By Alywin Chew
Groundhog Day. That’s all I have to say about Liverpool’s loss to Brighton.
Anfield is no longer a fortress. It is now a drive-through where you grab your Happy Meal and leave.
Yes, the team is still mathematically in the title race, but let’s be realistic - the title defence has already failed. Given the lethargy the players have shown over the past month and the ridiculous spate of injuries, the only way Liverpool can retain the title is if the teams above us suddenly hit a patch of horrid form.
You’d have better chances of seeing snow in Singapore.
What the team needs to do now is transform.
In the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Liverpool need to “become the very thing you swore to destroy”.
Yes, they need to become a bus.
One of the main reasons why Liverpool slumped to their fourth defeat of the season is this: they insist on the high-pressing game. What this does is force opponents into their shell. It has become a common sight to see five to six players from the opposing team camp inside their penalty area. If you have played Counter-Strike before, you’ll know that camping works.
Prying open that shell is not impossible. Liverpool have demonstrated before that they can be very adept at shucking oysters, but that was with a different team. Trying to open up a stubborn defence with Divock Origi is like trying to open an oyster with a soup ladle.
Game after game, the Belgian has proved that he is like bean sprouts in laksa; a player that adds zero value to the team.
Liverpool fans would also have noticed that Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson have been pumping balls into the penalty area less frequently.
Why? Because there are too many defenders and not enough Liverpool players in the box. Because there isn’t someone like Duncan Ferguson or Oliver Bierhoff to convert those crosses into goals.
Many fans would think that now is not the time to take the foot off the pedal. I think this is exactly the time to do so.
Yes, they need to stop trying to be the MRT. Speed is not always good. The MRT always breaks down.
Drive a SBS bus instead.
What I’m saying is that Liverpool need to slow their game down. They need to sit back a little and invite their opponents to take a swing at them.
Remember that stupendous counterattacking master class in the match against West Ham? Two passes from one penalty area to the other. Mo Salah scores.
Boomz. Confirm plus chop this would be a Puskas Award candidate.
Liverpool have fantastic passers. Hitting a team on the counter is not a problem. With the additions of Ben Davis and Ozan Kabak to the defensive lineup, the likes of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho can now be deployed in positions where their passing range is best utilised.
Slowing things down a few notches would also be beneficial to the players.
Former Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren might not always have been the most reliable centre-back for us, but he was spot on in identifying why Liverpool have been plagued with injuries.
He wrote on Twitter: “Too many games, impossible to recover, when you know that this year is a weird one (Covid). No proper time off, (personally I had only 8 days off) no proper pre-season and then the crazy schedule!!”
Statistics have proven this, too. According to Premier Injuries, there was a 17 per cent increase in soft-tissue muscular strains during the first 10 matches of the 2020/2021 season compared with the previous season.
Combine fixture congestion with what the Director of the World Football Academy Raymond Verheijen and Graeme Souness have said before about the correlation between Liverpool’s high-pressing style and injuries, and the current injury list becomes less surprising.
Of the “Big Six” English sides, Liverpool currently have the most extensive injury list. This list would continue to grow if the style of play doesn’t change. As it stands, the team is already running on fumes. Losing another key player to injury would be the final nail in the coffin for its Champions League aspirations.
Heavy metal football needs to take a back seat. Liverpool players are clearly not in a state where “the mind is willing but the flesh is weak”.
In his post-match interview following the defeat to Brighton, Jurgen Klopp himself admitted that his players are “mentally fatigued”.
It’s time for Liverpool to utilise those SkillsFuture credits and evolve.