FA CUP | LIVERPOOL 1-2 WOLVES
Klopp says sorry but Liverpool's defensive misgivings persist
The Liverpool manager fielded a makeshift back four and his side were 0-1 down within the first minute in this afternoon’s FA Cup defeat to Wolves.
Jürgen Klopp held his hand up and apologized for his team selection and today’s 1-2 defeat to Wolves – one which saw Liverpool eliminated from both domestic Cup competitions within a matter of days, and to sprinkle salt into their wounds, both of those defeats came at their Anfield stronghold.
Hectic month, revamped defence
Klopp made sweeping changes to the side that were eliminated from EFL Cup on Wednesday night, completely refurbishing his usual back four with 21-year-old Connor Randall at right-back, Joe Gomez and Ragnar Klavan forming the central defensive pairing and at left-back, Alberto Moreno, who has started to make his way back into the side to allow Milner a chance to rest. Loris Karius, who started against Southampton midweek kept his place and Lucas Leiva took the skipper’s armband.
Within seconds of kick-off, Liverpool were trailing. A soft foul was given away out wide on the right and while Richard Stearman may have looked half a half a yard offside, he was given carte blanche to nod in Hélder Costa’s lofted free-kick at the back post. It left Klopp’s team chasing the game and the Reds were caught out several times by Wolves’ lightning breakaway moves – one of which produced their second goal.
Moreno was caught out of position and despite sprinting back, was on the wrong side of Costa and mistimed his challenge. Andreas Weimann skipped past Loris and slotted into an empty net. And while Randall and Gomez appealed hopefully for offside, the replay showed Weimann to be on.
Afterwards, Klopp admitted he had got his team selection wrong: “You’re right, I am responsible for the performance and I thought we were ready. Obviously we weren’t. It doesn’t feel too good. We have the ball, we give it away, give away a free-kick... it’s an open situation from a free-kick but we could have defended better. I could look for excuses but I don’t want to”, he told BBC Sport. “It was an important game today for us and unfortunately we couldn’t deliver. It’s a fair result. I’m sorry”.
Perennial problems in defence
Maybe one of the reasons Klopp is feeling sorry is the realization that he has failed to address Liverpool’s issues in defence – problems which were prevalent last season, when the team shipped 50 goals in the Premier League alone – considerably more than any team in the top six. The German likes to play a high line, pressing opponents in their own half but to do that, you need players with enough muscle to win the ball back when the team loses possession. That means his team has a tendency to be caught on the break, like they were today and against Bournemouth.
Weakness on the left flank
Down the left Liverpool look especially vulnerable – even with Milner in the full-back role. Klopp’s other option is Moreno, who looks decent enough going forward but is too often out of position, sometimes commits himself too early and has been way too rash - or overenthusiastic in his decision-making – the penalty needlessly given away at Carrow Road last season and his hopeless clearance in the Europa League final cost the team and are black marks that he will find hard to shake off with the fans. Liverpool’s problems are also rooted in a lack of concentration and self-confidence – evident against Bournemouth – a team that is 3-1 up on 75 minutes cannot end up losing 4-3.
Keeper must be the boss
Liverpool’s trials at dealing with set-pieces go back a long way. Whether it's Karius or Simon Mignolet in goal, they need to show more character with the four defenders in front of them. Too often Liverpool have too many bodies in their own penalty area defending corners and free-kicks. This afternoon against Wolves, seven Liverpool players were marking five players from the opposition – none picked up Weimann and Karius has to be the boss in such situiations. All of the great Liverpool sides were built from the back and it’s clear that Klopp and his technical team have a fair share of work to do.