Liverpool 2016/17: inconsistency blended with total football. Total football that the Dutch would be proud of, gegenpressing that the Reds manager would be proud of. However, a failure to win ugly, a failure to kill games has cost Liverpool this season, and halted their charge for the title.
Why and how can be understood through a number of reasons. Liverpool’s bid for a top four is now out of their hands following a poor 2017 run of results, and for all their brilliance against the top clubs, their failure and immaturity in not winning when playing badly could see them fail to qualify for the Champions League next season.
“The problem with Liverpool is the personnel they have is not suited to play the lower teams. [Sadio] Mane, [Adam] Lallana, [Roberto] Firmino and [Philippe] Coutinho are all very good when there is space to run into; when it’s an open game, they are brilliant; the best in the country.
When you play against teams that defend deep and in numbers, there’s no space for them to run into. To get around this, you have to get the ball wide, and put in crosses. Look at Manchester United, they get the ball out wide, send in crosses, and then [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic will finish the move off. [Olivier] Giroud for Arsenal, [Diego] Costa for Chelsea, and [Harry] Kane for Tottenham.
Liverpool haven’t got this No.9; the focal point to do this. Liverpool have too many no 10s and it’s costing them.”
With the all too inconsistent Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi, there seems no natural striker to play such a role for the Reds. In addition to this, you could point to the stubbornness of Jurgen Klopp and his treatment of Christian Benteke as a problem that has amplified this issue.
The German boss’ sale of the Belgian last summer due to the striker not fitting his mode of football has arguably worked against Liverpool this season. Benteke’s ability in the air is one of the best in the league, and the selling of the now-Crystal Palace man could have been the ingredient needed to solve the dilemma the Reds face when they have dropped points against weaker opposition.
Barnes states how Chelsea will turn elect-champions to outright ones as they know how to win when not playing well:
“This is why Chelsea are the best team in the league, they don’t have to play well to win matches. Teams like Arsenal, Manchester City, and Liverpool have to usually play well to win.
I hope the Burnley result [2-1] is not a one-off for Liverpool as an example for them not playing well but winning. It doesn’t matter about playing well away at Manchester City, it’s about continually not being at your best, but beating the lesser sides.”
Barnes does not care for the thought of doing well against the big clubs. It is about repeatedly beating the opposition you should be beating; that is what will guarantee top four success, that is what will provide the foundations for a legitimate title challenge.
It is something Liverpool have failed over the years, to play badly yet win; this could be one of the reasons for these awful Manchester United players to have a Premier League medal rather than Steven Gerrard…