‘WHICH of his players did Jurgen love?’ Was the bizarre question from a Sky Sports reporter before the game.
By the end of a frustrating away draw in which the Reds spectacularly failed to capitalise on their dominance, Jurgen Klopp’s ardour seemed in short supply.
To create all those chances and only score one goal feels average.
It wasn’t just a tale of relentless attacks that went unfinished, however. Klopp must shoulder some of the blame himself for the strange goalkeeping merry-go-round he has introduced this season; where Simon Mignolet wears the gloves in the league, Danny Ward in the cups and Loris Karius in the Champions League.
Against Spartak, the latter could, to put it kindly, ‘have done better’ for their solitary goal, one of only two shots on target. A Fernando free-kick curled over the wall and was by no means scorching into the top corner or even far wide of the middle of his goal, but Karius was a split-second slow to respond and the ball evaded his despairing dive.
Liverpool fans were left to wonder if Mignolet or Ward would have done any better, something that would be a total non-issue if Klopp just picked a bloody number one and stuck with them!
In fact, this whole ‘different keepers for different competitions’ idea seems like one giant fudge of the whole situation and does Jurgen no favours – has it ever worked for any other team?
And how much good does it do to an already-shaky defence to constantly be playing in front of different keepers, or for the squad to have three stoppers, all of apparently equal slightly-less-than-ideal quality?
Apart from the goalkeeping issues, you couldn’t pick too many faults with Jurgen’s set-up and tactics tonight. The starting lineup was near enough what anyone would have chosen, and the ‘Fab Four’ of Philippe Coutinho, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were finally unleashed.
Which is what made it all the more disappointing that Liverpool only netted once; an attack of such potency should surely almost be worth a two-goal head start. Whilst the other three buzzed around dangerously, Firmino looked strangely out-of-sorts and in addition to missing two good chances his touch was heavier than usual all night.
Evenings like these are where Liverpool rue the lack of a clinical finisher in that role and for all Firmino’s work off the ball and linking play, this is not something he will ever be. Daniel Sturridge is supposed to represent this in the current squad but where he looked back on form and threatening against Leicester at the weekend, he was ball-greedy and wasteful last night.
Sturridge’s introduction was one of the things Klopp arguably got wrong too, with Firmino looking off his game all night and Mane fresh from a break due to his suspension, why was the Senegal international withdrawn instead?
It made little sense especially given how Mane had been one of Liverpool’s biggest threats and the Spartak defence were glad to see the back of him.
Overall, a point away in Europe is never too bad a result but given the number of chances Liverpool had (not to mention yet another dire refereeing performance when on another night Salah might have had two penalties) it was hard not to come away from the game feeling disappointed.
A double-header with Maribor comes up next for Jurgen’s Reds, and nothing less than six points will do or they face another premature Champions League exit.
JURGEN’S GRADE: 7/10