The Reds have struggled significantly in 2021, with a rotating cast in defence not making it easy to find consistency in possession or organisation, while it has also impacted our build-up play.
In addition, the forward line has gone through a huge dip in form at the same time, while the supply line from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson has suffered too – a perfect storm leaving the Reds with only one win in seven.
Despite that, the game at Old Trafford showed a few steps forward, not least of all the fact of scoring twice – the first time it had happened since Palace, excluding the game against Villa’s kids.
The vice-captain saw the positives in the performance, but wasn’t hiding the disappointment at either losing to a rival or exiting the cup and the chance of silverware.
— James Milner (@JamesMilner) January 24, 2021
“I think the boys can be proud of how they played. Disappointed to give away the goals we did, which could have been stopped, but we reacted better today to disappointments in the game, better than we have done in recent games, and I think that’s a positive for us going forward,” he said to Sony.
“[When you’re] winning game after game – at times maybe when we didn’t deserve to win – and things are going your way, everything is easy.
“And obviously when results aren’t going your way, things that went your way before don’t seem to. That’s what we have to keep pushing, keep working hard, reacting the right way to disappointments.”
As well as the reaction during the match, which saw the Reds equalise after falling behind soon after the second-half restart, Milner pointed out the vast improvement in chance-creation.
That has been a real issue for the Reds of late and having a clinical edge will be key in a tough upcoming spell.
“I think the boys did well today; they worked hard up front, created some good chances and I thought some of the play in the final third was a lot better today, we carved out some good chances.
“Ultimately today is a cup game, but hopefully it’s the first step of us getting back on a good run.”
It’s Spurs up next for the Reds and a massive game for not just points and confidence, but also the top-four battle which we’re now in. Then it’s away to West Ham, another team in-form and flying high.
Liverpool might be out of the cup, but the return to scoring form and the associated positives might just have come in time to lift the Reds’ league form.
It proved to be another defeat for Liverpool, as goals from Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes sent United through.
Mohamed Salah did score twice, however, and the performance was better that we have seen in recent weeks, meaning it wasn’t all negative for the Reds.
Here, This Is Anfield’s Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) is joined by Owen Collins (@OGBCollins) and John O’Sullivan (@NotoriousJOS) to discuss another Liverpool defeat and how their starting XI could look against Tottenham on Thursday.The good…
OWEN: Goals! Two really good goals at last. It had felt so long since we last scored that I wondered if the footballing gods were punishing us for all the “you can’t celebrate a goal anymore” moans earlier in the season.
They were two really well-taken strikes, Mo’s dink over Henderson in particular, and represent the most positive aspect of a disappointing result.
We looked far more creative and far more coherent as a side for most of yesterday, with both goals coming from passing the ball into the box, rather than just firing in crosses or shooting straight at the goalkeeper from 18 yards.
Hopefully, this marks a shift in things and we can get back to being the imaginative, unpredictable side from earlier in the season.
JOHN: The attacking structure looked hugely improved on the platter of aimless crosses we’ve been served up in recent games, like Owen says.
Liverpool moved the ball well through midfield and created some good opportunities, besides the goals – yes, goals, imagine – they scored.
Thiago is wasted as the deepest midfielder, in terms of adding a shield to the back four, but the way he can progress the ball up the guts of teams and bring the more advanced attackers and midfielders into the game will be huge for this Liverpool team going forward.
Trent, after a very tough spell of form, showed signs he is improving again. It’s not as if he was fantastic, but he was better than previous weeks.
People forget how young he is and, like all young players, he will have spells of inconsistency. Cream rises to the top, though, and he will be fine.
The performance, largely, was good. Liverpool went to United and were the better team, shorn of any senior centre-back, Henderson and Mane (from the start). That is definitely a performance they can build upon.
HENRY: Despite the result, there was clear positives that simply weren’t anywhere to be seen against Burnley, and in other games, as both Owen and John point out.
Salah looked really sharp for the first time in a while and Firmino showed signs of returning to form, too, as is alluded to above.
Just seeing a Liverpool shot hit the net for the first time since 1955 was a welcome relief.
Like John, I thought Trent was improved, too, and the general cohesion and inventiveness of the football on show was good in the second half.The bad…
OWEN: It’s strange, I expected to lose this one and was basically resigned to doing so.
But then we equalised and looked by far the better team for much of the second half, so when the inevitable came it stung far more than anticipated.
Spare me the ‘it’s only the FA Cup’ stoicism – it’s another trophy we’re not going to win this season and another chance for glory extinguished.
After taking the lead, we seemed to suddenly revert back to the ‘cross and hope’ style of recent games, which was immensely frustrating, although we snapped ourselves out of it.
Similarly, heads dropped after United’s winner – at the moment we look quite a long way from the “Mentality Monsters” of last season. Understandable, yes, but still difficult to take.
Oh, and Rhys didn’t have a great game, but the keyboard warriors taking Twitter potshots are even worse.
We need a bloody centre-back, though!
JOHN: I almost feel bad for saying it because there is no way he should be thrown in at this level, but Williams was a clear negative.
He made a lot of fundamental errors, two of which led to United goals, and he looked very slow on his feet.
Still, though, if Liverpool had their ducks in a row at centre-back and signed somebody, that performance, which could really dent his confidence, may not have happened.
Thiago as a No.6 didn’t work. The Spaniard is a brilliant player, but it is a terrible waste asking him to anchor the midfield.
He doesn’t have the physical attributes to kill opposition counters – United cut through the midfield too easily at times yesterday.
His playmaking abilities would be far better served further up the pitch, which we saw glimpses of. He does have a Fernandinho-esque tendency to avoid yellow cards, though, which is good.
HENRY: I don’t agree with Owen about the FA Cup not being a second-rate competition these days. I want to love it like I used to, but it’s just not the same anymore – like my feelings towards Soccer AM!
Losing to United always feels bad, however, so I could have done without that.
Like Owen said, though, the “Mentality Monsters” mindset seems to have disappeared – I always felt Liverpool were going to lose at 2-2, whether it be inside 90 minutes, in extra-time or on penalties.
Williams was a disaster and it felt like the Reds were playing with 10 men at times because of it. You have to feel for him, though.
I thought Alisson was below par, which hasn’t been mentioned enough. That outside-of-the-foot pass gets on my nerves and he wasn’t great for the second and third goals.
If that Fernandes winner was Pickford in goal, we’d be mocking him for getting beaten at that side.
John is spot on about Thiago, too – using him that way doesn’t get the best out of him and he actually looked a liability defensively as the minutes ticked by.And the starting XI vs. Spurs…
OWEN: Both Salah and Firmino looked renewed yesterday and their respective braces of goals and assists will hopefully bring fresh confidence.
With Mane fresh and rested, too, I would favour an end to the up-top tinkering for Thursday night.
If Henderson’s still out, I’d like to see Milner keep his place, as I think he’s the best replacement we’ve got for Hendo’s particular brand of graft.
Thiago looked pretty spent by the time he came off yesterday, but he has to start, in order to unpick what will likely be another Mourinho parked bus.
Defence remains the issue, with Williams highly susceptible to counter-attacks, which doesn’t bode well given how Spurs will likely play against us.
If Matip can make it through the week without another injury, there’s absolutely no question he starts alongside Fabinho. Break out the cotton wool, Jurgen.
JOHN: Assuming Henderson and Matip are fit, they come straight back in. I would also play Wijnaldum as the 6 and not Thiago.
HENRY: There is the West Ham game on Sunday to keep an eye on, but I also think the team picks itself, assuming absent key men are available.
Matip is a shoo-in to start if he is fit, while having Henderson’s energy and leadership back will be a huge boost, especially for Trent. The skipper covers him so well when he goes forward.
Do I think Klopp will pick that team? No. He will rotate with West Ham in mind.
Several of Liverpool’s loanees had a telling impact at the weekend as no fewer than three managed to claim an assist – with another earning a clean sheet.
Once again, it was Harvey Elliott who stole the biggest headlines as far as the Reds’ crop out on loan goes, as he helped have a match-winning effect for Blackburn Rovers.
Playing on the right of attack in a 4-3-3 once more, Elliott fashioned his eighth assist of the Championship season in Rovers’ 1-0 win over Middlesbrough – no other player in Blackburn’s squad has more than three!
This was no standard, simple pass to someone who did all the hard work, either; picking up the ball in a deep area, Elliott played an incisive and clever one-two to bypass three defenders, drove into the box and played a low, right-footed cross into a dangerous area – where Joe Rothwell was on hand to net the only goal of the game.
Rovers are up to ninth with that victory, eight points off the play-off spots.
There was an assist in League One, too, as Liam Millar continued his good start to life with Charlton Athletic.
The Canadian wide man played on the left in the Addicks’ 4-4-2, striking the woodwork himself and setting up his team’s first goal in a 2-2 draw.
Over in Germany, Taiwo Awoniyi’s good run with Union Berlin yielded an assist in defeat.
Union lost 2-1 to Augsburg, a second defeat in a row which hampers their Europa League ambitions.
Awoniyi’s assist came as he showed good pace and strength to beat a defender to a ball in the box, before he turned to lay it off for Marcus Ingvartsen to equalise.
The Nigerian had a couple of shots of his own, but couldn’t add to his tally of five Bundesliga goals for the season.
Loris Karius was again an unused sub.
Elsewhere, Kamil Grabara picked up a clean sheet for AGF in a 3-0 win Aalborg. The result leaves the Polish goalkeeper’s team third in the Danish Superliga, three points off the top.
And there was another run out for Colombian full-back Anderson Arroyo with Salamanca, as the 21-year-old finally gets a run in a senior team after several unfruitful loan spells.
His 90-minute showing at right-back came in a 1-0 loss to Coruxo in the Segunda B – the third tier in Spain – and was his sixth league appearance in a row.
Fellow full-back Adam Lewis missed Plymouth’s FA Cup defeat to Sheffield United through an ankle injury, but he is expected to return to the line-up for the next game.
Marko Grujic should be in action with Porto on Monday in their league game away to Farense.Liverpool FC loaness this weekend
Harvey Elliott – Blackburn – 65 mins vs. Middlesbrough, assist
Loris Karius – Union Berlin – unused sub vs. Augsburg
Kamil Grabara – AGF Aarhus – 90 mins vs. AaB, clean sheet
Taiwo Awoniyi – Union Berlin – 90 mins vs. Augsburg, assist
Liam Millar – Charlton Athletic – 90 mins vs. Swindon, assist
Anderson Arroyo – Salamanca UDS – 90 mins vs. Coruxo
Injured: Adam Lewis – Plymouth
Plays Monday: Marko Grujic – Porto
Liverpool are out of the FA Cup after a 3-2 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday as the winless run rolls on.Man United 3-2 Liverpool
FA Cup fourth round, Old Trafford
Sunday 24 January, 2021
Goals: Salah 19′ 58′; Greenwood 25′, Rashford 48′, Fernandes 78′Hits and misses with rotations and returns
Mixed results were served up. Jones was decent at times, peripheral at others. Williams didn’t do well – more on that in a bit.
As for Milner, he was alternately way off the pace and the catalyst for us trying to win the game – driving us forward, getting caught out of position, firing over a great chance, cleverly creating Salah’s second, tackling and creating overloads and then not having the pace to do anything about it.
It was a very Milner showing, all things told – just what he’s in the team for on the ball, and just what we have to allow for off it.So that’s what a goal looks like
Huzzah! It was a moment to cherish, yet the players only seemed to react in pretty angry fashion – with themselves or recent struggles, no doubt – when Mo clipped a beauty over Dean Henderson and into the net.
Other than the four against Villa which were scored against kids, it was a first goal in 456 minutes netted past what we might term a senior side.
The lead didn’t last too long, but it was a real pleasure to see an actual opening fashioned through a neat pass, a clever run…and to see it taken, of course.
A second for Salah was a bonus and it looked for a period as though the Reds were the more likely to win, but too few other players ever really looked capable of scoring.Rhys and the rest
Here was perhaps the first 90-minute long showing of where Liverpool are struggling without a consistent back line.
There’s no point in skirting around the issue – Rhys Williams had a bit of a shocker. He jumped into tackles he couldn’t win because he knew he didn’t have the pace to get back from so high upfield, and erred when trying to cut the ball out for United’s second.
As commendable as his performances were against Spurs and Atalanta, here he was naive and caught out – which is understandable given his age.
But he was not the only issue, not the only underperformer.
Alisson had far from the greatest game of his life, beaten with three similar finishes into the far corners, and his playing out put us under pressure a couple of times.
Fabinho was unusually erratic and the cover from the 8s in the channels wasn’t always there – particularly obvious when Liverpool didn’t start with a normal three-man midfield.
These are all knock-on effects of the ongoing chopping and changing we’re being forced into, which were bound to catch up with the defensive work eventually. Here, they’ve cost a place in the last 16.One in seven
It’s not always about the 90 minutes on show and this needs a wider-lens view.
Liverpool have now won one game in seven across all competitions, and that was against children.
The Palace game, our last ‘real’ win, was a long time ago now and there’s a very real need to accept the reality and stop the rot – we’ve lost three of five, not just not won them.
Perhaps we saw the first signs of how in the early stages.
Firmino was excellent with his link play this time – two assists on the day – in part because he worked hard and in part because he had support which was on the run. Two in attack through the middle gave United problems (although it also did to the Reds, when they countered our right flank).
Maybe that’s a stepping stone to how we’ll need to line up for now, tilting the balance back towards the attack rather than being solid, just to fire and bludgeon our way back to winning ways.Twin focus
So the season boils down to the league and the Champions League.
Next up is Spurs, which has quickly become a match which might define what the next few months look like: will we be looking up at the top couple from Manchester and trying to play catch-up?
This, against United, was an improved showing. It wasn’t a great showing, but it was better, with individual components to pick out and look to repeat.
But there’s a lack of confidence still with some in attack and far too many questions at the back. Come Thursday in north London, Liverpool dare not let Spurs score first.
And while it would not be the Reds who would progress, a place on the scoresheet proved to be the obvious positive for Klopp’s side – with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino combining on both occasions.
At the other end of the field, poor decision making would prove costly and see United force Alisson to pick the ball out of his net on three separate occasions.
A defeat was not on the agenda, but an improved performance was enough for the manager to see his team are moving in the right direction.
“It’s not what we wanted, so it’s frustrating. If you wanted to win tonight you had to be at your absolute top [level] and we weren’t,” Klopp told reporters post-match.
“We made a lot of steps in the right direction. Start of the game was good and then we made decisive mistakes.
“Around the first goal, we obviously had too many options offensively and no protection, so we lost the ball on the counter and it was not the first one of the game.
“We wanted to score, that’s good. And we did that, we scored twice and so it’s all okay, but in the end, they scored three and we scored two.
“We can take positives out of this game, of course, I saw a lot of steps in the right direction.
“It was good preparation for the Tottenham game, we know exactly what we have to work on. We want to make steps and tonight we did, not the final ones but at the moment it is okay.
“In the end, we know it’s a result game and we want results.”
And as questions continued to focus on the lack of goals, Klopp did not want to delve too deep into it as he instead focused on the push to turn it around.
“You don’t have to worry about us, as a group we are really together,” he continued. “Nobody thinks about what has happened in the last few years, nobody, we just try to win football games again.
“What I’ve said is that if you don’t score for a while, it is not good for the confidence and the best strikers can tell you that. It’s all about how we deal with it.”
Liverpool are expected to finalise their third youth signing of the winter window with Derby County teenager Kaide Gordon set to sign in a deal worth up to £3 million.
The Reds moved swiftly to bring in 17-year-old centre-back Stefan Bajcetic and 15-year-old full-back Calum Scanlon at the end of last year, as their focus on youth continues.
Bajcetic was the final overseas arrival at Kirkby before the new Brexit rules came into place in the Premier League, which will now block the signing of players under the age of 18 from abroad.
Scanlon, though, was an addition capitalising on Birmingham City’s decision to streamline their academy, with Liverpool moving to bring in the England youth international with an eye on the future.
Gordon is a 16-year-old attacker who can operate both in the middle and out wide, and would likely arrive as part of Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s under-18s squad before making the step up to Barry Lewtas’ under-23s.
The deal is said to be worth an initial fee upwards of £1 million, with a series of add-ons potentially seeing this rise to £3 million, which is a considerable outlay for a player of his age.
Gordon has already made his first-team debut for the Rams, however, coming off the bench in the final minutes of a 4-0 win at Birmingham last month.
“He deserved it,” he said of Gordon’s first taste of senior football.
“I brought Kaide up with the first team initially to train with us for a week, to see how he reacted to it, to see how he was with that, and he was one of the best trainers.
“I kept him with us for a couple of weeks and he’s been training now at the same level, if not a better level, to a lot of the players.
“I spoke to the players and said ‘if you’re training hard and you train well, I’ll give you your chance’, and he deserves it.”
It should be stressed that, in terms of finances, academy signings rarely have an impact on plans for first-team acquisitions, and it is highly unlikely Liverpool are prioritising a deal for Gordon over a senior centre-back.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp hopes his side have hit their lowest point and can now start to bounce back.
The Reds boss insists his players have not “changed overnight” despite the defeat to Burnley ending a 68-match unbeaten home league run after a fourth successive game without a goal.
Their challenge only gets harder with an FA Cup trip to Manchester United, but Klopp wants to believe they have reached their nadir and can start to climb out of the slump.
“We lost that game and it was a really low point. It’s not that I thought, ‘who cares?’,” he said.
“When I think back I can’t find a reason why we lost that game but we lost it. It happened and sometimes you need a really low point to change things properly and that’s for sure [what] we will go for now.
“If we would have won in a bad game the world would have said, ‘OK, it’s not the football they usually play but they are back on the result path’, but in the long term it would not help.
“It can be a real help if we use it. I can imagine what a lot of people think about us in the moment.
“But people don’t change overnight. People sometimes face challenges they are not immediately ready for and sometimes you don’t even know a challenge will come up.
“But this is a challenge didn’t want to have. Was it absolutely impossible it could happen? No, especially in the situation we are.
“[The players] are still brilliant people and brilliant characters, all of them.
“All of them made happen what happened in the last few years and they don’t change overnight. It is still a really good group.”
Forward Mohamed Salah was on the bench for the first hour of the Burnley defeat but will be unleashed against United as the Premier League’s leading goalscorer looks to improve a run of one goal – against Aston Villa’s youth team in the previous round – in six matches.
In an interview published in Spain just before Christmas the Egypt international spoke about his disappointment over not being made captain for the Champions League dead rubber against Midtjylland, while also expressing his admiration for Real Madrid and Barcelona.
It has been widely viewed as a negotiating tactic to get an improvement on a contract which does not expire until 2023 but, as a result, he is asked about his future in every media interview he now gives.
Klopp insists that speculation is not a distraction for the player or the team.
“That’s a normal thing in the world of football. He didn’t have a speech, it is not that we go out and talk about things which are important, it is pretty rare that happens,” he said.
“We get asked questions and then we answer. It always sounds like we started the conversation but in most cases it is not like that.
“I don’t think it will distract the season.”
A heavyweight clash between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford was the pick of the ties in the FA Cup fourth-round draw.
English football’s two most successful clubs have been paired in the competition 12 times, United dominating with nine wins to Liverpool’s three.
Here, the PA news agency looks at five of their classic FA Cup meetings.1976/77: Man Utd 2-1 Liverpool (Final)
Liverpool were chasing the Treble and had already won the league title before turning up at Wembley on May 21, 1977. Bob Paisley’s side had a European Cup final date against Borussia Monchengladbach four days later, but the second part of their mission was ruined as United sprang a surprise.
The three goals came in a four-minute spell at the start of the second half, with Stuart Pearson firing United ahead before Jimmy Case equalised brilliantly.
Two minutes later Tommy Docherty’s United were back in front when Lou Macari’s drive deflected off Jimmy Greenhoff’s chest.
Liverpool went on to win their first European Cup in Rome, but United became the first English club to win the treble of league, FA Cup and European Cup 22 years later.1995/96: Man Utd 1-0 Liverpool (Final)
The brightest thing about the 1996 final was Liverpool’s cream suits as the so-called ‘Spice Boys’ served up a pre-game fashion blunder.
On the pitch, United were the trendsetters with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side having overtaken Newcastle in the final straight to win the Premier League title and were chasing a second Double in three seasons.
The May 11 clash was a tight affair of few chances. But, with five minutes remaining, David James tried to punch a corner clear and the ball fell to the feet of Eric Cantona.
The maverick French forward delivered an unerring finish to take the cup back to Old Trafford for the ninth time.1998/99: Man Utd 2-1 Liverpool (Fourth round)
The fourth-round clash at Old Trafford on January 24, 1999 was billed as the battle of the strikers, with United’s in-sync double act Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke taking on Liverpool’s sharp-shooters Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler.
It was advantage Liverpool when Owen headed them ahead after three minutes.
United turned the screw in the second half with captain Roy Keane hitting the post twice. Just when it looked as if was not going to be United’s day, Yorke equalised two minutes from time.
Super-sub Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the current United manager, then scored a dramatic winner to send Old Trafford wild.2005/06: Liverpool 1-0 Man Utd (Fifth round)
Peter Crouch was the man responsible for pitting the Premier League’s top two together at the fourth-round draw on Monday evening.
Crouch found himself in the doghouse with his Liverpool-supporting father-in-law, but 15 years ago he was the hero on the red half of Merseyside with his fifth-round winner at Anfield.
Crouch headed home Steve Finnan’s cross after 19 minutes to give Rafael Benitez’s side a deserved place in the quarter-finals.
It was Liverpool’s first FA Cup win over United in 85 years and United’s misery was compounded as substitute Alan Smith suffered a broken leg in bizarre circumstances, blocking a free-kick, late on.2011/12: Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United (Fourth round)
The build-up to the fourth-round clash on January 28, 2012 – the last time the two clubs met in the FA Cup – was dominated by an incident involving Liverpool striker Luis Suarez and United defender Patrice Evra in the Premier League game at Anfield the previous October.
Suarez had been banned for eight games by the Football Association for racially abusing Evra.
Daniel Agger headed Liverpool into a 21st-minute lead, but Park Ji-sung levelled with a powerful shot before half-time.
The tie seemed destined for a replay at Old Trafford before Dirk Kuyt struck two minutes from time to send the Reds into the last 16.
Jamie Carragher has described centre-back as “the most demanding position on the pitch” in today’s game, doubting he could have played in Liverpool’s current system.
The Reds find themselves in a tough situation at centre-back this campaign, with injuries seeing a merry-go-round of stand-ins at the back as Fabinho takes up a regular role.
There have still been times when the likes of Fabinho, Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips have been caught short given the nature of Liverpool’s high line – most notably for Louie Barry’s goal in the FA Cup third-round win over Aston Villa.
This has made the Reds’ pursuit of a new centre-back more difficult, with Carragher assessing the role as the “most demanding” in football due to how multi-faceted players are required to be.
“Centre-back now is the most demanding position on the pitch,” he told the Training Ground Guru Podcast.
“We expect a centre-back to be able to start attacks, play great football; we expect our centre-backs to be able to defend on the halfway line with space in behind, so you’ve got to be quick.
“Can he defend one-vs-one, because full-backs push on?
“So we ask so much from centre-backs at this moment in the game.
“Would I have been comfortable playing on the halfway line every week? I don’t think I would.
“I don’t think I was that type of defender, I would have had to have adapted to the modern game. You always believe you can adapt, I think most players feel that. But who knows?”
Carragher, therefore, has doubts over whether he could have slotted into a high defensive line such as that deployed by Klopp today, having spent the majority of his career operating in a more traditional role.
Of his 737 appearances for Liverpool, the No. 23 played 326 times for Rafa Benitez and 258 for Gerard Houllier, with 43 outings at the start of his senior career under the attacking Roy Evans and 38 in the season prior to his retirement under Brendan Rodgers.
This showed Carragher the “extremes” of the centre-back role, but he continued to suggest he largely flourished due to the outlook of his two long-term managers.
“I played for two managers in Rafa Benitez and Gerard Houllier, who I won most of my trophies with, and they were certainly not managers who wanted their back four on the halfway line and pushing up as much,” he said.
“We used to look to counter-attack opposition at different times as well.
“We played lots of different ways with different managers I had.
“Going from the extreme of the Boot Room with Roy Evans, total football, and finishing my Liverpool career like that with Brendan Rodgers, and in between having two foreign managers, Houllier and Benitez, who favoured maybe more of a defensive side of a setup.
“I got both sides of it, really.”
Salah stands as Liverpool’s top scorer this season, with 17 goals in 27 appearances, and also sits at the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts with 13.
But despite his ongoing key role at Anfield, there have been persistent rumours over the Egyptian’s long-term place with the Reds – particularly following his positive COVID-19 test after attending his brother’s wedding in Cairo.
The No. 11 has given two interviews addressing his future, firstly with Spanish publication AS and then with Norwegian outlet TV2, in which he stressed both times that the decision is “in the hands of the club.”
Salah told TV2 “I want to stay here as long as I can,” but that has not quelled speculation over a possible summer exit to either Real Madrid or Barcelona.
It has also been mooted that Salah’s comments are designed to spark renewed contract talks with Liverpool – which are likely within the next year either way – as he bids for an improved deal.
This could prove a distraction, but Klopp does not believe that to be the case – particular as the question was posed directly to the 28-year-old by TV2, rather than him bringing the subject of his future up himself.
“That’s a normal thing in the world of football,” Klopp told reporters.
“It’s not that we go out and talk about things that we think are important. It’s pretty rare that that happens.
“We get asked questions and we answer, that’s end of story, and it always seems like we started the conversation.
“But in Mo’s case, it’s not like that. So no, I don’t think it will distract the season.”
Salah was omitted from the starting lineup for Liverpool’s 1-0 loss to Burnley, which deprived him of another possible outing as captain, having previously expressed his frustration at Trent Alexander-Arnold being handed the armband ahead of him earlier in the season.
“It makes it absolutely likely that Mo will start,” the manager said of Salah’s omission in midweek.
“I don’t think that is a massive secret.”
Salah has not scored in any of his last five league games, including drawing a blank against United on January 17, but he did find the back of the net in the previous FA Cup tie at Aston Villa.
With Liverpool enduring a miserable run of form of late, Klopp will be hoping his No. 11 can help fire the Reds back to winning ways this Sunday.
Sunday, January 24, 2021 – 5pm (GMT)
FA Cup Fourth Round
Referee: Craig Pawson
When it rains, it pours.
Liverpool’s dreadful run of form continued on Thursday evening, as they not only lost 1-0 to Burnley, but also saw their long unbeaten home run come to an end.
It was arguably the most disappointing night of an increasingly worrying campaign, with Jurgen Klopp‘s champions looking devoid of energy, quality and confidence.
Liverpool have a great opportunity to bounce back this weekend, however, as they visit United for another quickfire meeting.
Last weekend’s 0-0 draw at Anfield was a drab affair, but a response is required from the Reds and Klopp may start to take the FA Cup more seriously now.
It is a competition that the German hasn’t shown a lot of love for in the past, but the thought of defeat against Liverpool’s biggest rivals, at the end of a bad week, doesn’t bear thinking about.
Dumping United out of the cup would go some way to repairing the damage done in recent weeks.Team News
Liverpool’s injury woes still aren’t going away ahead of the game, with Jordan Henderson expected to miss out with a groin issue.
The skipper missed the Burnley match and will now be hoping to be back for the trip to Spurs next week.
United have no new injury problems to contend with, but like Liverpool, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is sure to shuffle his pack.
Drew 1-1 – October 2019 (Rashford; Lallana)
Drew 0-0 – February 2019
Lost 2-1 – March 2018 (Rashford x2; Bailly OG)
Drew 1-1 – January 2017 (Ibrahimovic; Milner pen)
Drew 1-1 – March 2016 (Martial pen; Coutinho)
Capacity: 74,140Did You Know?
As mentioned, Klopp’s feelings towards the FA Cup have been made fairly clear down the years, with second-string teams and youngsters often fielded.
In fact, the Liverpool boss has never even made it into the quarter-finals, summing up how forgettable the Reds have been in the competition.
West Ham sent Klopp’s side packing in a fourth-round replay back in 2016, with Angelo Ogbonna scoring the winner in the final seconds at Upton Park.
The following year, Liverpool were dumped out at the expense of then-Championship side Wolves at Anfield, before losing at home to West Brom in 2018 – both were also in the fourth round.
Man United – Last five results (all competitions)
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Speaking on Friday, Klopp was in no doubt that his side would be taking the match seriously, as they prepare to head down the M62:
“We want to win the game. It’s a cup game so the game will be decided that night and we want to win this game. That’s how we will make the lineup.
“It’s a different competition and we want to go through so we have to play really well.
“United is in a good moment, get all the results they want so far and so we have to be ready, 100 percent.”TV & Liveblog Info
Man United vs. Liverpool kicks off at 5pm (GMT) and is live in the UK on BBC One. Coverage gets underway at 4.30pm.
Ben Twelves is in charge of This Is Anfield’s matchday liveblog, keeping you company from 4.15pm and providing regular updates.
Bruno Fernandes is not reading too much into Liverpool’s poor recent run as the Manchester United midfielder attempts to knock their bitter rivals out of the FA Cup.
Liverpool make the trip along the M62 enduring a rare shaky moment, with Thursday’s shock 1-0 loss to Burnley their first home league defeat since April 2017.
The third-round triumph against the youngsters of coronavirus-hit Aston Villa is the only win they have managed in their last six matches in all competitions but Fernandes knows they can bounce back at any point.
“I think teams have moments,” the Portugal international said. “I don’t think Liverpool are playing poorly. I think they don’t win and this is the point.
“When teams don’t win, everyone talks about that. When players don’t score, everyone talks about that.
“I feel that on me because I know the standard is high, because I arrived and I scored a lot of goals and make a lot of assists, and everyone is wanting goals and assists from me.
“It is the same – everyone expects goals from Salah, from Firmino and from Mane.
“They are not scoring in the last games and it starts feeling like ‘oh, they are not playing well’.
“They create, they play, but the other teams are playing better and, as I said before, they have more qualities to play.
“Every team goes there to play maybe without the pressure of the fans. Teams play a little bit more comfortably and, as I say, I think it is a moment.
“We don’t have to look at that moment because big teams and big players can show in every moment.”
Fernandes is hoping to taste victory against Liverpool for the first time since arriving at United and will be desperate to make amends for missing a fine chance to win last weekend’s game at Anfield.
“In the past already I have seen Manchester playing for a long time and I know what that game means for the fans,” he said.
“Everyone knows and of course, for us, it means a lot because it is a cup [tie] and it is a chance to put one of the strongest teams who are in the cup with us out, so we have to take that.
“Of course, we have so many teams in the cup in this moment that maybe you can have an easier game than this.
“But if you want to win the cup then you have to beat the biggest teams, so we have a chance now to beat one of the best that is left in the FA Cup.”
Long before he became the most successful manager in Liverpool’s history, Bob Paisley was a diminutive left-half who served as a key part in their post-war glory.
Utter the name Bob Paisley and immediately images of European Cups dance before your mind’s eye. You are instantly lost in reverie about days of glory when a succession of league titles was won, and Liverpool had indeed conquered the bloody world.
Bob is rightly lauded by all in football as one of the game’s greatest managers. However, what is often hidden from view is the contribution to the club’s illustrious history made by Paisley the player.
Long before he managed the club to unparalleled success, Bob Paisley was a footballer of great distinction, with a hunger for trophies that began in primary school. He would go on to win a league title at Anfield and scored a goal against Everton that helped secure a place in the 1950 FA Cup final. This is his story.
On January 23, 1919, in a tiny mining village call Hetton-Le-Hole in County Durham, Sam and Emily Paisley welcomed into the world their second son, Robert.
The boy who grew up to be a footballing legend had been born into a volatile world. World War I was over and the men who had endured so much on the battlefields of Europe were determined to ensure there would be no continuation of the horror.
In Folkestone and across the UK, soldiers mutinied in protest at plans to extend their deployments. The Anglo Irish War was about to erupt and across the country mine workers, joined by engineers and others, were striking for a 40-hour week.
Bob’s father was a miner and the family would experience great hardship during the young boy’s formative years, often relying on soup kitchens to keep themselves fed. In 1926, life would get even tougher during the General Strike. With pay steadily cut and hours lengthened in the post-war years, some 1.7 million workers went on strike for nine days in May, in an unsuccessful attempt to force the government to act on living conditions.
Sam Paisley’s lad would soon realise that his only escape from a lifetime of digging coal and fighting for survival lay in football, something he described as a religion. And the young boy would soon make a reputation for himself, playing as a left-half for Eppleton Primary School.
To say that Bob and his team-mates were prolific is something of an understatement: they would amass 17 trophies in a period of just four years. By now the die had been cast, and although he would join his father down the pit at the age of 13 before later training as a bricklayer when the mine closed (learning skills he would eventually put to use while building the dugout at Anfield), Paisley was destined to be a professional footballer.
Sunderland were his local team, and Bob had dreamed of lining up for his heroes in the English First Division. However, they rejected him at the time, believing he was “too small.” He joined Bishop Auckland instead.
This was amateur football, but the Bishops, as they were known, had a fearsome reputation. During his second season at the club, they won their league, the FA Amateur Cup and the Durham County Challenge Cup. Success was already becoming the minimum acceptable standard for Paisley, who was now just 20 years of age.
His performances had now attracted the interests of Liverpool manager George Kay, who convinced the youngster to come to Anfield, and despite an approach from his boyhood club Sunderland, who appear to have seen the error of their ways, Bob would keep his promise to join the Reds.
So, in the May of 1939, Bob took the train to Liverpool.
He would be met at Lime Street station by board member and former player Andrew McGuigan, and the pair would travel by tram to Anfield. There, Bob would team up with none other than Billy Liddell. Liverpool would pay him a £25 signing-on fee and £8 a week during the season and £6 in the summer.
Given his decades-long contribution and the deluge of trophies that followed his eventual appointment as manager, that has to be the best value-for-money signing in the history of the club.
Bob would make a couple of reserve team appearances before World War II would ultimately put his burgeoning football career on hold. With many of the first-team squad already serving in the territorial army, Bob would soon be called up to the Royal Artillery Regiment, where he served as a gunner. Stationed initially in Rhyl, just 30 miles from Anfield, Bob was given permission to play for the Reds in a match against Everton in 1940.
The two sides were contesting the Liverpool Senior Cup in front of a crowd of 30,000, a game the Blues would win 4-2. However, far more remarkable was Paisley’s journey to the game. He would cycle 30 miles, before ditching his bike in Birkenhead and hitch-hiking through the Mersey Tunnel. He would repeat the feat after the game.
Bob was clearly a remarkable character, whose love for the game was beyond question even in 1940.
In all Paisley played 60 games during wartime, scoring 12 times. Eventually, in 1941, he was deployed overseas and would see active service in Africa, later taking part in the liberation of Rome. All this meant that despite joining the club in 1939, he and Liverpool would wait seven years for him to make his full debut for the club.
That day would come on January 5, 1946. The Football League would not resume in full until August 1946, but the FA Cup returned earlier. The Reds entered the competition at the third-round stage and Bob made his debut alongside eight others, against Chester at Sealand Road in front of 12,000 people.
Liverpool won the game 2-0, thanks to goals from fellow debutant Liddell and Willie Fagan. Sadly, in what would become a recurring theme for Paisley as both player and manager, he would taste eventual defeat in the competition, going out 5-2 on aggregate to Bolton Wanderers.
Paisley’s league debut arrived in a game of epic proportions against Chelsea at Anfield, on September 7, 1946. On a balmy summer’s day, a crowd of 50,000 watched in awe as the sides fought relentlessly for 90 minutes, with the Reds the eventual winners by seven goals to four. Liverpool were 6-0 up after 50 minutes, when the defence collapsed to a second-half onslaught from the visitors. With a full 18 minutes left, the Londoners had pulled the game back to 6-4.
However, the home side, driven on by a particularly raucous Kop end, and Willie Fagan grabbed their seventh to quell nerves and restore pride in the 87th minute. The Liverpool Echo was exultant. Under a banner headline that read ‘Red Sails in Chelsea Sunset’, the paper declared “Liddell and Paisley transformed Liverpool’s attack.”
Bob’s contribution wasn’t going unnoticed by fellow professionals. A quote from Spurs legend Danny Blanchflower, cited on lfchistory.net, gives an indication of the lethal partnership forged by Liddell and Paisley in that first season after the war. He would say:
“My first match at Anfield was at right-back for Aston Villa. The roar from the Kop was awesome as Billy Liddell waltzed down the wing making us look like idiots. Then I began to recognize the source of Liddell’s magic. He was Liverpool’s inconspicuous craftsman at left-half, Bob Paisley.”
Liverpool would go on to lift the league title in 1947, and Paisley would play 39 of Liverpool’s 48 games in all competitions. He was an integral cog in George Kay’s machine that outfought and out-thought all before them. Clearly a player of some guile and skill, Bob could also mix it up when necessary. He would later describe his style as aggressive, but claimed that came from a love of the game and not from any malice.
Paisley was once so determined to play that after being rendered unconscious 10 minutes before half-time, in a game against Newcastle in 1948, that he returned to the pitch nine minutes into the second half. He would even leap to head a Liddell cross goalward before collapsing unconscious once again, much to the horror of his father, who later told him off in the strongest possible terms for playing on.
This tough, no-nonsense, never-say-die attitude of the young Bob Paisley may seem out of keeping with his gentlemanly and modest demeanour as a manager. However, it should surprise none of us that the man who had fought on battlefields in Africa and Europe, and whose upbringing involved a fight for survival of a different kind, would take that ethos and attitude into any arena he was placed.
Bob Paisley was only in the game at all because of his relentless will to live and succeed. And, these were, of course, the qualities that saw him create the most successful Reds teams of all time.
After the glory of the 1947 title win, Paisley would taste bitter disappointment in 1950. The Reds reached an FA Cup final for the first time since 1914, and were set to face Arsenal. Bob had played a pivotal role in reaching Wembley, and had scored in a 2-0 victory over neighbours Everton in the semi-final at Maine Road on March 25, 1950.
Writing in the Evening Express, Don Kendall describes Bob’s goal:
“Bobby Paisley deserves great credit for the manner in which he chased Burnett’s punch away, and with the ball running away from him, contrived to hook it back with his left foot so that it dropped straight into the net with neither the arriving Liddell nor Burnett touching it.”
Bob, now 31, must have been elated and dreaming of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete for England’s premier cup. With his career winding down, he would have been acutely aware that he may not get another chance. That’s why it will have come as the bitterest of blows when he wasn’t selected for the final.
Team-mate Albert Stubbins paints a picture of a man distraught at the snub, and contemplating life away from Anfield. He would even have to talk Bob out of leaving:
“Bob was shattered to be left out. He was very low and contemplating leaving the club, but I told him not to make any hasty decisions.”
What a terrible loss to the club that would have been. Clearly, we all owe Subbins a huge debt of gratitude. Thankfully, Paisley got over his disappointment.
Arsenal won the cup, courtesy of a 2-0 victory, and by now Paisley was making plans for the day when he hung up his boots. Now a married man, he began training as a physiotherapist.
His last appearance came in a 3-1 defeat to Sheffield United on March 13, 1954. He was 35 years of age. In all, he had played 277 times for Liverpool – a figure that would have surely been higher but for the war – scoring 13 times and winning a league title.
For all of that, long before he ever dreamed of becoming Liverpool’s manager, Bob Paisley had already earned his title as one of the men who made Liverpool.
Klopp effectively will have two training sessions in order to arrest a slump which is threatening to derail their title defence, if not their whole season.
“When you don’t like a situation you have to change the right things, not everything, and that is what we try to do,” he said.
“I like to see that in each bad situation there is a chance for something and I see it that way, but I will speak to my players.
“We want to change the situation, as you can imagine, and that is what we do now.
“In the end, what we do for the outside world is not important, it is only important for [the players] that it changes.
“Directly after the [Burnley] game I said exactly what I thought. I said that when things don’t work out on the pitch as we want them to then there is an issue and the issue is the things I tell the boys.
“I didn’t tell them clear enough so I have to change the way I tell the boys and then we have to change the way we play.
“We have to work on the details. We have to play football, we have to create, defend, score, 100 percent we know that, and that’s what we try to do again on Sunday.”
Klopp will freshen up his side for the visit to Old Trafford and hopes a change of competition, with the tie having to be concluded on the night, may bring better fortune.
“It is a different competition. We want to go through and for that we have to play well,” added the Reds boss, who faces United for the second successive weekend after a goalless draw at home in the league.
“It’s a cup game. The game will be decided that night and we want to win it.
“United is in a good moment, getting the results they wanted so we have to be ready 100 percent.
“Of course we go again. No doubt about that. We are very self-critical. We have possession – I don’t know what percent – but we have to finish the situation off.
“That is not the easiest part of games but we have to try. We have to use chances.
“[Against Burnley] we had 28 shots, six on target. I heard we had 90 in the last five games and one goal.
“That is a number we don’t want to have. We will speak things through and try again. We will not stop trying.”
The Reds put Premier League action to one side this weekend to focus on domestic cup exploits, a tie which comes at a time when Liverpool have won only one of their last six games in all competitions.
The fact that the opposition is Man United does throw up a conundrum or two in regards to team selection, especially at a time when form is on a downward spiral.
It leaves Klopp with a number of decisions on his hands with this game preceding a testing run of fixtures both in the league and in Europe.
JOSH: It’s an opportunity I’ve longed for, for us to win the FA Cup but difficult draws have proved to be too much of a hurdle. There’s nothing better than a Wembley trip in May.
It has to be a game that’s taken seriously, not just because we want to win the cup, but because clipping United’s wings and wiping the smug grin off Solskjaer’s face is an absolute must with the way everything is shaping up.
Whilst I wouldn’t expect our strongest side to play, there will be plenty of first-team experience lining up, I’m sure of that. Klopp is well known for playing players into form rather than giving them the cold shoulder, so he may well avoid wholesale changes and I would agree wholeheartedly.
Going strong is the only way we can beat them, it’s a game we all look towards with dread. It’s always a war of attrition at Old Trafford, and edging one of those out this time around wouldn’t just send us through, but it would also stand us in good stead for a nail-biting few months in the season.
TOMMY: Given the results and performances we’re seeing at the moment, it is vital we progress in the FA Cup, things always look much better at the end of the season with silverware, and with the title running away from us it’s a must we do well in the cups.
Picking a side for the upcoming game against Manchester United is made incredibly hard by the fact we face Spurs again midweek, however, given our current league position I’d rather see a strong starting XI in the cup.
It’s come at the worst time for us really but it’s a must-win game. I’d imagine Klopp already has an XI in mind consisting of the likes of Kelleher, Williams, Tsimikas and Minamino as rotation, unfortunately, will be necessary.
Although those plans could be ditched considering the opponents. Most importantly, I hope the team isn’t too weak as the game is so meaningful in our current situation.
JOANNA: A cup run to supplement the league and Champions League was something I’d hoped for at the start of the season, but I ought to have known the draw would not be in our favour.
Wholesale changes would have been afoot had another team been the opposition, but the fact that it is United ensures it cannot be viewed as simply as a cup tie and our form dictates that a response is needed.
That would suggest, as the guys have said, that a strong lineup is in order albeit with a degree of rotation such is the busy fixture list we find ourselves in the middle of.
As we are in a slump a balance needs to be struck as to not provide further blows to the team’s confidence, while also having the potential to act as the starting point to pick up the pieces.
A win would add another game to the schedule but it would also mean we have found the net, and I’ll take that.What starting XI would you want to see?
I think this is a perfect blend of first-team regulars and fringe players needing minutes.
Giving Fabinho a break at centre-back is a must as he is the more durable out of him and Matip, whilst Rhys Williams needs more experience against top-quality players if he’s needed later on in the season.
If Klopp is going to persist with Shaqiri as a deeper-lying midfielder, then more minutes against a good United side will be incredibly useful. Curtis Jones has been sidelined in recent weeks and this is a perfect opportunity to continue his development, and playing with Thiago can only be beneficial to him.
Salah and Mane are two that need to play their way out of a funk and there’s no better time to do it (please, we beg you!).
Minamino’s recent exclusion has been puzzling after an excellent performance at Crystal Palace, and with Firmino playing terribly, Minamino definitely deserves a chance in a big game like this.
TOMMY: I expect: Kelleher; Neco, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Jones, Milner; Salah, Mane, Minamino
Trent is massively out of form and likely to be rested and with him dropped we can’t risk both of the fullbacks not playing and Robbo has been arguably our best player this season, so he has to play at Old Trafford.
Hopefully, the skipper will be back, but if not Wijnaldum to operate in the No. 6 role and Jones will get up for this kind of game, while Milner offers experience and allows Thiago to be rested for Spurs.
And Firmino’s form is concerning and Minamino deserves a chance.
There will surely be a change in every department and I’ve thought along similar lines with Tommy that one of the regular full-backs will remain as the other switches out.
It’s a risk to play Matip and Spurs is the more important of the two games, but I wouldn’t feel entirely comfortable with Phillips and R. Williams starting together and Fabinho does need a rest.
James Milner can add the voice of leadership we missed against Burnley and it’s time for Curtis Jones to reemerge, and surely this is the time for Minamino to be given another shot – if not, you do start to wonder what is going on there.
Jurgen Klopp says nothing has changed regarding Liverpool’s transfer plans in January and he has full confidence that a change of fortunes can be earned with the current squad.
Hard work, better decisions and plenty of communication – that’s the boss’ plan to get the Reds through the recent rut which has seen the team fall from top spot and fail to score in four.
Injuries have hammered the Reds in the first half of the season, particularly in defence, but ahead of the FA Cup clash with Man United he has reiterated that he’s not expecting any additions in January.
Klopp said the players already at the club and available for action are the ones who count most for helping turning matters around and not signing anyone new is not the reason if results don’t improve.
“It would sound like an excuse and the last thing we are looking for is that,” he told reporters.
“We could have played better, made better decisions. That means we can change that and we believe 100 per cent we can change that with this squad.
“We don’t go and say ‘if we don’t get this and that we cannot perform’ or whatever.”
Klopp also doubled down on his assertion that the club is working together in harmony and he accepts that matters in the outside world have impacted on the ability to spend.
In addition, while a new defender might be entirely welcome, it wouldn’t magically solve all the problems – such as close to a 1 per cent shot conversion rate in the last five league games.
With a global pandemic still stopping fans going to games, and thus harming the club’s financial prospects, it’s time to face reality and get to work with the areas which can be affected by the coaches and players.
“I’m responsible for a big part of this football club but there are people responsible for the whole thing and I can’t make their decisions. I know they are with us and want to support us and they do.
“If we talk about a centre-half, yes it would help, 100%. Would we score more goals with a centre-half, I’m not sure. Would it give us more stability in other moments, probably yes. But it’s not about that.
“We have to improve the football in a decisive area with this squad, that’s my job. Not sitting here and being disappointed with some decisions. I’m not.
“We know what we would do in an ideal world but the world is not ideal and not only for us, so we have to deal with the situation and that’s what we do.”
The last time a Klopp team went four league games without a goal was back in his days with Mainz; this weekend it could be all-change for both teams in the cup, but Liverpool will surely go strong as they seek to end a winless run and simultaneously improve their silverware prospects.
And both those will have to be earned without new faces, from the looks of things.
Neco Williams has had a tough season so far with uneven form and few chances in the team, but the right-back has the right mentality to bounce back, if a recent interview is anything to go by.
The Wales international made waves last season when he broke through as an option to cover for Trent Alexander-Arnold in the cups.
Some stand-out performances saw him create a few goals, put in some thunderous challenges and be part of an exciting young batch of players to be handed their chance under Jurgen Klopp throughout 2019/20.
This term has been slower going, though he has still amassed 11 appearances in all competitions so far and netted a first goal at senior international level – not bad for a teenager.
A few less-than-impressive displays came in the league early on, though including an appearance against Brighton where he conceded a penalty and received some utterly repulsive messages on social media afterwards, leading the youngster to delete his accounts.
Williams doesn’t expect to escape criticism due to his age and understands entirely the demands of playing for a club like Liverpool, but as he rightly pointed out to the Independent in an interview, he shouldn’t have to suffer such deranged abuse either.
“I don’t think any 19-year-old should be getting stick like that,” he says. “I haven’t got the experience, it’s always going to be tough coming into one of the best teams in the world, I’m young and I’m learning and, of course, I’ll make mistakes.
“As a footballer, there’s nothing worse than having a bad game but the main thing is to learn from it and not dwell on it. You look at the mistake you’ve made and make sure to put it right. You can’t sit and sulk about it.”
Thankfully, there are plenty of big personalities at the club who know how to help the youngsters through difficult times.
Neco named two of the older heads who helped him get through that tough time – and explained just how hard it can be to come in from the cold for a sudden run of games, something which is perhaps overlooked by some fans at times.
“I had some of the experienced lads around me like Virgil and Hendo. They told me even the best players in the world get bad comments. They aren’t going to affect me. If they did, it’s only made me stronger and a better player.
“I learnt a lot from that run of games. It can be difficult if you’re not playing for a few weeks to jump straight in.
“My aim now is just to keep proving to the manager that I’m good enough and keep getting better. There’s nowhere better to do that than at Liverpool with the best players and the best manager in the world.”
With his last appearance coming in that same competition against Aston Villa’s youth side two weeks ago and Trent’s own form less-than-stellar of late, it would be a good time for the Welshman to again stake a claim and serve a reminder of the talent that supporters were so excited about this time last year.
Small children woke up on Friday morning having known, for the first time in their lives, what it was like for Liverpool to lose a home league game. Weird.Liverpool in the hunt to sign Declan Rice
Transfer news, is it?! An intriguing rumour, although an improbable one given reports over the past year.
90 Mins claim inside info from the England international’s family and close ties suggest that City, the Reds and United all want him in summer – as the Hammers will be forced to sell for a cut-price fee of £50m, having previously valued Rice at £80m.
That’s a huge discount, and of course it’s the ‘rona pandemic, no fans and all the rest of it which is supposedly forcing West Ham‘s hand.
Quite honestly, we have to go with Klopp’s assessment at this stage: forget the title, focus on the next game. The next goal, even.
But the matches keep coming anyway and two upcoming league clashes are pretty huge, whatever the ambitions which remain are.
After United in the Cup this weekend, we face Spurs, West Ham and Brighton, then Man City and Leicester – the latter two are second and third, so we’re playing catch-up and they will be must-win games, if we have any kind of form by then again.
The Reds play City in 16 days; the Foxes in 22 days, so the latter will be right on the verge of his comeback.The buck always stops with the boss
At any football club, whatever the objectives, when they’re not being met it’s always the manager who faces the questions…and has to come up with the answers. Good job we’ve got a great one, then, in Jurgen – time for him to work some magic.Quickfire LFC news
Frank Lampard no longer has the option of saying “I don’t read the headlines” after losing his head completely about some perceived negative articles about his team…who have won three of the last 10.
Lampard beefing Liam Twomey ? pic.twitter.com/Z8Avk82c4F
— Pys (@CFCPys) January 22, 2021Tweet of the day
You’ll Never Walk Alone is more important than ever right now. No good comes from feeling sorry for ourselves and excuses won’t help. It’s on us, all of us,to fight our way back.We’re at our strongest when we are one force- players & supporters, TOGETHER ?#UnityIsStrength #YNWA pic.twitter.com/IKWurvZSFL
— James Milner (@JamesMilner) January 22, 2021What we’re reading
If you’ve forgotten what scoring goals looks like, ‘Gladbach vs Dortmund should provide a reminder. BT Sport, Bundesliga, 7:30pm.
There was nothing to enjoy about Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat to Burnley, with another bad performance dissected, as well as working out how the Reds can overcome this slump.
This was supposed to be the night that the Premier League champions got back on track – instead, it was the most damaging outing of the season so far.
Liverpool were hopeless all evening at Anfield, playing aimless crosses into the box and failing to break down a stubborn Burnley side.
A draw would have been bad enough for Jurgen Klopp‘s men, but Ashley Barnes’ late penalty rubbed salt in the wounds, ending the Reds’ long unbeaten home run in the process.
Here, This Is Anfield’s Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) is joined by an equally miserable Marco Lopes (@FootyML) and Taintless Red (@TaintlessRed) to discuss a sobering night for anyone of a Liverpool persuasion.The bad…
MARCO: The match, unfortunately, was quite predictable in respect of how meek Liverpool’s attack performed. It was another negative night, despite the positive news of seeing Matip back in the lineup.
Take your pick of the worst of the bad.
Abject quality of chances created; crosses numerous enough to accompany church bells (playing straight into Burnley’s strengths); Origi’s awful finish after Burnley’s only real unforced error; trying the same things that aren’t working and trying different things that don’t work (Ox in the front-three).
Losing the unbeaten record. Losing the game. Losing ground on defending the title. Maybe even losing the title as well. The list goes on…
You can maybe have complaints over the penalty given to Barnes, or the penalty shout ignored on Mane, but that’s just being generous to Liverpool, who didn’t deserve much from this match.
RED: At some point Liverpool’s incredible unbeaten home league record would fall, and it eventually did after 68 games and 1369 days.
Our football up until the final third was not the problem, but in it, our ability to play good football dissipated. Constantly playing the ball wide to cross, often aimlessly, was a regular theme, as Marco states.
Not varying our mode of attack by using dribbles, one-twos, combination football on the edge of the box or runs into the area from midfield made us predictable.
Rarely has Trent used the ball so poorly from good positions or Mane fail to fashion good opportunities when inside the box. Decision-making and execution was a problem for most of the team and has been for a while.
Perhaps most worrying was how mentally tired the players looked. The composure in and around Burnley’s 18 yard box was lacking, which made it a bigger shame that Thiago, perhaps our best and most composed passer, was wasted so deep for most of the game battling in duels with Barnes and chasing Wood.
HENRY: What a hideous night. It was one of those games that you knew wasn’t going to end well from about the third minute – I looked at the scoreboard on 77 minutes and thought, “our unbeaten record could go here”.
For once, I got something right.
Barring Matip and Fabinho, who were quite good, there was nothing to admire about the performance, with this Liverpool side looking completely devoid of energy, creativity and confidence.
I agree with the lads about the endless hopeful crosses, which were causing me physical pain by the end, and Ox being used in attack was again a baffling decision.
In terms of individuals, Trent was the worst, as Reds highlighted. He is Liverpool’s Kevin De Bruyne in many ways – their creator supreme – but his end product was non-existent and his pass into touch in stoppage time summed it up.
The worst part of it all? That’s the end of Liverpool’s title hopes, in my opinion.The drought…
MARCO: Watching this and reflecting back, I felt like I was experiencing a series of flashbacks – goal droughts in the 2000s, the series of draws in 2008/09 and the malaise in attack in 2014/15.
In one respect, this isn’t a worse low. Liverpool fans with long enough memories have seen worse. In other respects, it’s quite unusual, simply because for two years, this club, this team and these fans are not used to this. They’re used to seeing the team bounce back.
And yet, even with Klopp’s commendable honesty after the match to take the blame, one can’t help but wonder if this has been an issue since the team returned from lockdown. Since then, there have been too many matches where cheap goals are conceded, even with Van Dijk and Gomez in the side before their injuries.
There has been an odd atmosphere of immodesty that seemed to peak in the side’s psychology, with recent examples in the draws against the likes of Fulham, West Brom and Newcastle.
The question is whether or not this is the team having regressed to the mean after two years of superb levels of performance, or if it’s a genuine dry patch to work through, eventually progressing back to their top level again.
RED: Let’s not pretend that the lack of goals vs. Burnley was just down to the rotations in the starting XI.
The players who didn’t play have been poor in numerous recent games as well. It’s a wider problem.
Strangely, Liverpool are still the league’s top scorers, and in Salah they have the league’s top scoring player, but we can’t buy a goal at the moment.
Firmino’s finishing has been a problem for a long time, but that it’s come at the same time as Salah and Mane both dipping in form has made it stick out like a sore thumb.
Jota’s goals are an obvious miss, but as big of an issue are the goals are not spread amongst the team – we have been overly reliant on the front-three for a long time.
None of the midfield score with any regularity and the unavailability of van Dijk and Matip significantly reduces our set piece threat – not only through the goals they score, but the space they create for others by drawing defenders.
HENRY: I can’t really add too much here, the lads have nailed it.
This drought just feels like a combination of many things coming together at the same time – injuries finally taking their toll, tiredness setting in, individuals playing badly in unison and this weird version of football not helping matters, with lifeless atmospheres to play in.
I’m not worried that this is the start of a decline, as Marco alludes to – I simply think it’s a horrible period and one that they will eventually come through.
At some point, Liverpool will click again, and once the injuries ease and football returns to normal, they will be as good as ever.
Perhaps I’m being too positive, but let’s not forget it’s only just over a month since the Reds won 7-0 and we all thought they were going to cruise to another league title.And how do Liverpool get back on track?
MARCO: Changes are clearly necessary.
I’d make the case that the game plan is broken and they need to fix (change) it, especially given that the cost of not doing so could be too high to accept. The team appears to want to get plan A to work better, but surely by this point it’s clear a new approach is needed.
Assuming signings aren’t made, the only options Liverpool have are to adjust their tactical options to address the situation. This could mean one, or all of, many things. Formation. Build-up tempo. Attitude and sense of urgency. Game plan.
Could a shift to a 4-2-3-1 formation make better use of the attacking talents at hand, or do a better job of maneuvering defences into more vulnerable positions?
Klopp may lament the decision-making in the final third, but it’s much harder to make the right decision when the whole team’s build-up play could be much faster.
They need to mix up the game plan, too. If creating through the full-backs isn’t working, try something else. And don’t pump crosses into the box when the opposition defenders outnumber you five to one.
The team have been humbled a little – perhaps that was necessary – and to persist with the same plan doesn’t appear likely to change the results. Other teams have grown and moved, Liverpool need to do the same.
RED: Liverpool have accumulated 7.76xG (from one model) since they last scored, which shows they’ve maybe been a bit unlucky, but when that’s spread over 87 shots it perhaps indicates there’s been a lot of low quality chances/shots.
When we are near the 18-yard box we have to show improved guile and creativity. This is partly why Klopp has tried Shaqiri as a No.8. Getting Keita fit would be a boost, but he’s rarely available.
A new centre-back is pivotal, but it looks like Liverpool will wait until the right player is available in the summer.
It’s time to get our best passer, Thiago, closer to the opposition box. Even if Fabinho is needed in defence, I would rather play Wijnaldum or Henderson as the No.6, allowing Thiago to be more advanced.
But systems and tactics will only work if the players can regain their confidence and refresh their minds. That will come down to our coaching team, training and how Klopp chooses to rotate them.
Some of the players who do look jaded, like Trent or Firmino, might need more than just the odd game out of the team whether to recharge their batteries or shake them into fighting for their place.
The situation may feel bleak now, but we still have an exceptional group of players with the best manager in the world and I’d back them to turn it around.
HENRY: A nice positive sentence to finish from Red there – works for me!
Again, both guys have nailed it, with lots of work to do on the training ground, Thiago needing to be used differently and a possible shift to a 4-2-3-1 required.
It’s a terrible run, but Liverpool will come out the other side of it, whether that be next week, in April or in August.
Refresh the minds, eventually get fans back (and the best centre-back of the last 20 years) and the Reds will be the best in the business again.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits player confidence is an issue as a seven-hour goal drought contributed to the 1-0 defeat by Burnley which ended an unbeaten home league run stretching back to April 2017.
Ashley Barnes’s 83rd-minute penalty was his 100th senior club career goal and he became the first Burnley player to score an away league goal since October 3.
For Liverpool, whose 68-match unbeaten run at home was brought to an end, their goal drought now stretches to seven hours and 18 minutes.
“Confidence is a small flower and obviously someone has stamped on it, and now at this moment we have to find a new one and we will. But for tonight it was not enough,” said Klopp.
“It’s not the luckiest period of our lives but it would be a bit cheap to put it only on that, that we don’t have enough luck.
“I think our problem is the decision-making at the moment and the decisions are based on the information I give and also the mood you are in and how confident you are to do it in really small spaces.
“That’s the reason we didn’t score in these moments. It is not cool to mention it but we won games with lesser possession but we didn’t win because we didn’t score in these situations.
“How is it possible we lose that game? But we lost it, we made even that happen. It is our fault and that means my fault.”
Defeat made it just three points from the last 15 and left Klopp’s defending champions six points behind arch-rivals and current leaders Manchester United.
“If I sit now here, losing against Burnley and didn’t score for the last four games and talk about the title race how silly that would be?” he added.
“It is still not rocket science but it still didn’t work out again tonight.
“That’s the job a manager and coach has to do. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last one.
“We need to score goals and that is what we have to do. We have to work harder but not talking like it is an easy situation.
“We have to get better and we have to become ourselves again in the decisive moments.
“In the last third in the last moment decision-making is not how it should be.
“Everyone will talk about it, which makes the problem not smaller but bigger.
“It shows how incredible and consistent the boys were and that is nothing anyone should have been taking for granted.”