Early loser: Klopp, needing Liverpool to ‘calm down’…

Will Ford
Klopp Liverpool

“You all have to calm down… it’s winding up people,” Jurgen Klopp said before kick-off, expecting the people who care so much about the game that’s his life to stop protesting against those who tried to take it away from us and him. A frenzied Liverpool display to drop points in the race for Champions League football suggests his words should have been directed at his team, rather than us.

Mohamed Salah will undoubtedly be the topic of conversation as Matt Ritchie lies on Lee Charnley’s chaise lounge this afternoon. The Newcastle left-back was made to look rather silly by the Egyptian’s sublime half-volley touch over his shoulder before he battered the ball past Martin Dubravka. Ritchie was left sat on the floor having tried to block the shot, arms outstretched: what the f*** was I supposed to do?

Don’t look at us, Matt. There’s very little you can do to stop Salah at his most Salah: strength; poise; touch; finish. It was wonderful. That’s now 20 Premier League goals from 29 starts this season.

He should have got his 21st and 22nd at Anfield on Saturday. Played through smartly by Roberto Firmino, he failed to get quite enough elevation on a dink to beat Dubravka and he dragged another shot tamely wide in the second half when well placed. He has missed chances this season – too many – and a ‘Goals minus Expected Goals’ score of +2.3, while nowhere near as good as the +9.7 he managed in his debut campaign, is much improved on last season (-0.4).

He needs some support. Diogo Jota stumbled through 60 minutes before being mercifully substiuted by Jurgen Klopp, Sadio Mane has lost all composure in front of goal and Firmino has scored once this year and is currently playing as though that will be his last. The finishing was so erratic throughout. They’ve now had 146 shots at Anfield since the turn of the year and have scored four goals.

Newcastle allowed Thiago Alcantara to stroll around Anfield under no pressure and the Spaniard duly picked passes through the lines at will – he was permitted to be excellent and he was excellent. There was little more he, Andrew Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and the rest of Klopp’s team could have done to create chances. And while one goal could be enough, they absolutely cannot rely on that being the case given the frantic nature of their defending.

Salah Alexander-Arnold Liverpool

It’s a difficult conundrum for Jurgen Klopp, who played a very attacking team in an attempt to convert more of the numerous chances they’re creating, but that inevitably leaves the jittery defence susceptible to further jitters. The high line was a bizarre zigzag, allowing Newcastle players to run through with little fear of offside throughout the game and a midfield duo of Thiago and Gini Wijnaldum was destined to struggle against Allan Saint-Maximin, and did.

That high line got deeper and deeper as the missed chances seemed to play on the Liverpool players’ minds, adding to the nerves; in the end, they got what they deserved.

Newcastle thought they had equalised in the 92nd minute as Callum Wilson powered through the Liverpool defence, but VAR showed his initial shot that was saved by Alisson had rebounded off the Newcastle striker’s arm and into the net. Unlucky, horrible, but handball.

But the manic celebrations were put on hold rather than denied entirely. Seemingly waiting for the last Newcastle chance, Andrew Robertson played Dwight Gayle onside, who nodded the deep ball forward into the path of Joe Willock to fire past Alisson. The Arsenal loanee has turned two losses into draws and a draw into a win in his last three appearances, totalling 46 minutes. Start him and sign him up.

Klopp admitted after the game that if Liverpool qualify for the Champions League they will do so on merit (ahh, the irony), but this performance did nothing to suggest they will deserve it come the end of the season. They really need to “calm down”.