Liverpool: Klopp says 'everything will be fine' with Sadio Mane
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Liverpool were sloppy, to say the least, as they beat West Brom 2-1 on Sunday, with Alisson Becker scoring the header in an incredible piece of drama in the 95th minute of a game that will be grim viewing for Jurgen Klopp ahead of the final two games of the season. Liverpool were without Diogo Jota for the match, and his presence will be sorely felt for the rest of the campaign.
Liverpool put in a stop-start performance at the Hawthorns on Sunday.
Klopp started the game with Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams starting at centre-back, with Fabinho playing in a midfield trio alongside Thiago Alcantara and Curtis Jones.
And it was a defensive mix-up that led to West Brom scoring the opener, as Williams was dragged out of position allowing Hal Robson-Kanu to stroll through unmarked and slot past Alisson.
Despite going behind, Liverpool continued to struggle to create anything going forward.
Thiago made some brilliant passes, as did Trent Alexander-Arnold, but there was no creative movement from the front three to justify the effort coming from behind them.
Too often the front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah were stationary on the edge of the area as they waited for something to happen.
As it has been on so many occasions this season, Liverpool failed to drum up any rhythm or momentum when with the ball, with Alexander-Arnold and Thiago actually linking up together on more than one occasion as they attempted to make something happen.
Liverpool got a goal back through Salah, who lashed a first-time shot past Sam Johnstone after a couple of strokes of luck went his way, allowing Mane to poke the ball towards him.
It should be noted that after going behind, West Brom sat players behind the ball in an attempt to stifle the game.
Thiago has faced a lot of criticism this season, and some have blamed him for the team’s poor performances, but he seemed to be at the heart of every Liverpool move on Sunday.
He was constantly picking up the ball in midfield and making something happen, looking to drive the ball forward.
What he didn’t have, however, was enough movement from in front of him.
It seemed Liverpool had no plan B, and were seriously missing Jota, as they were forced to rely on Alisson to score the first goal of his life with a 95th-minute header to win the match for the Reds.
That represents a big problem for Klopp, however as the Portuguese star will miss the remainder of the season with a foot injury.
The £45million man has been one of the brightest sparks of Liverpool’s season so far, despite suffering numerous injuries.
He’s scored nine goals in 18 Premier League games, but as much as anything he offers something different to the other three forwards in Liverpool’s ranks.
The inevitable break-up of Liverpool’s Premier League title-winning front three has often been discussed, but it now seems more obvious than ever that Jota will have to be a consistent starter next season whenever he’s available.
Even if not simply for his goals and assists, he breathes life into the Liverpool team and brings movement that the others don’t seem to have at the moment.
Liverpool’s damp performance can very easily be excused by the severe volume of games they’ve had to play this season, and it may well be the case that they come out of the blocks next season after a bit of a rest over the summer and look back to their best.
The likes of Jota, Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, Jordan Henderson and Joe Gomez returning will no doubt be a massive boost to the team as a whole, and it needs to be noted how unfortunate Liverpool have been with injuries.
Their performance against West Brom, however, proves there’s work to be done, while offering encouraging signs for the future.
If Klopp can bring the injured players back into the fold, keep running everything through Thiago and ensure Jota remains a starter, Liverpool will be back to their best.
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