04 December 2016

Liverpool 3-4 Bournemouth

Mané 20'
Origi 22'
Wilson 56' [pen]
Can 64'
Fraser 76'
Cook 79'
Ake 90+3'

Beyond embarrassing.

The easy way out – and I'm incredibly tempted to take it – is blame everything on Matip's absence. Two consecutive clean sheets in the league, just nine goals conceded in his 11 starts, 10W-3D in his 13 starts in all competitions, and then this happens. Liverpool have now conceded nine goals in the three league games where he hasn't played.

But that's still no excuse. Not with 2-0 and 3-1 leads. Not even with Coutinho and Sturridge also missing and Mané forced off through injury in the 69th minute and Lallana only fit enough to come off the bench and any other excuse you can possibly come up with.

That was an utter, complete, full team collapse in the second half.

Matip's absence didn't lead to a complete lack of control in the second half or Liverpool's inability to create chances or take shots, whether playing for possession or the counter-attack. Matip's absence didn't lead to Lovren's weak clearing header and Milner's foul for a penalty. It didn't lead to Origi's giveaway or Bournemouth's impressive counter for the second, Fraser's cross and Cook's control and finish for the third, or Karius spilling for Ake's fourth. Liverpool's defense is without a doubt worse without him, especially when defending set plays – hello second and third goals conceded – but Liverpool should still be able to protect a two-goal lead.

And, unlike in almost every other game this season but all too much like too many games last season, Liverpool couldn't and Liverpool didn't.

The first half was good enough. Liverpool pressed well, Liverpool played out from the back well, Liverpool kept possession well. Liverpool didn't create as much as we're used to, but Liverpool still created two big chances and took two chances when they presented themselves, through the pace of Mané and Origi and with a bit of help from Boruc, stuck in no man's land when Can's ball over the top found Mané for the first, beaten by Origi when he came storming out for the second.

That should have been enough. Liverpool should have continued to control proceedings, preventing counters. If not, at least keep it tight and soak up pressure and potentially extend the lead on counter-attacks.

To be fair, Bournemouth had other ideas.

We were warned. Bournemouth is a well-managed, talented side which – most importantly – will never give up. They will attack, they will have spells of dominance. They had those against Arsenal last week as well, but couldn't take their chances. That certainly wasn't an issue today, with eight shots on-target from 12 in total leading to four goals.

Bournemouth deserve praise as much as Liverpool deserve blame. Bournemouth didn't give up at any point. To resort to banal cliché, Bournemouth simply wanted it more. Bournemouth's expected goal difference was the best any opponent's had against Liverpool this season. They did well to limit Liverpool in the first half despite the scoreline, their subs made a massive difference – especially compared to Liverpool's inability to change things thanks to an under-strength bench – and switching the back four at 1-3 (Ake moving to left-back, Smith to right-back) made a massive difference. I was especially impressed with Ryan Fraser, only coming on due to injury to Junior Stanislaus, who won the first penalty, scored Bournemouth's second, and played the assist for the third.

But I can't help but focus on blaming Liverpool. Liverpool made a 22-year-old substitute winger look like the second coming of Lionel Messi. Liverpool responded to the stuttering second half start and conceding a penalty with a lovely goal from Emre Can after good work from Mané and then Liverpool proceeded to throw it all away again rather than shutting up shop.

Maybe Liverpool simply can't shut up shop. That's why Liverpool attack attack attack, determined to simply score more than their opponents. But I still don't think that's entirely the case. We've seen clean sheets without Matip before, if not in the league this season. We've seen Klopp's Liverpool throttle the life out of a team trying to respond – see Dortmund and more than a few others last season. We've seen Liverpool do this, but we've seen Liverpool not do this more often.

Today, nerves and errors multiplied exponentially. Today, the set play demons came back, the goalkeeper howlers came back, the clear "holy hell we're boned get me out of here" came back and permeated throughout the side. Today, all the evil returned with a vengeance. It's not the first time that's happened and while we can always hope, it probably won't be the last.

Every single one of us would've bit your hand off for third place and 30 points from 14 games at the start of the season. Liverpool have issues at the moment: in defense, in confidence, with injuries, but Liverpool are still better than this and games like this happen far less often than they did last season.

It's next to impossible to do after a performance like that, but – just like after Burnley – Liverpool have to pick themselves up, learn from today's multiple failures, and move forward. Injuries be damned, increasingly busy festive season be damned. There's no other option.


Anonymous said...

Beyond embarrassing! Exactly right. 3 points we had in the bank got thrown in the toilet.

Not having Matip is certainly not an excuse for that soul crushing defeat. It was a complete team collapse. But, it certainly does highlight how critically important he is to this current team. 11 league games with Matip playing 990 minutes we've conceded ONLY 9 goals. Only ONCE in those 11 games did we concede more than a single goal!! 3 clean sheets and 7 games only conceding a SINGLE goal!!! At Palace we conceded twice, but still won easily.

Matip makes the entire defense better. He makes us much better on set plays. He makes us much better in defending crosses. He makes Karius better and he makes Lovren exponentiallly better. He brings a necessary calm to that entire back line. Arsenal, Burnley and Bournemouth. Two defeats to Burnley and Bournemouth. Conceded 9 goals without Matip. A complete fucking joke..

And I'll also make an observation that a CB pairing of Lovren and Sakho in that game would also have given us a routine win. These Germans, even the good natured amiable ones can be hard headed about these things when they get a crick in their craw about something. The Sakho alienation was, in my mind a mistake. Sure he's a bit absent minded, a little loose with punctuality, a little bit out there in that French way, but he's still a top quality center back who we desperately could have used today. And I don't buy that his presence would've hurt the team chemistry and we wouldn't now be on 30 points. Just was a situation that could have been managed a bit better.

Anonymous said...

The CB pairing for swap Prem matches should be selected from Matip, Lovren and Sakho. Any 2 of those guys are enough quality for an away CB pairing. Both Matip and Sakho render Lovren a better player as well. The synergy works.

Klavan is not the answer, either. Not for away matches in particular. At Arsenal and Burnley we conceded 5 goals. Burnley was also beyond embarrassing and Arsenal could have been. Klavan had a big hand in both Burnley goals in particular. He delivered a 50 yard cross field ball to Clyne that put him under pressure that led to the first goal. He whiffed at midfield in a soft tackle and completely whiffed again on the 18 yard line in the Gray challenge that led to Burnley's second. As Carragher observed on the live broadcast......... Klavan again.

We might get away with Klavan or Lucas at home. Maybe. Possibly. Still would want to only select from Matip, Lovren and Sakho, if at all possible.

Losing to Burnley and Bournemouth, and conceding 2 to Arsenal after going 4-1 up, without Matip or Sakho in the CB pairing, is not a coincidence. Not by a long shot.