Leicester City 3, Liverpool 1
By Umarah Naz.
If there was any doubt that Claudio Ranieri’s brutal dismissal was orchestrated by the players then Leicester’s 3-1 drubbing of Liverpool put that to rest.
It seems the Italian’s departure was enough to spark life back into a dire Leicester side that hadn’t scored a goal in 540 minutes of football, yet stuck three past a Liverpool side still on holiday in La Manga.
But as good as Leicester were, the Reds were shockingly abysmal. Much had been made of Jurgen Klopp taking full advantage of a belated “winter break”, something that no other close rival had the benefit of.
A sixteen day lay-off was supposed to have given him ample time to train his players and recuperate after a physically and mentally draining January. And with the impressive win over Tottenham before the break, it appeared Liverpool were finally turning a corner.
Maximum points were a must for champions league qualification on Monday night but a convincing Leicester win has thrown that into serious doubt.
From the first minute, the champions were on the front foot pressing the ball and hunting in packs. Liverpool barely got going until ten minutes in and even then only in spurts.
What Ranieri had been denied, Craig Shakespeare received in abundance. Commitment. The Foxes looked hungry and energetic which was enhanced by a totally out of sync and disjointed Liverpool team. To add insult to injury, Lucas at centre-back had no chance once Jamie Vardy was in the mood to run.
No one can be sure that Ragnar Klavan would’ve have been any better in that role, but leaving a natural centre-back on the bench in favour of a makeshift one is a decision that has every right to be questioned.
Liverpool were also without captain, Jordan Henderson, who was ruled out with a foot injury. The fan-base are forever divided as to what positive impact he has on the team, but when he doesn’t play the midfield seems to suffer.
Emre Can deputised on Monday night and did a decent job whilst everything around him fell apart. Vardy’s first goal came courtesy of a loose pass by Georginio Wijnaldum which fell to apparent mutineer, Mark Albrighton. He wasted no time with an inch perfect pass to the striker, which the latter dispatched with consummate ease. Only Vardy’s sixth goal of the season.
If the first goal could be dissected to see who was culpable, then the second certainly couldn’t. After a few clearances by Liverpool, Danny Drinkwater struck they ball first time and scored a wonder goal that Mignolet could do absolutely nothing about. It was slightly reminiscent of Phil Jagielka’s last minute equaliser a few seasons ago. One he’ll never score again.
Two goals down, and Klopp had to do something to avoid a rout.
His answer was to convert to a three-man defence consisting of Can, Joel Matip and Lucas with both full-backs further forward. But if the Reds were hoping for a comeback with the change in formation, Vardy ended those hopes with a coolly headed goal in the sixtieth minute from a Christian Fuchs cross.
Eight minutes later, Phillipe Coutinho provided Liverpool with a well taken consolation goal. This gave the team a slight injection of energy and they came close to a second, which would have set up an interesting last few moments, but it never came.
Leicester City, as it was, humbled Liverpool who failed in every area of the park. Only Mignolet could walk away with any semblance of satisfaction (if one can be after such damaging defeat) despite having conceded three goals, which ultimately speaks volumes.
Liverpool now return home to nurse their wounds, both emotional and physical, before preparing to face Arsenal at Anfield in five days time. And if all goes to form, it’s a game that they will probably win.
Jurgen Klopp has said in the past that Liverpool must concentrate first and foremost on their football as this will win them games. But, surely, the oppositions strengths must be taken into account too.
If a tactical tweak is required to win certain games then isn’t that what should be done?
Liverpool have yet again been undone by the curse of the bottom-half teams, and the answer doesn’t seem to be anywhere near. It hasn’t been found in countless training hours at Melwood, and it most certainly wasn’t discovered in the warm weather at La Manga.
Herr Klopp will have to gather his thoughts and rethink his plans. Whether that is the short term plan of employing different tactics for results now, or a long term one of personnel change in the summer remains to be seen.
One would like to think it will be a combination of the two, but whether one can be done without the other is a different question altogether. Until then Liverpool must keep searching for answers a game at a time.