Football Features

“The colossus is crumbling” – Five things learned as Alisson error sees lethal Leicester leave Liverpool behind in the Premier League table

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 14:59, 13 February 2021

In a stunning afternoon of football, Leicester came from behind to destroy Liverpool 3-1 at the King Power Stadium.

The Reds dominated the game and took the lead but the Foxes fought back, relying on some forgiving VAR and an incredible blunder from the opposition goalkeeper to leapfrog Liverpool into third. What did we learn?

1. The colossus is crumbling

For the vast majority of his career as Liverpool goalkeeper, Alisson has seemed immortal. Invincible. A colossus. And yet in the last two games he has made colossal blunders that have literally cost Liverpool results (draws or wins? Who knows, but definitely a result).

Today his error, needlessly rushing out clear a long ball only to shank it straight into Jamie Vardy’s path (and allow the striker to end his traditional post-Christmas goal drought) was illustrative of why his form has fallen off.

We tend to think of the defensive injuries for the Reds as a problem for defenders only, but imagine being Alisson and seeing the players in front of you be positionally all over the place and completely lacking the kind of discipline you are used to when Virgil van Dijk was running the show back there. It would create a sense of panic in you as you doubt things you previously did off pure muscle memory.

Obviously Alisson didn’t trust Ozan Kabak to clear the long-ball, hence rushing out to do it himself. But Kabak didn’t move out his way (another communication blunder?) and all that led to a sloppy touch and the goal. The colossus is crumbling.

It was all so avoidable, and you get the impression what Alisson needs more than anything is to play behind a settled back four, the players that make it up are almost not as important as the fact that it is the same four players for a run of games. This was the 16th defensive combination we’ve seen this season and that cannot continue.

2. Leicester’s big step

It’s impossible to overstate how big this win was for Leicester City. Yes they’ve had big wins against England’s elite before (they beat Man City 5-2 after all) but their form against Liverpool has always managed to humble them.

In their previous seven matches, Liverpool have won six and drawn just one. In their last two meetings the score has been 0-4 and 3-0 respectively. The Reds have just thoroughly dominated Brendan Rodgers’ wannabe big boys.

Tonight though, Leicester went 0-1 down to a simply sublime goal and in the past that would have led them to crumble. Today, however, they steeled themselves and fought back. First through a wonderful free-kick, and then yes they profited from a calamitous unforced error but after that they kept their foot down and scored a third to give themselves breathing room.

The win moves Leicester into second, four points off the top. But more than that, it confirms them as full-blooded participants in this title race. Watch out folks, if Leicester can beat Liverpool, all bets are off.

3. Mohamed Salah is the man

Sadio Mané is completely out of sorts. Bobby Firmino has been hit and miss. The lamentable form of the rest of the Liverpool side has become a matter of well-documented fact. But Mohamed Salah? He’s still been pretty great.

The Egyptian opened the scoring this afternoon with a finish that was so deftly done the resultant trajectory of the ball was barely believable. He just sort of scooped the thing off the ground and gently lifted it right into the side of the net beyond a despairing Kasper Schmeichel.

That gave Salah 17 Premier League goals this season. He is the top scorer in the division by a margin of four goals. Considering how much Liverpool have struggled in front of goal, for Salah to have been this prolific speaks to his enduring status as a world-class forward. Form is temporary, class is permanent, Mohamed Salah is forever.


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4. A world-class midfield

Leicester get a lot of attention for their attack, and rightfully so it’s great and the forwards scored the decisive goals today. But their midfield is an absolutely magnificent unit that would grace almost any team on the planet right now.

Youri Tielemans is obviously an exceptional talent capable of doing anything on the pitch. Today he played a more defensive role, coming in with 4 tackles and 4 interceptions but still also made the most passes (52) and most passes in opponents’ half (25) for the Foxes.

Wilfred Ndidi, meanwhile, is simply phenomenal. The Nigerian is a defensive genius, no two ways about it. Today he posted a massive 5 tackles, 5 clearances, 3 interceptions and 3 blocks. He gained posssession for Leicester a colossal 19 times. He devoured Thiago Alcantara like it was nothing. Forget back pocket, Ndidi had Thiago folded up and on display on his chest like a pocket square.

Make no mistake, this is a world-class midfield.

5. Leicester: a place to be!

Big clubs have often viewed Leicester as a finishing school. A place where talent grows and is then signed by bigger sides. Gary Lineker and Emile Heskey are historical examples, but in modern times we’ve had them win a Premier League title and still most of their best players left. Jamie Vardy stayed but N’Golo Kanté went to Chelsea, Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City. Recently Harry Maguire shone brightly and promptly went to Manchester United while the vultures have been circling around James Maddison and Harvey Barnes.

But now, under Brendan Rodgers, Leicester is a seeming more and more like a destination rather than a stop-over. This is a well-coached team loaded with talent that is figuring out how to churn out victories and stay at the top of the table. They look far more like an elite team than anyone in the division bar the two Manchester sides (and even more than United on occasion if we’re honest).

In the past Barnes, Maddison, Youri Tielemans, Wilfred Ndidi, even the excellent James Justin before his unfortunate injury, these players would have been signed by bigger sides. Now, though, they look just as happy to stay at the King Power and develop Leicester into an elite side. “We’re a top team now,” said Maddison after the game.

And you know what? He’s absolutely right.