Alisson is in a poor run of form, thwarting just 17 of the last 35 shots on target he has faced. Virgil van Dijk has made two errors directly leading to a goal in his past four Premier League games, more than he registered in his first 154 appearances.
The bad news for Liverpool is that their ‘transformers’ are erring. The good news for Liverpool is they can be confident their ‘transformers’ will return to type.
The champions of England conceded three goals to Leeds on the opening day of the season – a wondrously entertaining, overwhelming encounter – and the hosts were largely hurt by their own faults.
“The game was like it should have been, minus the three mistakes around the goals,” Jurgen Klopp analysed.
“Apart from that, it was exactly like it should be. We cannot just press them in their own box always because that’s where they play out, it’s impossible, other teams do it in a similar way, so we needed a compact formation.
“I didn’t really see us struggling defensively, it’s just the way they play, you cannot defend it 100 per cent all of the time.
“The goals we conceded, the first goal, both full-backs were deeper than the centre-halves and that should never happen in football, actually. But then you need the opponent to use this situation and they did.
“The second goal I think was a misunderstanding between Virgil and Ali. Things like this can happen – should not, but they can – and I don’t think we will see these situations very often when these two boys are not exactly clear what the other one is doing.
“The third one we changed Hendo [Jordan Henderson] not long before and our formation was moving and we didn’t close one gap. The back line played for England, Holland and Scotland four days ago – all top teams but different ways of defending.”
Klopp is accustomed to Liverpool being off shade at the start of a campaign. Last season, they allowed newly promoted Norwich 12 shots at Anfield in a 4-1 victory that wasn’t as comfortable as the scoreline suggests. In 2017-18, the Merseysiders drew 3-3 at Watford and the prior opening day saw them edge a 4-3 epic away to Arsenal.
The only completely assured performance from Liverpool in the first fixture of a new term under the German’s charge was a 4-0 home scorching of a supremely bad West Ham in August 2018.
Klopp knows they will find their stride and he has bristled at the suggestion that the rearguard woes spotted on Saturday evening speak to a wider defensive depreciation. Liverpool conceded 12 times in their final seven league games last season, but the title was wrapped up by then and the side were spent.
Context is key, which his counterpart in the dugout at Anfield highlighted post-match. Marcelo Bielsa was not moved by the breathless state of Leeds’ play, choosing instead to pin-point the flaws that could cost them in the top flight.
His men ultimately lost the game to an 88th-minute penalty, but they afforded Liverpool 22 shots while only having six despite enjoying more possession. Their lack of nous at defensive set-pieces was alarming. Leeds scored with all three of their shots on target, with Bielsa admitting: “We were very efficient, but we didn’t create enough goalscoring opportunities. We also cannot ignore we conceded four goals.”
Leeds were offensively aggressive and relentless at Anfield, but they were also too frenzied at times which promoted carelessness rather than control. The needless lunge by Rodrigo on Fabinho in the area seemed to be a product of their hyper football.
Leeds have weak spots, but they are brave, dangerous and will be a daunting prospect for most teams in the division.
Bielsa will worry about their frailties, especially at defending set-pieces, but opponents will be apprehensive of his team’s ability to bloody noses before they’ve had a chance to breathe.
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