Sunday 19 May 2019

John Aldridge: 'Unconvincing Liverpool don't look good enough to win the title'

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Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Fabinho (L) is embraced by Jurgen Klopp after drawing the Merseyside detby
Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Fabinho (L) is embraced by Jurgen Klopp after drawing the Merseyside detby

John Aldridge

Liverpool did not do enough to beat Everton at Goodison Park yesterday and if I’m being honest, they don’t look like they are good enough to win the Premier League title either.

Their performances in goalless draws against Manchester United and Everton on the last two Sundays have put the title back in Manchester City hands and I’d be surprised if they surrender their grip on it from here.

Liverpool have spurned one chance after the next to take control of the title race in recent weeks and if they had held firm and secured a 1-1 draw against City at the Etihad Stadium in January, this title race would look very different now.

They also failed to take advantage as they failed to beat Leicester, West Ham and then Manchester United last weekend, with the performance in the Merseyside derby another unconvincing display that was not good enough to get the win.

Sloppy is the word I would use to describe Liverpool’s display against a very average Everton side, with the cheers from the home fans at the final whistle evidence that their fans were delighted to throw a spanner to the title ambitions of Jurgen Klopp and his team.

You would think they had won the European Cup when you saw the reaction of some of their fans, but that sums up how far Everton have fallen in recent years.

They are a club stuck in a rut of mediocrity and were there for the taking, but Liverpool failed to take their chances.

Mohamed Salah was well below his best once again at Goodison Park, with Liverpool’s attacking unit misfiring once again and it may be that Klopp’s side now needs to win their final nine Premier League games to have any chance to win the title.

That is assuming City slip up somewhere and with a few injuries affecting them and fixture congestion a concern for their manager Pep Guardiola, they could open the door for Liverpool at some point in the next couple of months.

The trouble is, Liverpool have shown they are not good enough to capitalise on slip-ups from City and that is primarily because the attacking end of the team has lost its bite.

Virgil van Dijk was man of the match by a distance once again against Everton as he won everything in the air and was immaculate from start to finish, so Klopp has solved one area of his team that was a weakness this time last year.

Unfortunately, the dynamism we saw from Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino as they blew teams away in the Champions League knock-out stages in the opening months of 2018 has evaporated and that’s why Liverpool are now favourites to finish second in the Premier League.

I look at City’s win against Bournemouth on Saturday and they found a way to win 1-0 and they served up a similar performance against West Ham last Wednesday, with another single goal victory the mark of a team with title credentials.

No team will be at their best for a whole season and the side collecting the Premier League trophy every May tends to be the one that finds a way to win when they are not firing on all cylinders.

Liverpool have been below their best since they hammered Arsenal 5-1 at the back end of December, with the pressure of trying to end the club’s 29-year wait for a league title clearly weighing heavily on the shoulders of Klopp’s front three.

Well, they have to find a way to deal with that expectation because when you pull on a Liverpool shirt, the demand to deliver success is high and maybe Klopp needs to look at what has happened to a few of his star men and bring in some fresh talent to put them under pressure for their places.

An out-and-out goal scorer would give Liverpool a different focus in their forward line, but it feels as if they have become a little too predictable and opposition teams have worked out how to stop them.

This title race is not over, but it was easy to feel as if it was as the final whistle sounded and the Everton fans started their embarrassing celebrations yesterday.

The end result does not make for pleasant reading for Liverpool fans, with an unexpected slip-up now needed to give Klopp’s side hope of salvation.

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