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Monday 25 September 2017

Liverpool in for a torrid week after loss at City

Sadio Mane’s sending off for this tackle on Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson was pivotal in Liverpool’s 5-0 demolition at the hands of City at the Etihad on Saturday. Photo: REUTERS
Sadio Mane’s sending off for this tackle on Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson was pivotal in Liverpool’s 5-0 demolition at the hands of City at the Etihad on Saturday. Photo: REUTERS

All anyone who follows a football club wants to see is progress. By no stretch of the imagination can Liverpool's start to the season be sold as an improvement.

Back in June, most Liverpool fans were happy enough. Liverpool defended fairly well in the run-in, suggesting that Klopp was getting to grips with the pace of the Premier League and the reality of teams like West Brom and Crystal Palace.

With Champions League football on the menu again and a summer transfer market stretching in front of them filed with possibilities, the Kop had reason to be optimistic.

As the months passed, Manchester City did their business quietly and efficiently, Manchester United made a lot of noise but got their men and Chelsea and Spurs seemed to stand still.

Measured against those clubs, have Liverpool made progress? Clearly after Saturday's battering by City, the answer to that is no.

Examining Klopp's actions during the summer, I've got to assume that he recognised the deficiencies in his defence.

He wanted to add two new defenders but only got one, Andy Robertson. He wanted Virgil Van Dyke but for one reason or another, he didn't get him.

Bench

That should give him a pass from fans - at least he tried - but then I look at the situation at left-full and it doesn't add up.

Unless Robertson is carrying an injury, I can't see why he shouldn't play in every game. If he needs to be used carefully, why is James Milner sitting on the bench when he was one of Klopp's most reliable men last season?

Against City, no defender could hold his head up after the game. Individually and as a unit, they piled error on error.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp shows his frustrations during the defeat at the Etihad on Saturday. Photo: REUTERS
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp shows his frustrations during the defeat at the Etihad on Saturday. Photo: REUTERS

This was very worrying given the fact that the one consistently optimistic aspect of Jurgen Klopp's management has been that Liverpool have done very well against big clubs in big games.

Making it into the Champions League was a bit of a struggle but they got there in the end and relieved of the pressure qualification, went out and absolutely hammered Arsenal.

That performance cheered everyone up around Anfield after a bad start to the Premier League, again, again, notable for some dreadful defending so there was every reason to hope that the trend would continue at the Etihad.

Backwards

City haven't shown any great stability at the back under Pep Guardiola and Mane, Firmino and Salah have looked razor sharp since the opening gun.

I certainly didn't expect Liverpool to be ripped apart.

My worry after that beating is that, far from making progress, the direction is now backwards.

I saw a team cave in to City and that happened before Sadio Mane was sent off.

I saw players's heads drop and lads take the easy excuse offered by City's numerical advantage. That's the time when I want to see lads dig in and fight for Liverpool, not give up and make schoolboy errors.

The defending was woeful and that has been the case since the start of the season.

I understand that Klopp wants to win the game at the other end of the pitch but there's nothing wrong with having a few good lads at the back.

Personally, I'm not sure I could have survived the stress of starting every game thinking we would have to score at least two to win a match but I'm not sure there's an answer to this problem within the current group of players.

Klopp bought Joel Matip who is probably the pick of the centre-backs and a decent player so he knows a defender when he sees one.

He always defends his defenders and that's fair enough but Saturday's humiliation laid it out in black and white.

He needs better players at the back. Good teams like City and Seville will know how to exploit this weakness, as indeed will battlers like Burnley, Liverpool's next Premier League target.

This could be a torrid seven days.

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