Has the time come for Liverpool to become a little bit more boring?
Jurgen Klopp’s Reds have rarely let us down for entertainment. Liverpool fans and plenty of neutrals alike have marvelled at the sheer intensity and attacking incision of this vintage Anfield team.
But with Sunday’s thrilling draw at Chelsea on Sunday now making it 10 points dropped from winning positions in the Premier League this season, perhaps there is a case for reining it all in a bit.
Jurgen Klopp may have to rein his Liverpool side in a bit after they dropped 10 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season
Sunday’s 2-2 draw at title rivals Chelsea, in which they lost a two-goal lead, was the latest example of Liverpool chucking away points
In a fixture billed as the last chance saloon for a decent title race, with Manchester City galloping clear at the top, Liverpool cruised into a 2-0 lead thanks to Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah’s goals in the first 26 minutes.
It was an electric opening that suggested strongly Klopp and his players did not believe the title race was a foregone conclusion.
But unfortunately they lost control, were pegged back by goals from Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic in a crazy few minutes before half-time, and ultimately couldn’t find a winner.
You could picture Pep Guardiola reclining in his armchair with a nice glass of Rioja – City’s manager apparently has an excellent wine cellar – and contemplating whether to get the cigars out.
Klopp, meanwhile, absent from Stamford Bridge after he contracted Covid, would have been seething at home at yet more crucial points tossed away.
Liverpool would be just one point behind leaders Man City, with a game in hand, if they’d hung on for victory in the five games they have thrown leads away in
Liverpool led twice at Brentford back in September but ended up drawing the game 3-3
It was a film he’d seen before. Liverpool led 2-1 and 3-2 in a bonkers game at Brentford back in September, only to end up drawing 3-3.
They were twice in front against City at Anfield in October but found themselves pegged back by Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne having seemingly done the hard work.
Another early blitz against Brighton at home that same month counted for nothing as they allowed their opponents to come back and draw.
And at Tottenham just before Christmas, they led thanks to Andy Robertson but only for five minutes before Son Heung-min equalised, ultimately settling for a 2-2 draw.
With the Chelsea collapse, that’s now 10 points dropped from winning positions. With them, they’d be just a point behind City with a game in hand and we’d all be relishing a barnstorming title run-in.
Kevin De Bruyne equalised for Manchester City to earn them a 2-2 draw at Anfield in October
Liverpool were also pegged back by Brighton at Anfield having taken an early two-goal lead
Son Heung-min earned Tottenham a point in their 2-2 draw with Liverpool before Christmas
Premier League unless stated
Thursday Arsenal (A)
Carabao Cup semi-final, first leg
Sunday Shrewsbury Town (H)
FA Cup third round
January 13 Arsenal (H)
Carabao Cup semi-final, second leg
January 16 Brentford (H)
January 23 Crystal Palace (A)
February 10 Leicester City (H)
For the record, City haven’t dropped a single point after taking the lead this season. Their Boxing Day epic with Leicester, when a 4-0 lead became 4-3 before they scored twice more, being a rare lapse in their absolute control.
It isn’t a problem exclusive to Liverpool’s domestic games, either, given they lost leads at home to AC Milan and away to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League but on both occasions went on to win.
So poor game management has become a real issue. It will go against every fibre in Klopp’s being but maybe, after the three-game interlude for cup competitions now coming up, they need to be a bit more conservative, a bit more dull.
That isn’t to say Liverpool should abandon the ethos that has served them so well these past six years but, once in front in games, they might consider sitting back satisfied with what they have rather than seeking more goals.
That ability to see out games would be especially handy as their two best strikers, Salah and Mane, head off for the Africa Cup of Nations.
If either or both of Egypt and Senegal reach the final, these two, with a combined 33 goals this season for Liverpool, will be away until the game with Leicester City on February 10.
With Divock Origi out with a knee injury at present, Takumi Minamino sidelined and Roberto Firmino struck by Covid, attacking options aren’t exactly plentiful for Klopp.
They will likely return to action before Salah and Mane but this decimated front line, with Diogo Jota having to shoulder most of the scoring burden, may force a change of approach.
Liverpool are about to lose star strikers Sadio Mane (left) and Mohamed Salah to the AFCON
Much will depend on the goals of Diogo Jota in the coming weeks in their absence
Klopp will be reluctant to tear up a tried and trusted game plan but there would be no shame in winning upcoming league games against Brentford and Crystal Palace 1-0 and squeaking through in the cups.
Arguably a bigger miss comes in midfield with Thiago Alcantara, thanks to Covid and then muscle soreness, missing their last three league games.
It also hasn’t escaped the notice of Liverpool fans that Thiago was absent from all five of those aforementioned league games in which they dropped points from winning positions.
The Spaniard does bring an element of control by playing at a slower tempo to many of those around him and also slotting back to join Fabinho in shielding the back line.
If Liverpool take an early lead in one of their upcoming games, perhaps Thiago can help shore things up and ensure they don’t then concede, especially when the usual firepower to go on and score more goals is missing.
The games in which Liverpool have dropped points haven’t featured Thiago Alcantara
Unfortunately, Thiago isn’t the most reliable with fitness so it may be that James Milner or Jordan Henderson has to adapt instead.
We’re entering an important but slightly surreal time for Liverpool. They can’t give up on the title race regardless of the daunting gap but it’s clear their best chance of silverware will come in the cups.
That is the immediate focus with the two legs of their Carabao Cup semi-final against Arsenal either side of a FA Cup third round meeting with Shrewsbury Town of League One.
The change of focus will probably be a welcome one for Liverpool but once league action returns, they might think about toning down their usual sense of adventure in order to stop carelessly dropping points.