One point gained. One point gained. Liverpool fans need to repeat that like a mantra for the 48 nervous hours that will follow a 1-1 draw with Leicester that raised all the uncomfortable questions that Jurgen Klopp’s side have been quashing over the opening two-thirds of the season. Those uncomfortable questions will need to be drowned out by ‘one point gained’ and the hope that they cannot possibly play so poorly again.
Liverpool had not played for so long that we had almost forgotten that January – as it has been more often than not for Klopp at Anfield – had been difficult. January had brought deserved defeat to Manchester City, a deserved and possibly welcome FA Cup exit, a scratchy 1-0 win at Brighton that was devoid of creativity and a throwback 4-3 win over Crystal Palace that suggested that this defence had not been entirely fixed. Nothing had been easy. Nothing had been a cruise. That they have emerged with seven points from 12 should be greeted with celebration and relief. They have endured a blip and are somehow still five points clear at the top of the Premier League. The only real question is whether they can leave that blip behind in January.
They will need to play better. They will need to play so much better. On Wednesday night they lacked drive, urgency and inspiration against an incredibly well organised Leicester side. The midfield looked stodgy, the defence looked panicky and – the quickfire opener aside – the front three looked off the pace. One of those problems is likely to be solved by the February returns of Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dejan Lovren, but there are no recovering heroes to boost a central midfield that looks no better for the £100m spent last summer. It remains Liverpool’s weak point. And nobody wants their weak point to be their heart.
The one time Naby Keita was dynamic, exchanging passes and bursting into the area alongside and even beyond the forwards, he should have had a penalty. Liverpool fans can comfort themselves with rage about a refereeing error, but the real question is why they were not testing Leicester more often with direct running and quick feet. To only conjure three shots on target in a home game is criminal. Those who place any credence in xG will not want to see the numbers that suggested Liverpool were very lucky indeed to emerge with a point.
“To break down a side like Leicester, you have to accelerate, to speed up in decisive areas. I don’t know why but we didn’t do that,” said Klopp, who can at least find comfort in the knowledge that they will not play another Leicester in February. West Ham and Bournemouth are not so defensively sound, while Bayern Munich and Manchester United will surely engage with them further up the pitch. Liverpool struggled but – thanks to City struggling in similar circumstances – they end the week in credit. And they end January five points clear of Manchester City.
Which is one point gained. Repeat after me…