Ian Doyle looks at the key talking points as Liverpool struggle again in a 3-3 draw with Brighton at Anfield.
Klopp faces serious questions
“You’re getting sacked in the morning!” taunted the Brighton and Hove Albion fans as Jurgen Klopp looked on forlornly at his team’s early slump.
But if there was mere jest at the prospect of the German being jettisoned following the Reds’ first real wobble in several years, the Liverpool boss knows he isn’t beyond scrutiny given the current malaise.
And there were certainly questions to be asked of Klopp’s decisions both before and during the game, particularly given how Liverpool were tactically flummoxed throughout an opening half-hour in which Brighton sauntered between the Reds’ lines with alarming frequency.
Team selection had already caused some consternation. The absences of Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez were understandable given their international exertions earlier in the week, but putting young Fabio Carvalho on the left flank didn’t work, exposed by Diaz’s decent second-half showing.
Klopp might well argue that in some situations he has little choice. With Andy Robertson injured, there was little option but to replace Kostas Tsimikas – has the Greek ever had a worse game for Liverpool? – with James Milner.
And the bigger picture meant Jordan Henderson, who was beginning to impose some tempo to Liverpool’s play after a poor first half, needed to be replaced after an hour having made his comeback from injury. With the skipper gone, Brighton eventually regained the initiative and ultimately a point, Klopp mindful his side’s game management was found wanting in the latter stages.
But personnel alone can’t be to blame. Klopp and his coaching staff need to find a way to get Liverpool winning games again.
It was so nearly a very happy birthday for two Liverpool players today.
Roberto Firmino, who turns 31, and fellow Brazilian Alisson Becker, 12 months the forward’s junior, both played a significant part in this entertaining clash. And how Liverpool were grateful.
Having moved on to five goals in six games, Firmino is enjoying his best goalscoring start to a Premier League season, even if his overall level of performance remains, like so many of his team-mates, wildly inconsistent.
There could, though, be no argument over the quality of his two finishes, the first showing presence of mind to lift the ball over two sliding defenders after Mohamed Salah had taken Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez out of the game, his second demonstrating fine footwork to shift the ball from right to left and lose a defender before slotting into the bottom corner.
That Liverpool were still in contention was down to Alisson, whose first-half saves from Leandro Trossard and Danny Welbeck ensured a fourth disappointing draw in the opening seven Premier League games wasn’t an even more damaging result.
The best goalkeepers earn their team points. And Alisson, arguably the Reds’ most reliable performer this term, made sure Firmino could help claim one here.
Fabinho causes concern
This should have been the day Fabinho celebrated his 150th start for Liverpool with a commanding midfield display. Instead, the Reds’ “Lighthouse”, the foundation on which so much success has been built in recent years, once again hit the rocks.
Such has been the case too often this campaign, the Brazilian perhaps hampered more than any Liverpool player by the short pre-season, the lack of a proper summer break and the subsequent spate of postponements.
Fabinho was hugely off the pace, his passing radar awry and his normally excellent positioning found wanting by Brighton’s bright start, even if there was an improvement second half.
At least if the midfielder needs rhythm, the opportunity will offer itself over the next six weeks with this the first of 13 games in 43 days for Liverpool before the campaign comes to another abrupt stop for the World Cup.
This coming period will shape the second half of the season. And Liverpool need Fabinho back to his best as soon as possible.