As bad as it was, Liverpool’s game in Brighton evoked an unsettling sense of inevitability, writes Stephen Scrugg.
Fortunately, the Reds entered the interval on equal terms, but in the second half the Reds were hit by opponents who hinted at Liverpool, which we were before, but can still become again.
Jurgen Klopp confessed his growing anxiety after the match and was humble, apologetic and even vaguely shy in front of the travelling Reds as he left the pitch after his team’s latest setback.
It takes more than subtlety
Once again, as during our defeat by Brentford and the periods of the FA Cup draw at home with Wolverhampton, Liverpool were completely captured in midfield, and Roberto De Zerbi’s smooth 4-2-3-1 scheme constantly gave Brighton two additional players in the base. a duel for the central platform, both when they were in front, and on exceptionally rare occasions when they felt the need to go deeper.
Quick in thought and movement, Brighton broke through Liverpool too easily, and Klopp’s team failed to heed the warnings of the first half and accept a gift from a clean slate in the second half.
Liverpool’s current approach is clearly not working; it may prevail again at some point in the future, but now there is a desperate need for something markedly different, not more, or just a subtle adaptation of the same.
Klopp’s 4-3-3 option has always been fueled by an overflowing sensual confidence that we simply don’t have right now. Now it’s like asking moody teenagers to clean up after themselves. Unintelligible grunts and lowered shoulders can be heard all over the field.
Klopp was candid after the game, talking about how he tried to change his scheme, reflecting that his players didn’t seem to accept it. Considering how poorly they worked, any significant change in the scheme was almost imperceptible to an experienced eye. There is an alarming lack of leadership.
However, despite the reflex reaction, these are not bad players. Eight months ago, they completed a quadruple with an accuracy of two games. The fall has undoubtedly been consistently steep, but, as unlikely as it may seem now, the peaks must be scaled again.
While not all of these players will be part of these bright days, many of them will be, or at least should be.
Stomach for a fight?
Despite the fact that his distribution is currently happening everywhere, Liverpool still has an irreplaceable goalkeeper; despite the basic mistakes manifested in the center of defense and the excessive impact we experience in the positions of extreme defenders, we still have individual elements of defense that the whole world can envy.
Regardless of whether they are in good shape right now or not, and despite their attempts to find the back of the net, we have the most incredible collection of attacking talent that the club has ever had at its disposal.
People are being hung out to dry by increasingly despondent fans, as well as the media hungry for blood in the water and a football kitchen drama with which to collect clicks for websites and sell newspapers to people who still buy them.
But Klopp’s Liverpool lives and dies as a collective. When you look at the sum of the parts available to Klopp, compared to the performances on the field and the results obtained, the picture becomes sharp. Even though the midfield needs systematic restructuring, fresh thinking and momentum.
No matter how rightly this midfield is questioned and ridiculed, these are still players who should be able to perform better than them.
Where is Thiago’s vision with the third eye and the passage? Where is the Jordan Henderson who seemed worthy of participating in the World Cup? Where is the Fabinho who balanced our Champions League and Premier League wins and that outlandish quadruple attempt?
Harvey Elliott, Curtis Jones and Stefan Baisetic offer youth, while James Milner is old enough to be their father, he has all the experience in the world. Meanwhile, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain bring the continuing frustration of unfulfilled greatness.
Far from perfect, he is still creating a group of midfielders who should be able to work their way to the minimum of Champions League qualification. If we transfer the right to a sixth substitution when everyone is in shape, we will have enough midfielders to change the entire midfield every half hour.
Conversely, even those vintages that won the Champions League and the Premier League always felt that they lacked that little genius in the middle of the park.
We have a lot of midfield options, but we constantly stick to the alignment, which is always weak on the field in this department, so they rely on the attack of the outfield defenders. It’s good when we’re on the crest of a wave, and excruciatingly painful when you get stuck in these cyclical ruts.
Apart from the need for the obvious comings and goings of midfielders, this is a battle against the vagaries of the mind, and we have faced this before.
We swing from the most dizzying heights to the most heartbreaking falls. As a football club, we are absolutely bipolar. It’s just that we’re at the negative extreme of this sliding spectrum right now.
As an additional injury, we have to contend with a match list that offers no obvious consolation. This is followed by a replay of the FA Cup in the rejuvenated Molineux, where the prize is played — another trip to Amex before we survive the visit of the equally dysfunctional Chelsea, which will turn on sooner or later.
These commitments will complete January and lead us to February, which sends us back to Wolves, forward to the ebullient Newcastle, as well as a trip to that usual cemetery of hopes and dreams, Selhurst Park. All this is offset by missions at Anfield in the Merseyside derby and against the bogeys of the Champions League of Real Madrid.
There will be no easy way out of the rut in which we find ourselves. We have a struggle, just at a time when we don’t seem ready for it.