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Big game blues

rurikbird

Part of the Furniture
Honorary Member
It has to be said - this Liverpool 2.0 team has a lot going for it, but it has not yet figured out how to play against top opponents and rise to big occasions. We can play breathtaking football against the Chelseas or Newcastles of this league - the mid-upper tier - but we become strangely anemic and don’t look anything like ourselves against teams who are as good and well-coached as us, which is why we haven’t won any of the “big” games this season - City, Arsenal in the league and United (you can add De Zerbi’s Brighton early in the season to that pattern when they looked like the tactical set-up everyone measured themselves against).

Another pattern, some of our best players and arguably Klopp himself make inexplicable decisions and mistakes in those big games. Alisson had only 2 games this season where his mistakes cost us - but those 2 bad games came against Man City and Arsenal away. Klopp’s subs made us weaker in both games against Arsenal and overall his tactics seemed muddled - how is it possible not to play Nunez and Trent together; subbing one off when the other comes on? Why were the lessons from the Cup game against Arsenal not learned and we once again didn’t have outlets on the wings to ping balls to and run at Arsenal’s inferior full-backs instead of Saliba-Gabriel?

But even more than any individual decisions, it’s the overall way the team plays in those big games - the freedom and energy is gone, we’re trying to play with brain not instinct, overthinking and second-guessing - and that’s where the mistakes come from. And that perhaps is also the clue as to why the big game blues are happening - this team is still too raw and young and can’t process the amount of tactical information you need to play against Guardiola or Arteta and in trying to follow directions they lose the freedom and creativity that got them to this position in the first place. We’re a different team against big teams - and at the moment not a particularly good one.
 
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I agree with a lot of what you're saying but I think that the result would have been different if Jota was playing against Man U and Arsenal at home.
We had a lot of chances.
 
It has to be said - this Liverpool 2.0 team has a lot going for it, but it has not yet figured out how to play against top opponents and rise to big occasions. We can play breathtaking football against the Chelseas or Newcastles of this league - the mid-upper tier - but we become strangely anemic and don’t look anything like ourselves against teams who are as good and well-coached as us, which is why we haven’t won any of the “big” games this season - City, Arsenal in the league and United (you can add De Zerbi’s Brighton early in the season to that pattern when they looked like the tactical set-up everyone measured themselves against).

Another pattern, some of our best players and arguably Klopp himself make inexplicable decisions and mistakes in those big games. Alisson had only 2 games this season where his mistakes cost us - but those 2 bad games came against Man City and Arsenal away. Klopp’s subs made us weaker in both games against Arsenal and overall his tactics seemed muddled - how is it possible not to play Nunez and Trent together; subbing one off when the other comes on? Why were the lessons from the Cup game against Arsenal not learned and we once again didn’t have outlets on the wings to ping balls to and run at Arsenal’s inferior full-backs instead of Saliba-Gabriel?

But even more than any individual decisions, it’s the overall way the team plays in those big games - the freedom and energy is gone, we’re trying to play with brain not instinct, overthinking and second-guessing - and that’s where the mistakes come from. And that’s perhaps the clue as to why the big game blues are happening - this team is still too raw and young and can’t process the amount of tactical information you need to play against Guardiola or Arteta and in trying to follow directions they lose the freedom and creativity that got them to this position in the first place. We’re a different team against big teams - and at the moment not a particularly good one.


I’m guilty of this too, but I think you’re overthinking it.

Our record at home against all teams is good - we’re not going to dominate good teams, particularly away from home and we are still coming together as a team.

Guardiola & Arteta are control freaks - Klopp isn’t, his teams are all about chaos - that doesn’t always work against top teams.
 
How many games were we robbed this season? Yeah, this Arse game we got our Arses handed to us, and if City win their games in hand they're in the pole position.
We missed Brad and Dom, the good news is losses give the team a reality check and focus, so their could be a silver lining to all this...
We should have Brad back, going by past losses suffered by footballers, they like to continue playing football as a way to honour their loved one. I remember Titi playing on after hearing the death of his father. As someone said Endo and Dom should be back for selection alongside Salah (someone can confirm that)
 
Beat Arsenal in the cup. Beat Villa. Thrashed Chelsea & Newcastle. Robbed at home v Arsenal. Spurs game isn't worth bringing up again. You can't include Brighton in that list and then say Chelsea/Newcastle are "mid upper tier".

Our away form has a bit of a drop off, which is entirely natural and goes for the rest of the teams anywhere in Europe.

I wonder if City fans are thinking to themselves why they haven't been able to beat us at home, or Arsenal away, or Villa away, or Chelsea away or Spurs at home.
 
I think there’s fair - non knee-jerk - point in there..we just don’t ‘look’ the same or play with anywhere near the same freedom right now when we’re against Arsenal or City….and then the self-imposed constraints seem to invite an anxiety around the team that leads to uncharacteristic errors.

Still, we have City at home as the big title-momentum emblem, with the expanded Anfield roar behind them. I’m hoping Klopp let’s us loose to really go at them unconstrained.
 
Guardiola & Arteta are control freaks - Klopp isn’t, his teams are all about chaos - that doesn’t always work against top teams.
That’s kind the issue I’m talking about - against Arteta, Pep and De Zerbi Klopp is almost trying to beat them at their game, 2 controlling teams cancelling each other out - but then we’re inevitably the first one to make a mistake because that kind of lifeless boring game is not what we’re about.

Liverpool 1.0 was able to beat Pep’s teams because we made them uncomfortable and forced them into a world of chaos. We did a bit of that in the 2nd half of the Arsenal cup game, but went away from this on Sunday.
 
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That’s kind the issue I’m talking about - against Arteta, Pep and De Zerbi Klopp is almost trying to beat them at their game, 2 controlling teams cancelling each other out - but then we’re inevitably the first one to make a mistake because that kind of lifeless boring game is not what we’re about.

Liverpool 1.0 was able to beat Pep’s teams because we made them play more like us - with a degree of chaos. We did a bit of that in the 2nd half of the Arsenal cup game, but went away from this on Sunday.

Yes, but as those teams develop it becomes harder to make them play like we want.

Anyway, it was higher stakes for Arsenal - they were done had they lost that game.
 
Liverpool 1.0 -;

17/18 season; we lost 5-0 at City, lost 4-1 at Spurs, lost 2-1 at Utd and lost 1-0 at Chelsea
18/19 season; we drew 1-1 at Chelsea, drew 0-0 to City at Anfield, lost 2-1 at City, drew 1-1 at Arsenal, drew 0-0 at Utd
19/20 season; we drew 1-1 at Utd, lost 4-0 at City, lost 2-1 at Arsenal, (also lost 2-0 to Chelsea in the FA cup)
20/21 season; we lost 4-1 to City at Anfield, lost 1-0 at Anfield to Chelsea, (lost 3-2 to Utd in FA cup and lost on pens to Arsenal in EFL cup)
21/22 season; we drew 1-1 to Chelsea at Anfield, drew 2-2 to City at Anfield, drew 2-2 at Spurs, drew 2-2 at Chelsea, drew 1-1 to Spurs at Anfield, drew 2-2 at City. (We also needed pens to beat Chelsea twice in the cup finals)


This season isn't anything new with the results we've had against the big boys. People have really really bad memories, all you need is to look back it's all recorded and documented.

Last season? We lost at Utd. We lost at Arsenal. We lost at City. Drew with Arsenal and Chelsea at home.
 
Nunez is our chaos generator and moving him to the wing (and Diaz to the opposite wing) was what turned the cup game against Arsenal around - and yet he was dropped for this game (Klopp said for tactical reasons) and when he came on, it was through the middle where he barely touched the ball. Why?

I understand that Klopp’s hands were tied with unexpected absences at the wrong time (not having Szoboszlai and Bradley really hurt us) and other players not being fully match-fit, but I didn’t even see an attempt to force Arsenal to play how we want. We were trying to out-control them and that was never going to work.
 
To be fair there arent many other top teams winning away at a top 6 club either when you look at the results.
 
To be fair there arent many other top teams winning away at a top 6 club either when you look at the results.
Other than the FA Cup win over Arsenal that I’m referencing, when was the last time we beat a “big” team home or away?
 
Klopp's first team was able to either blitz teams early with insane pressing and build an early lead that was often insurmountable or grind teams down with relentless patterns of play. The athletic midfield was able to shut the game down, allowing us to maintain a high even against the very best. If the center of the field was locked down then we were able to go from side to side, stretching the pitch, and eventually Trent or Roberson were going to get something decent into the box and we'd snatch it. Two options to win the game against any standard of opposition that can be implemented against anyone and be effective.

We're not quite there with this team. The patterns of play are not as consistent, there's too often a misplaced touch or control, and the opposition can relieve the pressure, and quality teams will go one further and take their chances on the counter. We still do not play with enough width to allow us to stretch play and pin teams back effectively.

There are some mitigating factors, though. Chelsea away is a historically shit fixture for us, it was the first game of the season, with a brand new midfield and squad. We've put that right in the return leg. Training and planning to Arsenal away were disrupted and we were missing Salah, Szobolai, Bradley, Trent, and Roberson returning to form. If Arsenal are on it and playing well then we need our strongest eleven to be fit and playing well to beat them. You also need your leaders to step up and not have a brain fart that ruins any momentum we had started to build up. Any point at the Etihad is a welcome one.

There's work for Klopp to do on imposing his game, with this squad, against the better managers in the league.

For me, there are two things he has to do;

A lot of this has to do with addressing the Trent dilemma. Either stick him in midfield and let Bradley cook at RB (giving us the width needed), or drop the hybrid system and tell Trent and Roberson to bomb on down the flanks as they used to. We've got enough progressive passers in Mac Allister, Szobolahi (and now Thiago) to not need Trent taking the ball of the CBs and drifting inside.

To revert to a box midfield against the best teams but keep Trent out of it.

In the first phase of play

----Nunez-----------Szobosai
------Jones-----Macallister

It just helps us evade the press from the better teams and Nunez has the pace to lay a ball off and get straight back up the pitch. It needed Klopp's HT tweaks to get us into the game, but it should have been like that from the outset. I knew Arsenal would blitz us first half and we had no plan to counter it.

Another relevant tidpit is Nunez has not started in all four of our defeats.
 
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That’s kind the issue I’m talking about - against Arteta, Pep and De Zerbi Klopp is almost trying to beat them at their game, 2 controlling teams cancelling each other out - but then we’re inevitably the first one to make a mistake because that kind of lifeless boring game is not what we’re about.

Liverpool 1.0 was able to beat Pep’s teams because we made them uncomfortable and forced them into a world of chaos. We did a bit of that in the 2nd half of the Arsenal cup game, but went away from this on Sunday.

At peak Liverpool 1.0 we were winning at least 50% of our clashes against the traditional Big 6 sides and averaged ~2 pts per game.

*worth nothing that in season 19/20, those 2 defeats were vs. Man City in game no. 32 - we won the league the week before that) and game no. 36 vs. Arsenal)

7ARiuE3.jpeg
 
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Other than the FA Cup win over Arsenal that I’m referencing, when was the last time we beat a “big” team home or away?

Depends on who we consider the top 6 to be though. If its the traditional teams like Chelsea or the top 6 from last season with Newcastle or this season with Villa.
 
Depends on who we consider the top 6 to be though. If its the traditional teams like Chelsea or the top 6 from last season with Newcastle or this season with Villa.

I don’t mean top 6, I mean really “top” teams - title contenders.
 
I don’t mean top 6, I mean really “top” teams - title contenders.

In that case I’d say that you almost never win away from home, but have to win your home games.
We beat City at home at the start of last season. That was the last time.
 
In that case I’d say that you almost never win away from home, but have to win your home games.
We beat City at home at the start of last season. That was the last time.

That’s right, forgot about that one. October 16, 2022. Salah scored the winner.

As you can see from @King Binny’s stats above though, even with the occasional win like that, it’s a far cry from early Klopp Liverpool when we were an absolute menace to top teams (while not always having the consistency against the rest). It feels like in the last 5 years, with CL included, there have been lots of draws against top teams, but very few wins. Which is why that FA Cup win away at Arsenal felt like a potential watershed moment - it looked like we found a new winning formula, but then we didn’t sustain it.
 
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This may be an over-simplification (though I don't think it is) but this team lacks killers up front, particularly without Salah.

It's all well and good running around like crazy for 15mins but if you can't punish the opposition, the momentum is inevitably going to shift. In the past, the opposition would find themselves 2 or 3 goals down after the initial "blitz" and it's much harder to recover from that.

It's being discussed across several threads but Diaz is a good 7/10 type supporting cast player, Gakpo is okay but a bit of a non-entity, Nunez is a meme player and Salah has had to change his game up.

At the top it comes down to fine margins.
 
This may be an over-simplification (though I don't think it is) but this team lacks killers up front, particularly without Salah.

It's all well and good running around like crazy for 15mins but if you can't punish the opposition, the momentum is inevitably going to shift. In the past, the opposition would find themselves 2 or 3 goals down after the initial "blitz" and it's much harder to recover from that.

It's being discussed across several threads but Diaz is a good 7/10 type supporting cast player, Gakpo is okay but a bit of a non-entity, Nunez is a meme player and Salah has had to change his game up.

At the top it comes down to fine margins.
On a positive note, we have a lot more “killers” in midfield now - it counts for just as much if Szoboszlai or Jones or Trent score the decisive goal. When everyone is fit an available, there should be a winning formula there even with the concerns you mention.
 
This may be an over-simplification (though I don't think it is) but this team lacks killers up front, particularly without Salah.

It's all well and good running around like crazy for 15mins but if you can't punish the opposition, the momentum is inevitably going to shift. In the past, the opposition would find themselves 2 or 3 goals down after the initial "blitz" and it's much harder to recover from that.

It's being discussed across several threads but Diaz is a good 7/10 type supporting cast player, Gakpo is okay but a bit of a non-entity, Nunez is a meme player and Salah has had to change his game up.

At the top it comes down to fine margins.

Yes. We are starting slow in every game, even slower in big games. We are no longer brace, which is what our teams used to have in abundance.
 
Since 2022, We rarely beat the top teams (is my anecdotal memory). We become really careful. This year we have to beat city @ home to win the league
 
At peak Liverpool 1.0 we were winning at least 50% of our clashes against the traditional Big 6 sides and averaged ~2 pts per game.

*worth nothing that in season 19/20, those 2 defeats were vs. Man City in game no. 32 - we won the league the week before that) and game no. 36 vs. Arsenal)

7ARiuE3.jpeg

Detailed results (16/17 was Klopp's 1st full season in charge - and only competing in domestic league and cup competitions, following season we were back in CL) below:

The period between 18/19 to 19/20 (up till the stage where title was already won) :cool: P17 W11 D5 L1 GF 31 GA 11 GD 20

l2luuGV.jpeg
 
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If Bradley and Nunez had started though we would have beaten Arsenal 3 or 4, so I'm not that concerned. We'll get it right.
 
I love Klopp but he can be stubborn. Endo as our only true defensive midfielder?

Overall I think we are a better team then arsenal but when it comes to balance the are better than us.

Yes you can bring up stats about how Mac, Jones and slobo have played well as defensive midfielders this season. But in reality there are some games I've watched where we are crying out for the stability that a true top clasd defensive can provide.

Endo played well before he left, but it's criminal that we are having to rely on Mac, Jones and slobo etc to fill in.

Even the fact that we're relying on endo is a bit silly considering the club of our size.

I'll miss Klopp when he goes, but the only thing I can look forward to is a Manager that realizes it's okay to have a quality defensive midfielder or 2 in the squad.
 
I completely agree with Rurik. We're not at it v City or Arsenal.

I'm 100% sure it's a mentality thing, and that comes from experience but also from the top.

We've completely bullied teams for 90mins recently. Moreso with the wide full back. Physically better, technically better, tactically better.

Against City and Arsenal all of a sudden our press has gone to shite. When we have the ball it's often static at the back.

Even for the weaker teams, the best way to get a result against them (City, arse) is to go for it. So why do we start to try and play like them (City arse) with slower more intricate build ups?

When we had liverpool 1.0 we blew them away. That came from the top. We can do it again, but that attitude and technical set up needs to come from Klopp.
 
I think missing our best right side against or Arse was a massive issue, whether that's Trent or Bradely not sure but definitely includes Szbo and Salah. If he had been fit then he would have been in all day long. Just look at his big game scoring record, second to none in our lot.
 
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