All over bar the shouting

February 05, 2021 - 07:14

The wheels well and truly fell off on the evening of February 3 (UK time) when Liverpool were outthought, outclassed and outplayed by Brighton.


GAME OVER: Steven Alzate’s goal against Liverpool was enough to secure three points and end Liverpool’s title challenge. AFP/VNA Photo

Paul Kennedy

When Manchester City are crowned Premier League champions in May this year, and they will be, Liverpool fans all over the world will pause for thought and wonder where did it all go wrong?

How could their team, so ruthless the season before demolishing everyone they faced, capitulate so badly defending their crown?

Some may point to the injury to Virgil van Dijk as a pivotal moment, quickly followed another season-ending blow to his central defensive partner Joe Gomez.

Others may suggest the large number of VAR decisions that didn’t quite go their way was a factor, or perhaps it was the ridiculous start to 2021 when the previous season’s potent front three fired more blanks than the occupants of a waiting room at an impotence clinic on a busy Monday morning.

For me personally, the wheels well and truly fell off on the evening of February 3 (UK time) when they were outthought, outclassed and outplayed by Brighton.

This was the first time in manager Jurgen Klopp’s rein that Liverpool lost back-to-back home games in the Premier League.

What was different about the Brighton defeat compared to the loss against Burnley was simple. Liverpool were awful beyond belief.

Against Burnley, Liverpool managed a total of 27 shots compared to six by the opposition. Six of Liverpool’s efforts were on target. They battered Burnley but just couldn’t find the net.

Brighton on the other hand had 13 attempts on goal compared to Liverpool’s 11. Four of the visitor’s efforts were on target while Liverpool only managed to force Seagull’s keeper Robert Sanchez to make one save.

It is also telling that Liverpool’s man-of-the-match against Brighton was stand-in goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher. Two great saves late on from the young Irishman gave Liverpool a glimmer of hope to salvage a point they didn’t deserve.

Midfielders James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum were bullied off the park and the usual pin-point pass accuracy of wing-backs Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold was nowhere to be seen.

On Sunday current league leaders Manchester City visit Anfield and a win would put them 10 points clear of Liverpool with a game in hand.

Although I wouldn’t be surprised if Liverpool beat them, it matters not in the title race. It’s all over bar the shouting.

So what exactly has been the problem? How have Liverpool gone from superhuman to mere mortals in such a short space of time?

I think the answer is COVID-19 and the fact that no fans are allowed into the stadiums these days.

Yes, I know, all teams are in the same boat, I get that. But I just think for Liverpool, playing sans supporters has hit them harder than it has other teams.

Last season for the first time in 30 years Liverpool won the league. Defending that title in front of 50 plus thousand supporters would have given them the extra impetus needed in games like Burnley and Brighton.

There were plenty of matches last season when Liverpool won despite no playing well. Leicester at home and Aston Villa away both required late goals to secure three points.

This season that’s just not happening and until some sort of normality resumes the world over, don’t expect anything special from Liverpool.

They will be lucky to qualify for the Champions League at this rate. VNS