Well, we got what we deserved there, didn’t we? Around 20 minutes of excellent attacking play in the second half was nowhere near enough to paper over the same old cracks in defence, cracks that forced us to come back twice and then drop two points well into injury time at the end of the game.
We were as exciting going forward as we all thought we could be, unfortunately, the defence was as bad as it’s ever been and even scoring three times wasn’t enough for more than a solitary point.
Warning: I’m going to be pretty harsh on Jurgen Klopp here because failing to win today was down to two main reasons – his failure to address the defence, either by buying new players or coaching them how to defend a corner and his abysmal use of substitutions.
There was a mild surprise in the starting line-up as Alberto Moreno started at left-back, apparently in reward for a few improved pre-season performances. While he didn’t do a huge amount wrong he didn’t pull up any trees either, and most of Watford’s threat came down his flank.
The only other question mark over today’s team was at right back, but as expected Trent Alexander-Arnold got the nod and barring Watford’s second goal he was composed in defence and asked questions of the opposition going forward. Praise the Lord, he can also take a decent corner too!
In midfield, Klopp went for an axis of Emre Can, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum. Initial concerns about a lack of creativity were proved correct in the first half as the skipper and the German proved again that they simply don’t work in the same midfield. Can still looks like he needs to work off some summer pounds and failed to cover himself in glory for the first Watford goal. Henderson, whilst as industrious as ever, offered very little in attack and failed to impact the game.
These two are too similar to play together and their combined lack of flair and guile stunts the entire team. But for some magic from the front three, we could easily have gone the whole 90 minutes without scoring once, such was the lack of invention from central midfield.
It’s easy to sum up the three goals we conceded at the other end – shambles. Two corners that we still failed to deal with and make you question exactly what Klopp does with his defence in training. Somehow Watford’s biggest unit Stefano Okaka was given a completely free run for the first, ambling past a stationary Firmino and with both central defenders awol.
Dejan Lovren gets a lot of stick but Joel Matip is becoming a concern too, he looks weak in the air and was comfortably beaten yet again by his man on the first goal as well as being outmuscled for the second.
Klopp has now had an entire season and two full summers to work on all this so how are these errors at set-pieces and general panic in the defence still occurring? If he isn’t able to complete the Virgil van Dijk signing, do we need to get used to seeing goals like these all too regularly again this season?
Whatever the answers, it’s not good enough – we shouldn’t even still be asking these same questions. Klopp has had long enough and this is his defence; he hand-picked Matip restored Moreno and Simon Mignolet to the team and gave Lovren a big new contract last season. No excuses.
Despite all that, we still had three points in the bag when Klopp inexplicably decided to make a series of three terrible substitutions. This seems to be one of his weak points – regularly when leading a game he makes changes that disrupt the whole team and result in us conceding late on.
First, penalty-scorer Roberto Firmino was withdrawn on 81 minutes for Divock Origi who made another strange sub appearance. For a player on the fringes of the team who you’d think would be busting a gut when he gets a chance, he looked oddly lethargic and did absolutely nothing at all of any note, something Liverpool fans are familiar with from last season. Dominic Solanke would have offered far more for the last ten minutes, and due to Origi’s lack of threat, Watford grew more confident in possession.
Klopp’s second change was to withdraw Man of the Match Mohamed Salah for James Milner, who has seemingly been reinvented this season as a midfielder from his previous left-back role. This is the footballing equivalent of swapping a Ferrari for a Renault Clio, and with both Firmino and the pacy Salah now off the field, there was an almost audible sigh of relief from the tiring Watford defence and supporters.
Again, this substitution removed a threat and gave rise to increased confidence in the Watford ranks.
Klopp’s final substitution, however, was the most baffling. A minute into injury time and he decided to bring another promising performance from Alexander-Arnold to a premature end.
This is one of my pet hates in football. Send me a postcard if you can tell me what purpose subbing a player in an important defensive position serves with only a couple of minutes to go? I know we’re playing Hoffenheim next week but is it really worth jeopardising a game so our players get a few minutes extra rest? And have refs still not cottoned on to this and just add the equivalent amount of time on?
Anyway, what predictably happened to poor Joe Gomez, thrown on cold as Watford poured forward for an equaliser and completely off the pace of the game? He conceded a free kick that ultimately led to that final corner.
Cue weak defending from Wijnaldum at the near post and some unconvincing goalkeeping from Mignolet, and Watford were level and the Reds had dropped two points.
Klopp’s rating: Defence all still at sea and naive substitutions – 5/10