Klopp gamble backfires
Clearly, there’s a reason why Jurgen Klopp has largely resisted going all-out in attack this season.
Having mixed and matched his main forwards in recent weeks, the Liverpool boss regarded the visit of Newcastle United as the ideal opportunity to unleash the four-pronged forward line that had been called for by many Reds supporters.
Given his team’s chronic inability to score at Anfield – it’s now just four goals in 10 games in 2021, a truly astonishingly poor return – Klopp couldn’t blamed for throwing his chief attackers in from the start for only the third time this season.
In terms of creating chances, the decision was justified. But the gamble only pays off if those opportunities are converted and, frustratingly but increasingly inevitably, they weren’t.
Sadio Mane is clearly struggling for confidence, Roberto Firmino was restricted to intermittent moments of promise and a whole load of frustration, while the Diogo Jota impersonator wearing the number 20 shirt wasn’t particularly convincing.
Mane and Firmino in particular look exhausted, mentally rather than physically.
Prioritising attack over defence caused an imbalance with Gini Wijnaldum and Thiago Alcantara overworked as the midfield two, and the backline opened up too often for comfort before half-time.
When Liverpool switched to a more sturdy 4-3-3 shortly before the hour, Newcastle had already gained sufficient confidence they could quell the Red tide.
Indeed, the visitors were so assured that they had no issue moving former Reds midfielder Jonjo Shelvey to centre-back for the final quarter. If not the final insult, it was up there.
Salah the only shining light
There aren’t many positives Liverpool can take from a tortuous, testing campaign.
But the one shimmering, shining light remains undisputed.
Where would the Reds be without Mohamed Salah this season?
The Egyptian did what he has been all campaign, finding the target for his 29th goal in all competitions this campaign, his 20th in the top flight.
Support Our News Campaign
Shop our StoreClick Here To Shop
It made Salah the first Liverpool player to reach that landmark in three Premier League campaigns, and moved him up to 12th in the club’s all-time goalscorer list.