At some point, Liverpool was going to lose, however, few predicted it would be on the precipice of breaking the record for most consecutive wins in Premier League history.
Yet, the Reds were humbled by Watford 3-0 at Vicarage Road for their first defeat in the league this season.
The Reds failed to take heed from West Ham’s scare on Monday night. Watford reopened the defensive fissures exposed by the Hammers and showed much more solidity, providing the shock result of the season.
The first half uncharacteristically featured a Liverpool side that looked more passive and plodding than any performance during this campaign. They controlled possession but could not penetrate nor produce any clear-cut chances. Nothing looked quite right.
However, the Reds have routinely demonstrated how decisive half time can be during this campaign. Despite a slightly brighter second-half start, Watford’s Ismalia Sarr broke the deadlock, stunning Liverpool. Contrary to expectation, the Reds never really recovered.
The response never arrived and Watford walloped the league leaders, handing them their first league defeat in over a year.
Here are our ‘Four Findings’ from the match.
This was the poorest Liverpool have played in a long time, in our opinion. While there are no easy matches in the Premier League, this was a shocking result for the side that was on the verge of breaking the record for most consecutive victories.
The Reds collectively collapsed in an off-colour performance in all phases.
The first half suggested things were amiss but given how the side has played it could easily have been confused with patience.
Only one shot on target in the opening 45 and giving away chances meant Liverpool needed their customary second-half surge. It never arrived and the Reds managed no more shots on target. No one was free from unforced errors.
Liverpool have looked like a different side altogether after the winter break. For all Jurgen Klopp’s talk of rhythm, the Reds have decidedly lacked it since returning to action.
Aside from the comeback against West Ham, the attack has often looked out of synch and ideas, unable to even generate clear chances.
At the minute, the well-oiled machine has a knock with no obvious solutions in sight. The front three have found it difficult to impose themselves against opponents. Multiple matches have seen the shots on target nosedive.
Reliance on crosses from the fullbacks seems more predictable and profitless than usual. Plus, we think the midfield has missed the driving energy and influence of captain Jordan Henderson, not to mention his recent production.
Across the backline, Liverpool’s defence was beyond dodgy on the day. Cracks appeared against West Ham when they surrendered two goals.
Now, the side has shipped five goals in the last two games, which is nearly half of all previous goals conceded. It was the first time the Reds have surrendered three goals in the league in over two years.
Everyone struggled uncharacteristically, Trent Alexander-Arnold had his hands full with Gerard Deulofeu until he left injured. Andrew Robertson was caught out on a couple of occasions, including on the first goal.
Both centre-halves also looked shaky, Dejan Lovren was a surprise start and struggled. Even Virgil van Dijk uncharacteristically let standards slip, getting exposed in the buildup to Watford’s goals.
The last time Liverpool lost a league game, against Manchester City, Dejan Lovren started. Since then the defender has started just 11 matches since and rarely remained fit for any length of time.
Against Watford, his unexpected start surfaced nearly every concern some supporters have had about him since his arrival.
While the Croatian was far from the only poor performer, his mere presence was destabilising. The erratic nature of his play proved contagious once again.
Watford’s Troy Deeney seized upon the opportunity, inviting Lovren into a physical battle and capitalising on the rusty defender’s propensity to take the bait.
Barring catastrophe, we think Lovren needs to be left out of any match of consequence for the remainder of the campaign and potentially his Liverpool career.