Jurgen Klopp went full Rafa Benitez: Five things learned from Liverpool 2-2 Sevilla
The Reds dominated the match to an incredible degree, creating 17 chances to Sevilla’s 4 and having 24 shots to their opponent’s 7. They even missed a penalty as Roberto Firmino rapped it off the post. Thus they failed to get the opening day victory they so desperately craved, becoming the only English team to not get a win on matchday one. But what did we learn?
1. Alberto Moreno is not who you thought he was
Pretty much ever since he joined Liverpool, Alberto Moreno has been a disaster. The Spaniard is an energetic presence, a wonderful bundle of hope and good intentions. And he was definitely an injection of attacking quality down Liverpool’s left, but unfortunately he was also a terrible defender.
Like, Moreno was such an abysmal defender that whenever he started people would just automatically assume that the Reds would concede a goal. When he started in the 2016 Europa League final (the last match between these two sides) he was at fault for two of the three goals that Liverpool conceded and was thus chiefly to blame for the Reds defeat.
He was so bad that for 2016/17, Jurgen Klopp actually played James Milner, an old midfield workhorse, to play out of position at left-back. But this season, Alberto Moreno has turned over a new leaf. Hard as it may be to believe, he’s actually becoming a good defender.
Alright, he’s not exactly Paolo Maldini (if he were he’d have performed a miracle to stop Wissam Ben Yedder’s goal) but tonight against Sevilla, Moreno was an absolute dynamo up and down the left side of Liverpool’s attack. The Spaniard bombed forward, tracked back, and was a constant release valve.
His rapid one-two with Jordan Henderson, cutting Sevilla wide open, was matched only by his wonderfully weighted first-time cross for Roberto Firmino to equalise. And he didn’t stop there, either. Creating three chances across the game, winning 17% of his tackles and 75% of his aerial duels, 3 interceptions, 9 clearances and 6 blocks. A brilliant display from a changed man.
2. But Dejan Lovren absolutely is
Dejan Lovren… why? The Croatian defender is known for being a weak link (that Jurgen Klopp wanted to upgrade on with Virgil Van Dijk – only for Liverpool to botch the transfer from Southampton) but you never think he’ll actually outright give up a goal for his side in a manner so blatant you’d swear he did it on purpose only you would never want to assume a player be so corrupt.
When Sevilla advanced down the left with just four minutes on the clock, and Sergio Escudero was released into space, he whipped a nice low cross into the box. The intent was good but the ball was heading straight into the path of Lovren. Oh well.
In the Liverpool goal, Loris Karius relaxed. In his head, in their head he was perhaps getting ready to marshal his players upfield to deal with Sevilla collecting Lovren’s clearance. Alberto Moreno and Emre Can were either side of Wissam Ben Yedder but both of them relaxed. Lovren had this, right? No worries.
Except Lovren didn’t have it. He airkicked a clearance and the ball rolled under him, allowing Ben Yedder to tap Sevilla into the lead. It was a diabolical bit of play, and sadly typical of Lovren in a Liverpool shirt. If the Reds are serious about making a challenge, they need to fix this issue soon. Better teams than Sevilla will expose Lovren’s uselessness and then not surrender the lead as Sevilla did.
3. Sparkless Sevilla can still shine
It’s easy to point to this Sevilla side, shorn of their star striker Kevin Gameiro (and last season’s star midfielder Samir Nasri), and state that of course they’re worse than they were. How could they not be? But the thing is, Sevilla have never had world-class players.
In the past they have always punched so ridiculously above their weight, establishing themselves as a European powerhouse on a fraction of the budget as the other dominant sides on the continent. They were never going to match Liverpool on paper.
But sure, they are worse. Tonight there was no magic, no zip to their play. Edgardo Berizzo is a fine coach (his petulant red card nonwithstanding) but he seems to have sucked out the life Jorge Sampaoli and Unai Emery breathed into this side for the last four years.
Sevilla had just 7 shots and weren’t really a creative force at all (only 3 of the shots were genuine attempts). Yet they still scored twice, and while the first was heavily reliant on Liverpool’s defensive ridiculum, the second was a beautiful bit of work and showed the kind of magic we’re used to seeing. Joaquin Correa’s touch was slick as a barrel of crude and his finish was crisp.
4. Klopp goes Full Benitez
At the weekend during the defeat to Manchester City, Liverpool were 2-0 down at half-time and in desperate need of a goal to get back into the game. Their best player in the first half had been Mohamed Salah, who had Nicolas Otamendi on toast all game long; yet he was removed for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Now sure that allowed everyone to make jokes at Ox’s expense, but it was mad.
But sure, he was just resting Salah for the game against Sevilla, right? Except against Sevilla, when the visitors had pulled it back to 2-2 and Liverpool were desperately chasing a winning goal that they so badly needed (and so richly deserved). Sadio Mané had been great, and although he looked tired he was still, you know, Sadio Mané.
Still, he was subbed off. But alright Daniel Sturridge came on, Sturridge can score goals. Then later on, Mohamed Salah, comfortably Liverpool’s best player on the night, was taken off for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain again. What on earth was Klopp doing? Taking off his best attacking players when his side needed them most.
This was comically reminiscent of when Rafa Benitez used to sub off his best attackers when chasing a game because of fatigue or some other such nonsense. That ultimately cost Benitez a chance to win the Premier League in 2008/09, and it cost Klopp here tonight. One would have never expected the ultra-modern and exciting Klopp to mirror the dour Benitez, but here we are.
5. All is forgiven with Coutinho
When Liverpool needed a goal, their first substitute was Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian was included in a matchday squad for the first time this season after his attempts to force a move through to Barcelona. Liverpool refused to sell, but there were some who speculated that Coutinho’s attitude may have sparked some discontent among Reds fans.
Yet the Anfield faithful rose to their feet to applaud Coutinho onto the pitch, greeting him like a returning hero. In his brief cameo, he completed 6/8 passes, won 0/2 take-ons and even created a chance for Georginio Wijnaldum from a corner. He’s going to need some time to get fully up to speed, but it’s clear that the Liverpool fan’s love for their Brazilian no. 10 has not been diminished.