LIVERPOOL REACH NEW LEVEL OF EMBARRASSING AS THEY ALLOW LEICESTER TO COME ALIVE
The Merseysiders were utterly abject as they were once again bullied by a side struggling at the wrong end of the table in a 3-1 defeat
Jurgen Klopp had spelt out Liverpool’s task at the King Power Stadium on Monday night in big, bold lettering. The job of his players, the German underlined at Melwood last week, was “not to let Leicester’s confidence grow.”
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By the 40-minute mark, his eyes were transfixed to the ground, his arms flung out in frustration.
The Foxes had scored more goals in that period against the Reds than they had managed in their last eight Premier League fixtures combined.
They were no longer sleepwalking through the division, they had rediscovered their swagger and smarts.
Twenty minutes later, the hosts had completely revived their party spirit from last season, with Liverpool so kindly gifting them invitations to exploit a flimsy rearguard.
Leicester were made to wait 637 minutes for a league goal, but they had three with half an hour to spare on Monday night courtesy of a Jamie Vardy double and a stunner from Danny Drinkwater.
Klopp had anticipated the defending champions would “show a few things” following Claudio Ranieri’s sacking and their five top-flight defeats on the spin, but he believed his charges, refreshed after a 16-day break, would crush any revival.
Instead, Liverpool accomplished a new level of embarrassing in the East Midlands. They were utterly dire out of possession and too loose with it as Leicester – sharper, fiercer – punished them over the top and in the duels.
The failure to protect their own high defensive line and the absolute mismatch in the battle between Vardy and Lucas Leiva – both the same age despite the Brazilian looking like he was carrying an extra 10 years in his legs – led to a carnival for the home side.
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In truth, the scoreline flattered Liverpool, especially since Philippe Coutinho managed to oust Kasper Schmeichel with the game already gone.
It could have been a lot more dismal than 3-1 for those already dazed in the away section, with Klopp admitting afterwards: “It was not good enough in the beginning, it was not good enough in the middle and it was not good enough in the end.”
Liverpool’s plans for the encounter had been disrupted by a foot injury to captain Jordan Henderson on Friday, with the Reds boss already sans the services of Dejan Lovren and Daniel Sturridge.
As already evidenced this season, most especially in the 2-2 draw at Sunderland, the visitors fail to assert themselves in their skipper’s absence given his excellence in directing their attacks, and organising the blocks against counters.
That Liverpool are without anyone remotely close to matching his energy and intelligence as their No.6 is a priority to correct in the summer.
But that they are so charitable against struggling sides could see their business in the off-season affected, with premier players not quite inclined to move without a diet of Champions League football.
There should be a few within Klopp’s squad nervous that they may no longer be at Anfield in the new campaign. “The thing is we all play, myself included, for our future,” the German explained.
“We get judged every day, especially on matchdays. And of course, performances have influences on these things.
“It’s not the moment to make assessments like this, especially not in public as you can imagine. But I try to say the truth as often as possible and bad performances doesn’t help anybody. That’s clear.”
Liverpool arrived at Leicester confident that they could deliver a strong marker of their top four aspirations. Their display only served to highlight the very flaws that may see them criminally miss out after such a sterling start to 2016-17.
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Ranieri stated his dream had died after being relieved of his duties on Thursday night and here, Klopp’s fantasy of his side winning every game until the end of the season was laid to rest.
The 2-0 triumph over Tottenham remains their only league victory of 2017 and four of the club’s five defeats in the competition have come against teams who started the day in the relegation zone.
If Liverpool are serious about their ambitions at the top end of the table, they need to learn how to bully those at the bottom.