno was on the pitch the second goal could have been avoided, with the Spaniard’s scintillating recovery pace proving to, at least, be a deterrent. Sadio Mane’s directness and goal threat were conspicuous by its absence, as Liverpool blew and blew waywardly, and couldn’t bring the Burnley’s modest house down. An alternative to Mane and Moreno is the need of the hour.