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Speaking of breaking records in a good way, Liverpool have now worried about setting some negative records. It’s not that the club, coach Jurgen Klopp, or the players are literally worried about such things, but fans and the media generally are, and the incredible drop underscores some troubling trends.
Liverpool’s problems are not surprising
To be perfectly honest, it’s a wonder the Reds have lasted so long in the race after all they’ve been through with injuries; No team in the league (or anywhere else) could have faced losing three centers during the season.
Many were quick to explain the slump in Manchester City’s results last season, noting that Aymeric Laporte was out for several months. It certainly influenced what happened, but now imagine City today without Laporte, Ruben Dias and John Stones for the rest of the season. Or Manchester United without Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly. Spurs without Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld or Davinson Sánchez, Leicester without Jonny Evans, Caglar Soyuncu and Wesley Fofana … Under those circumstances, it’s safe to say that neither of those teams would be in the title conversation at this point in the season.
Klopp made the most of what he had with midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson stepping in to plug the hole, and they mostly did a very good job at the rear, but their absence in the middle of the park has been painfully felt during this losing streak. . . The team has not been able to press as efficiently, to gain possession as high on the field as it did before, which in turn led to the three forwards not being fed fast enough to hit unsuspecting defenses. Two or three seconds wasted in that regard makes a big difference.
Add in the obvious drop in defensive stability that the absence of a player like Van Dijk brings, and none of the things we’ve been witnessing lately are hard to explain. Ozan Kabak, who came to the club on loan from Schalke 04 on February 1 and started this match, is not only very young and not used to the English game, but also not used to his teammates. That became painfully obvious when he got in Alisson Becker’s way due to a miscommunication between him and the goalkeeper in the 81st minute, and the result was that Leicester forward Jamie Vardy scored what was probably the easiest goal. of his career and completely changed the game. In your head.
But the point is, these problems are completely understandable. Add in the fact that Klopp is still obviously devastated about losing his mother a few days ago and not being able to attend the funeral or spend time with his family in Germany, and the picture is complete.
Liverpool are likely to return to their relative best at some point, but the question is, will it arrive in time for them to recover anything from the season? The turnaround in their performances and fortunes does not seem to come yet.
Foxes take what they get
Leicester took a somewhat defensive approach to their game away from Wolverhampton Wanderers in the previous round, and it was no wonder they did the same against Liverpool. Organized in what mostly looked like a 4-4-1-1 system, with James Maddison playing closer to Vardy up front, they kept their lines tight and with a bit of luck on their side, managed to keep the champions out. of the Minute 67 in which they simply had no way to stop the brilliance of Roberto Firmino and the good shot of Mohamed Salah.
They looked to hit quickly through counterattacks, which is what teams preparing defensively typically do, and use Vardy’s rhythm and eye to find the right channels for runs and damage the visitors’ high line. They created some opportunities that way even though Kabak and Henderson primarily dealt with Vardy, most notably when Harvey Barnes ran down the left to grab a good pass from Wilfred Ndidi and pass Alisson Becker with five minutes to go.
The tie, scored by Maddison directly from a free kick that bounced off a charged area, was a bit controversial. When the ball hit the back of the net, the linesman raised his flag and pointed out that Daniel Amartey, who clearly tried to play the ball and take Alisson out, was offside. However, the VAR overruled the decision and allowed the goal to stand, though valid questions might again arise about how VAR officials drew those glaring lines.
Controversy, yes, but from Leicester’s point of view, you take what you get, be it mistakes by the opposition defense or by officials. The three points are all that will matter to them as they seek to strengthen their position in the top four.
Still interesting near the top
Leicester have now moved into second place with 46 points, beating Manchester United with 45, although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team is yet to play West Browich Albion today (Sunday). Liverpool are still fourth with 40, but now Chelsea (39, playing Newcastle on Monday), West Ham (39, playing Sheffield United on Monday), Everton (37, playing Fulham today and will still have two games in hand) and Aston. Villa (36, two games in hand) all have a great chance to attack the top four soon.
Manchester City are a long way off after their convincing win over Spurs, running fast towards the third league title since Pep Guardiola took over. As things are going at the moment, it seems inevitable that the trophy will return to the Etihad, even though there is still a long way to go.
But the battle for the remaining European places promises to be very interesting until the last day of the campaign.