TEAMtalk analyses the major Liverpool talking points from their 1-0 defeat against Manchester United at Anfield, with Roberto Firmino needing help to fulfill his true potential for the Reds, who were again exposed by their set-piece vulnerability.
Set piece nightmare continues
Once again, Liverpool lost the match due to lack of concentration and poor marking at set pieces, a common theme this season for the Reds. A simple short corner from Manchester United developed a two-against-one situation, as Jordon Ibe failed to follow Juan Mata he allowed an accurate cross to be delivered towards Marouane Fellaini in the Liverpool box. His header rebounded off the crossbar and an unmarked Wayne Rooney fired in from six yards.
Their defensive frailties need urgent work on the training ground and with no more defenders set to sign this month, Klopp will have to work with what he has at his disposal. The poor marking and lapse in concentration can’t be excused and is bound to be exposed in the Premier League.
Firmino needs help to fulfil Liverpool potential
With question marks hanging over Liverpool’s best starting line-up, Roberto Firmino retained his place as Liverpool’s false number nine and is arguably one of the first names on Jurgen Klopp’s teamsheet right now. His stunning brace in Liverpool’s 3-3 draw against Arsenal in midweek was impressive – and her certainly made a strong start against Manchester United.
Firmino very nearly opened the scoring when he latched onto Adam Lallana’s rebounded shot, but his low drive clipped the post and went out for a goal kick. The 24-year-old’s creativity shone and there was a great sense that if Liverpool were to break the deadlock, it would be coming through Firmino.
His wonderful through ball to James Milner should have been capped off with the opening goal, but the England international fired his shot over the bar. Intricate link-up play with Jordan Henderson then created another goalscoring opportunity, but the Reds captain dragged his shot wide.
However, Firmino will excel once the Reds either get Daniel Sturridge or Divock Origi fit, or sign a new striker to play as their lone frontman.
It’s clear Firmino has ability – but his growing stature at Liverpool won’t truly flourish until he’s given the freedom to roam.
Klopp will certainly know that, but getting Sturridge or Origi fit cannot come soon enough for Liverpool – or for Firmino.
Lucas steps up to the occasion
In his return to the starting line up, the Brazilian holding midfielder produced a gritty, fighting display from the outset and through out. His midfield battle against Manchester United man Fellaini was evident in the eighth minute after Lucas clashed heads with the Belgian.
Fellaini then appeared to kick out at the Liverpool midfielder which saw a tussle unfold and the pair needing to be separated by teammates. Not only was Lucas’s organisation and tackling impressive, but the distribution and long-range through balls, most notably to Firmino and Lallana, were executed with good precision.
The experience of Lucas saw Liverpool dictate play in a dominant first half, and with Jordan Henderson and Emre Can either side of him, the three looked to have developed a solid central partnership.
Defensive stability vital for Klopp
With Liverpool’s defensive crisis clear for everyone to see, one of Klopp’s top priorities is the defensive stability of his side. Liverpool have now conceded 11 goals in their last seven Premier League games, a record needing much improvement in their fading push for a top four place.
The back four of Nathaniel Clyne, Kolo Toure, Mamadou Sakho and Alberto Moreno started against both Arsenal and Manchester United, and they could be Liverpool’s best solution to their defensive worries. The loss against Manchester United was Toure’s first for Liverpool this season, he was previously unbeaten in 10 games, winning six and drawing four.
Questions will again be asked of the performance of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who’s distribution was poor and when called upon to make a vital save from Rooney’s shot, the United forward fired past the Belgian convincingly.
A man-of-the-match display from Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea couldn’t have been more of a clear indication of which club possesses the more superior shot stopper. De Gea appeared unstoppable in the United goal, while Mignolet showed clear weaknesses and his position as Liverpool’s number one is once again under question.
Lallana fighting for his Liverpool career
Since his £25million move from Southampton in the summer 2014 transfer window has failed to live up to expectations, Adam Lallana has come under scrutiny for his inclusion in the Liverpool team. The midfielder is still yet to score for the Reds in the Premier League this season and with Klopp set for a summer clear out, it would be a fair to say that Lallana is fighting for his Liverpool career.
His performance against Manchester United was typical of his time on Merseyside. After being played through on goal by Lucas, Lallana’s tame header was saved by David De Gea and he failed to follow up on the rebound. His work rate and energy can not be argued, but for Lallana to be a part of Klopp’s plans he need serious improvement.
The 25-year-old was wasteful in possession and his scuffed long-range drive didn’t even begin to trouble De Gea in the United goal. For an attacking midfielder to have such a poor conversion rate at a club of Liverpool’s stature, the only conclusion that could be met is that he is simply not good enough.
Lack of conviction a code Red problem
Liverpool were seriously made to pay for their lack of conviction in front of goal. Despite dominating the first half and having the majority of chances, they found themselves going home empty-handed as United snatched all three points at the death.
Liverpool had a total of 19 shots, their highest in the Premier League this season, but only managed to hit the target four times. Their poor accuracy cannot be excused and by conceding so late on, the Liverpool players only have themselves to blame for not taking their early chances.
By Scott Anderson