Round Table, Liverpool 1-2 Crystal Palace - Klopp's first defeat at LFC

Posted by -Daws- on November 9, 2015, 10:29:55 PM

‘In that moment, I felt very alone’.

We’ve all seen, heard or read the quote for our esteemed manager. Sometimes I wonder whether some of our supporters ever really take any notice of the lyrics we bellow before and at the end (although I’m assuming they miss this rendition) of each game; of the song we all hold so deep in our hearts. The storm has been and passed, as we walk together towards the light led by our charismatic German, and yet some still feel the need release their grasp and leave him and his players alone to fight the last 10 minutes. Why? It doesn’t’ stop at the ground either. The internet has granted the power for each individual to voice their opinions that they wretch from the depths of their baleful minds and the bile flows through their keyboards for the world to read. This happens everywhere; not just on RAWK (social media for example is, far more excruciating) and I can’t help but ponder why people deem it necessary or reasonable to behave in such a way. I get the feeling many of the more grounded supporters and even Klopp himself, are worried about the mentality of this fan, more so than that of the players.

But enough about the peripherals, let’s talk football.

 Jurgen Klopp’s first defeat as manager did not come without a somewhat spirited and decent performance, where the quality in each penalty area came to define the end result and cause a mini-mass hysteria on message boards all over the globe. There were many positives and negatives, some tactical toing and throwing, moments of quality, moments of incompetence, and for the neutral what transpired to be a very entertaining end to end game where the underdogs got to reap the rewards for their sterling work-ethic and discipline. Some have hyped Crystal Palace up to sound like South London’s Real Madrid equivalents, whilst others determine that they’re ‘fuckin’ shite, like’. As usual, the truth falls somewhere between these two extremist views. Palace are a good side, a top half of the table side, who play particularly well away from home due to their pacey, strong wide men. Zaha and Bolasie were very good yesterday, it has to be said.

Before performance analysis, let’s contemplate the result. Klopp’s first loss at the 7th time of asking,  in itself is a decent stat for a new manager, especially considering some tough games against the Champions, hundreds of miles away in Russia to Rubin, a plucky Bournemouth side and a direct rival in Tottenham. Yes its disappointing, but let us consider this – when you learn most about people is when they are suffering times of adversity. This will have taught Klopp a lot more about his players than he knew previously. We had to lose at some point, and given how important the midweek game was if I had to choose which way round the results were to occur on Wednesday night, I’d have chosen this scenario. It’s really not that bad. To come before the international break is also somewhat of a blessing, unusually, because it now gives our astute coach and his staff the opportunity to pull apart what has gone wrong, where we need to improve and how we are going to do it, without the pressure of preparing for the next game. It’s been a ridiculously hectic start to the Klopp campaign, with nobody afforded a second to catch their breath thus far. We have now experienced every result and have time to reflect, reiterate and respond. It’ll be good for everyone, including many a bell-whiff outside of the club, if inside the ground or logged into an LFC forum…

So performances? Key moments?

Well let’s be honest, Palace came at us from the off and did not give us an inch for the first 15 minutes. They caught us cold, startled in the headlights of two fucking steam trains tearing up our flanks and testing our fullbacks early. Relentless pressing restricted our ability to settle on the ball and the goal came about for just this reason, and it had been coming. We had managed for one of the first times in the game to play out from the back and Can received the ball on the edge of the centre circle. Under some pressure, he decided to play a short pass to Lucas which was so telegraphed MI5 got a copy first. Of course it was intercepted, as it always would be, and the ball broke. One could decipher that our backline at this point was a little slow to push out, and as a result the centre halves did no deal with it. Instead Moreno stepped inside and demonstrated his crippling one footedness with a half attempted clearance/pass having tried to open his body up to use the inside of his left foot. Was he unlucky that the ricochet bounced off the man and into the path of his winger he’d left unattended? Yes. Should he have just put his right foot through it and avoided the opportunity altogether? Yes.

So after Can’s initial error in the first phase of the goal, Moreno has to take some responsibility for making a poor decision and not trusting his weaker foot. However, the calamity doesn’t halt here. Having managed to pull the ball back across Moreno and Sakho, it somewhat fortunately lands at the feet of Can who has rushed back in attempt to atone for his previous mistake. Like Moreno, Can, in an even more perilous position, also decides to open his body up and try to cushion a pass to Lucas, who is changing direction at the time, which was fucking ridiculous, really. In that position you don’t try and play out. Admittedly the ball arrived sharply at Emre’s feet but even if he didn’t have the time to swing his left foot, he should just be making solid contact with the ball on the right laces to force the ball away from danger. Another poor choice meant that Bolasie picked up the ball, took a touch and slotted it in. It’s also concerning that nobody stepped into Bolasies face at this point and we continued to stand off. Despite Klopps good work and some major improvement, old habits are dying hard and we are still overplaying and not shutting down space ferociously enough in and around our 18 yard box.

Before they scored Palaces intent had been clear. Press high, press hard, force mistakes, and look to play the ball high towards our fullbacks who were always going to struggle physically against their wingers. They did this very well, as Cabaye influenced the game deepest of the attacking press (they were basically employing a 424, one of the strongest formations to press high up the pitch, second to maybe the 343). Skrtel and Sakho often found themselves quite wide supporting the full backs with Lucas intelligently slipping in to try and compact the middle whilst they covered. A chain of poor decisions led to their goal as described above. Once they had scored, palace reverted to the more conventional  433 and dropped into a lower block. They would have needed to anyway, because their initial pressure was unsustainable and Pardew’s plan worked a treat to get them on the front foot before ‘resting’ off the ball.

So this is when things get better. For the next 20 minutes or so we began to dominate the ball and emphasis our grip on the game. Coutinho saw more of it, Benteke got more touches and Ibe was full of poise and buoyancy, running at defenders, committing them and beating them. Yes his decision making still leaves something to be desired but that comes with the territory of playing a 19 year old. On the other hand he is fearless, physical, determined to make an impression and influence the game. He was our best and most threating player on the day, providing a brilliantly timed key pass to take three Palace players out the game and put Clyne in a wonderful position. Clyne pulled it back, Lallana’s flick taking it off the foot of our big Belgian and into the path of our little Brazilian who executed the finish expertly. Things were looking up; we had our goal and restored equality.  We were the team with the momentum, we had been looking sharper in the turnovers, quicker to the 2nd ball, and despite Sakho going off we were comfortable with the ball and had, for the time being, restricted Palaces midfield and starved Zaha and Bolasie of the ball. The reward was the aforementioned goal, and we went in at HT deservedly level after a shaky first 15 minutes.

That second half!

The second half is a tough one to analyse, purely because it was helter-skelter. Delightfully entertaining for the casual observer, as the ball glided end to end, at pace and with precision. Players brushing others off the ball, turning out of gaps, spreading long diagonal passes into space and some lovely ½ touch counter attacking football from both sides. Moments turned scrappy, there were chances, clear-cut chances, for both sides coming from all angles and asking different questions of the forwards. Unfortunately, for both us and the casual spectator, the forwards were lacking answers as both Benteke and Sako missed fantastic opportunities within a minute or so of each other. The game had well and truly opened up, and both coaches decided to try and cease the initiative. Can, who had a pretty poor evening, often holding onto the ball too long and taking too many touches, made way for Firmino, and Sako, who had worked relentlessly hard, was replaced by a just-fit Connor Wickham for the Londoners. Some would argue this tilted the balance, and as Pardew opted for a like for like switch with fresh legs, Klopp decided to try and open Palace up with the silky touch and awareness of our latest Brazilian import.

Now whether the change turned the tide is hard to tell. Despite their initial flurry we had worked hard for the last hour or so, and had only had one day to prepare in contrast to Palace’s week, but if Klopp has no room for excuses nor should we. Somewhat inevitably, despite the chances, despite the substitutions and changes of formation, the game was decided at a set peace. Without wanting to delve too deep into our set piece defending, zonal marking is fine as long as the players are occupying and attacking areas where the ball is likely to fall and where their threats are. We set up far too close to the front stick when the threat was clearly at the back. Dann got his header away, Mignolet should have held it, he didn’t, we didn’t react, but the only Liverpudlian on the pitch did. It was an incredibly poor error from Mignolet, who had looked shaky previously and made a ridiculous decision to pass to Sakho moments after he’d arrived back on the pitch from what was clearly a painful injury. Simon really needs to up his game, because Bogdan has looked decent whilst he continues to cause problems. He’s not solely to blame as we were set up wrong, but you expect your ‘keeper to gobble that up, at least push it wide; instead he gifted Dann a second bite at the cherry, and he duly obliged. It must be noted, Palace were excellent in their box, Delany in particular with a heroic display. You have to give them credit.

After a little huff and puff to try and salvage a result but we walk away from Palace again with nothing. Plenty of positives, with Lucas playing and captaining the side well, Coutinho scoring again, Ibe looking extremely dangerous and more precious Premier league minutes for Firmino. Sakho looking to have avoided any severe damage to his ACL despite how painful the fall looked, and Benteke getting on the end of chances which you know soon he’ll start to take. A mention for Lovren too, who did very well coming in for Sakho.

The more negative questions posed are that over Mignolets ability. Should he keep his place?
Can Moreno be coached out of these mistakes?
Is Can a midfielder when he always almost wants at least 2 touches? Will Henderson replace him as soon as available?
Will Lallana start to reap the rewards for his efforts and contribute with a few more goals?
Is Bentekes finishing something to be concerned about or are we glad he’s finally getting the chances?
Are we seeing a return to form with Lovren in a very timely manner given Sakho’s knock?
What will Klopp do to try and strengthen our weaknesses?

Over to you Rawkites – Oh, and remember boss, You’ll Never Walk Alone, even if some others choose to themselves.  :wave

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