Liverpool were beaten 2-0 away to Red Star after conceding two quick goals midway through the first-half. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but one we must accept.
Regardless of team selection, Liverpool deserved to lose on the night in one of the worst results of the Klopp era. The manager and players shared the fans’ frustration, and will be looking to make amends on the weekend.
The best thing to do now is to move on quickly, but first, let’s relive the misery by looking back at where it all went wrong and discuss the result in context. Oh boy!
Alisson – 4
Like many others on the night, Alisson didn’t perform to the standards that we expect of him. He surely had to do better for Red Star’s second goal.
Other than picking the ball out of the back of the net twice, he had little to do. Although, despite the second goal, in a game such as this one, the goalkeeper can’t accept too much of the blame.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 2.5
Trent probably could’ve done with a week out of the spotlight after his personal issues and performance against Arsenal, but then again, if he had a great match we’d all be saying that the decision to play was the only thing to help him get over those worries.
In any case, Trent had another shocker. He was poor on the ball and was outdone in defence. Bad stretches are to be expected of a young player though, so it’s far too early to be dropping him entirely, especially when the only real alternative is Clyne who’s barely played in ages.
Joel Matip – 3
Many questioned the decision to start Matip when he’s clearly lacking in match fitness, but how can a player get fit without playing? Again, if he’d performed well, then we’d all be praising Klopp’s rotation.
His performance was weak, and it’s difficult to understand how such a big man fails to impose himself physically onto much smaller attacking players.
Virgil van Dijk – 4
VVD was better than Matip, but that’s not saying much. For the second game in a row he spurned a few chances, but most importantly, he wasn’t as authoritative at the back as usual.
He was also largely at fault for the first goal which sent us on our way to a dreadful defeat. Even our great centre-back can’t always be expected to save our skins.
Andy Robertson – 4.5
The best of the worst in defence; Robbo still wasn’t very good though. Apart from one outstanding pass early on to unleash Mane, he was terribly wasteful on the ball.
Robbo has been one of the few players this season to somewhat maintain his form from the end of last season, but on this occasion, he was poor.
Gini Wijnaldum – 3
One tactical decision that did have fans excited before the game was the decision to shift Gini back to the holding role that he shone in earlier in the season.
Unfortunately, Gini produced one of ‘those’ away day performances where he simply fails to turn up and influence the game in any meaningful manner. He did pick up slightly in the second-half, but was still light-years away from what we needed.
James Milner – 3.5
I can’t remember the last time Milner had such a bad game. Normally his absolute worst performance would still earn him a 6/10, such is his consistency.
He was just as bad as the rest of them in Belgrade though, and in particular, he was far too casual on the ball for Red Star’s first goal. He was one of many who looked knackered.
Adam Lallana – 2
It’s still early into Lallana’s return from injury, but it’s getting harder and harder to see how he could possibly have a long-term future at the club.
He hasn’t lost his touch and is still capable of beating defenders with his skill, but his overall game is lacking and he looks miles off the pace. Naby Keita’s return couldn’t come any sooner.
Mo Salah – 4
Salah had a frustrating night as Red Star constantly had two players marking him. That was probably overkill in hindsight as his poor touch and final ball hindered him far more than any defender could.
In fairness, he went the closest to scoring by hitting the post and forcing the ‘keeper into a good save late on, but he’s still looking a shadow of the player that fans fell in love with last season.
Sadio Mane – 3.5
Mane did look threatening at times, but then again, David N’Gog might’ve looked threatening in this game. He couldn’t have done much worse than the front-three who did play.
Like Salah though, he did most of Red Star’s defending for them as when he wasn’t falling over, he was producing sloppy touch after sloppy touch. His passing was threatening on occasion, but there was little to no linkup play to take advantage of it.
Daniel Sturridge – 2
What a chance for Sturridge to stake a claim on a regular first-team place, especially considering the fact that our previously untouchable front-three have been sub-par. Unfortunately, he dropped the ball and won’t be taking anyone’s place anytime soon.
Klopp was right to hook him at half-time after missing a chance that you would’ve put the house on him scoring, and then trying to correct his mistake minutes later by shooting when he should’ve passed to an open Lallana.
Bobby Firmino – (on for Sturridge 46′) 4.5
Firmino’s introduction did make a minor difference, but not to the scoreline. Salah’s form has gotten so much attention that it’s easy to forget how average Bobby’s been for most of the season.
Joe Gomez – (on for Alexander-Arnold 46′) 5
Gomez came on as a mercy sub to replace TAA. There wasn’t much a right-back could do at 2-0 down, but some sloppy passing didn’t help.
Divock Origi – (on for Lallana 79′) 3
Everyone would’ve preferred to have seen Keita come on. Origi’s time at the club is done, and he did nothing to prove otherwise with the admittedly short time he was given in this match.
Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Fabinho, and Naby Keita.
Jurgen Klopp – 3
Where to start? The one saving grace for Klopp is that unlike Brendan Rodgers and Roy Hodgson, he openly admits when the team’s been awful. It’s a minor consolidation, but a sure sign that he’ll make it clear to the players that they’ve not been good enough.
When Klopp was asked if he could ‘put his finger on’ what went wrong for Liverpool, he said, “I only have 10 fingers”. Klopp knows we have problems. It’s now up to him to find solutions, and fast.
The biggest criticisms Klopp’s received in the wake of the game have been that he underestimated the opposition, which he denied, his rotation, and subs. In theory, this was a good game to rotate, but the three players he chose looked embarrassingly unfit, and the decision to leave Keita on the bench when the midfield had been so appalling was frankly baffling. However, in Klopp’s defence, he wasted no time in making the first two changes, which is encouraging, as he normally waits far too long to do so.
Napoli managed a draw against PSG, which mean that Liverpool would’ve been one result away from securing top spot in Group C, potentially avoiding one of Europe’s giants in the first knockout stage.
As things stand now, all four teams have something to play for. One win should be enough to go through, but we’ve made hard work of it. PSG away and Napoli at home will be no cakewalk, and considering how many other results have gone our way, it’s difficult not to feel disappointed.
The one good thing about this situation is that Red Star have still got everything to play for, so they could be more motivated to give us a hand by making PSG and Napoli drop points. Probably wishful thinking, but it’s better than considering the possibility of dropping down into the Europa League.
Cause for Concern
For once, most football pundits have been absolutely spot on in their assessment of the result. It’s a shock, but it had been coming.
Liverpool’s results, for the most part, this season have been excellent, but this has meant that some poor performances have been swept under the rug. The most common rationales have been fitness and more time needed for players to bed into the new system, but these excuses are beginning to wear thin.
Several alternate theories have been expressed to explain why the attack and midfield are so much worse now. Some say Buvac’s influence on the attack is being missed, while others argue that this is simply what a Countinho/Ox-less Liverpool looks like. All that’s certain is that our form is a big concern.
Not All Doom and Gloom
Get out your virtual pitchforks! Someone’s trying to be optimistic about Liverpool on the internet! In all seriousness though, I’m as disappointed and upset about this result as any fan. However, it’s important to bear a few things in mind before going into the next run of fixtures.
It’s true that we aren’t as potent as last year, and that City are deservedly ahead of us, but as a club, we’re in a much better place. I know it’s difficult to hear at this stage of Klopp’s reign, but we’re still rebuilding, and for the most part, we’re getting better. Think of where we were when he came in. Our defence is better than last year, but our midfield is still adapting to change. This will undoubtedly improve over time and will have a knock-on effect for the attackers.
We’ve arguably been overperforming for years under Klopp, especially last season. This time around, we’re probably playing to our level, and that’s why it appears worse than it actually is. It only looks this bad because of how good we’ve been before. In time, we’ll get back to our best. It’s just a matter of trying to stay alive in the Champions League and EPL until we do.