Liverpool knows Mohamed Salah truth but Jürgen Klopp may have stumbled on Virgil van Dijk fix.
The Good, Bad and Ugly: A changed Liverpool labored to a draw with Chelsea. Jürgen Klopp was forced to omit Virgil van Dijk, but chose to bench Mohamed Salah.
STAMFORD BRIDGE, LONDON// Liverpool versus Chelsea. Can we just write this fixture off as a 0-0 draw and not bother with the formality of playing it in future?
Each of the stalemates has had its nuances, and this one was very much a story of Chelsea’s profligacy, and Liverpool hanging on. The most generous might call it resilience, while most would probably prefer the word luck, but the upshot is that the sides each took away a point of very limited worth.
Jürgen Klopp rang the changes, and some good might indirectly have come from at least one of those alterations, with a potential solution presenting itself in the absence of the unwell Virgil van Dijk. But if the manager was hoping for a radically different Liverpool, he was let down.
Here are the three moments Liverpool.com picked out from the Reds’ draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Well, it wasn’t a loss. It’s genuinely hard to find too many other positives from what was another grossly uninspiring display, one from which Liverpool did not really deserve anything.
Alisson had another couple of good moments, but he can’t be listed in the ‘good’ column every match, even though that would probably be the most accurate assessment of the season. In this case, however, the assistant referee (and his colleagues in the VAR room) was the true hero.
At a stretch, perhaps the fact that Liverpool kept a clean sheet could be spun as a positive, so soon after shipping four to Manchester City. Maybe Ibrahima Konaté could be singled out — he made a goal-saving intervention to deny Mateo Kovačić, albeit having made an error initially.
It should be noted that he was playing in an unfamiliar position too, with Konaté taking the place of Van Dijk at left center-back. Klopp would want to see more of him there before making a verdict, but it may be that he could transition into the role long-term, which would give Liverpool some more freedom when shopping for the future in the transfer market.
But ultimately, that’s where the only genuine positives will be found: the transfer market. This squad is crying out for a reboot.
There’s a reason Mohamed Salah doesn’t get rested.
Significantly, the Egyptian was omitted from Klopp’s summary of the four players who were ‘okay’ against Manchester City, with Cody Gakpo the only forward to receive that dubious honor. In the end, both missed out here, as only Diogo Jota kept his place.
The Portugal star was deployed on the right wing in the absence of Salah, and the solution was just as unsatisfactory as ever. Versatility may have been one of the attractive qualities in Jota when Liverpool signed him, but the reality is that he has never looked especially convincing on that flank.
In part, that’s because covering for Salah is such an impossible task. Even out of sorts, he has still been Liverpool’s best outfielder this season, and an admittedly bland Manchester City display still yielded a goal.
Of course, Salah has still dropped well below his best in this campaign, and that means he has been the source of great frustration on a number of occasions. He was completely ineffectual off the bench, albeit with very limited service. But it seems unlikely that Klopp will repeat the experiment of dropping him from the team any time soon — he has never had the depth to be able to do that, and he certainly doesn’t have it now.
Fixing that Salah issue will not be a summer priority, and Klopp will still harbor some hope that the returning Luis Díaz can become the solution, having looked promising there in a brief cameo. But for the foreseeable future, it seems the 30-year-old is destined to continue being one of the first names on the team sheet.
It looked for all the world as if Liverpool had capitulated early in the second half once more. Chelsea had the ball in the back of the net, and it took a VAR reprieve to deny Kai Havertz the opener.
It was entirely correct, of course, but it was the definition of ‘riding your luck’. In plenty of other moments, too, only the hosts’ poor finishing kept Liverpool in the game; it would not have taken too much for this to have gone the way of the Manchester City match.
In terms of Champions League qualification, Liverpool will take points any way it can get them. But the likelihood of picking up the required amount significantly increases when Klopp’s side is playing well, and in that sense, there was very limited encouragement here.
Even purely in terms of the numbers, Liverpool’s single point for a draw is unlikely to be especially helpful, with most dubbing this one a ‘must-win’ contest. The table is looking just as ugly as before, if not worse.