28 April 2018

Liverpool 0-0 Stoke

Liverpool needed a win to move closer to cementing next season's Champions League. Stoke needed a win in a desperate attempt to avoid relegation.

We got a supremely frustrating 0-0 draw. Because of course.

Yes, this is going to be patronizing. As it was last week. Congratulations to Stoke for defending a 0-0 that doesn't help them a bit. And they truly defended well, at least after Liverpool missed two clear-cut chances in the first 21 minutes, first with Salah through but somehow chipping wide with his right foot when everyone expected him to score, then Alexander-Arnold getting the ball stuck in his feet from Salah's layoff, only able to poke at Butland. Both chances came from long cross-field passes that found Salah in space.

But after that, about as frustrating a match as I can remember this season. A changed XI struggling to fire, struggling to involve the front three. Stoke figured out that they probably shouldn't allow those cross-field passes to Salah in space, with Pieters much, much tighter to Salah and the Egyptian given no time nor space. The midfield unbalanced with Alexander-Arnold constantly moving out right; kind of 4-3-3, but kind of 3-4-3. Gomez and Moreno – much more the former – rusty as all hell.

All the bad against a deep defense. All the bad in another early kickoff. Passes back and to the right. Passes back and to the left. When it's time to finally go forward, giveaway, hoof, reclaim, repeat. Slow and purposeless. Frustrated and frustrating. Stoke made it hard for Liverpool. Liverpool made it hard for Liverpool.

Liverpool's game-changing substitutions end up being Milner for Ings and Clyne for Moreno, because that's what we've been reduced to. Two full-backs as wingers, Milner kind of, sort of left back, but it's kind of sort of 3-5-2. It's not the best sign when you can't work out Liverpool's structure. It's not the best sign when these are your substitutions.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the referee. Again. Because Premier League referees. Because Andre Marriner. Because Erik Pieters' hand ball in the 87th minute was as blatant as you'll see. His arm's in the way of Wijnaldum's cross which seems certain to find either Firmino or Moreno directly in front of goal. His arm's away from his body and he's three yards away from the cross. And it's made all the worse when you remember Roma's penalty on Tuesday.

This campaign started with Watford's late, offside-and-a-foul equalizer. We got West Brom's that-wasn't-a-free-kick equalizer last week. There's a lot more in-between that I don't have the mental health to recap. And now this. It's almost amazing.

So Paul Lambert remains unbeaten at Anfield, with seven draws and five wins. I do not like this voodoo. I do not understand this voodoo. This, as with Liverpool draws against Norwich and Villa, and a 0-1 Villa win – all more than four years ago – makes no sense.

And thus it ends with Liverpool's 12th draw of the season. Only Southampton – in 19th – and West Brom – in 20th – have had more.

Liverpool remain stumbling face-first toward the end of the league campaign. Two draws in matches against the bottom two sides, two matches that they should and could have won. If Chelsea win today against Swansea, the gap's six with a game-in-hand for Chelsea. Liverpool and Chelsea meet next week. A meaningful late season match against Chelsea which Liverpool seemingly need to win. That situation hasn't traumatized us before. What could possibly go wrong.

This, in contrast to the Champions League campaign, is not how we wanted to see Liverpool end the season. The Champions League campaign makes it understandable, but no less easy to stomach. The race for the top four should be over. It might well still be.

That it isn't yet annoys me to no end. The cure to this annoyance comes on Wednesday.


Georger damnit said...

If they finish fifth he needs to have control of transfers taken away. The lack of depth and garbage backups are on him. Absolutely unbelievable they're in this position now.

Anonymous said...

I think Rafa finished 5th 3rd 3rd 2nd 4th 7th
With comparatively low net spends
When we made runs to the Champions League finals and semi finals under Rafa
Because of squad depth we never did well in the premier league fixtures afterwards.
So we’ve been here before.

The sign of a well run club is building a squad of the right players
Which Klopp I believe is doing.
Klopp is also learning the Premier League
This year he is rotating much more because he knows how exhausting it is
Next year Klopp will learn he needs greater squad quality
Be patient