Football News

“Lethargic” Liverpool’s slow starters struggle on the road again as Bournemouth lift themselves out of relegation zone

By Harry Edwards

Published: 14:50, 11 March 2023

Liverpool’s five-game unbeaten run in the Premier League was brought to an end as they were beaten 1-0 by relegation battlers Bournemouth on Saturday.

The Reds were buoyed by the 7-0 thrashing of Manchester United last weekend which had lifted them up to fifth and for some put themselves in control of the race for a spot in the top four. Jurgen Klopp’s men were three points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur but had a game in hand over the London side and could’ve overtaken them with a win in the early kick-off this weekend.

However, a Philip Billing goal in the first half was enough to secure a 1-0 victory for Bournemouth, lifting themselves up to 16th and two points clear of the relegation zone – though they have naturally played a game more than some of their rivals.

The trip to the Vitality Stadium was Liverpool’s fifth game in the Saturday 12:30pm kick-off slot this season, four of which have been away from home. And it appears the travel and potential disruptions from that with the early start is having some kind of effect on Klopp’s men.

That’s because Liverpool are yet to win when playing in the early Saturday kick-off slot in the Premier League this season. The poor run started in the very first weekend of the campaign as Liverpool had to twice come from behind to draw with newly-promoted Fulham, and were lucky to not leave Craven Cottage with a defeat.

Just another a month later, Liverpool made the short trip across Stanley Park to take on Everton and were held to a goalless draw by their local rivals despite having 23 shots and 60.9% possession. In October, Liverpool traveled to the City Ground to take on Nottingham Forest and were well-matched by their fellow Reds and frustrated by Dean Henderson in the home goal – only this time Taiwo Awoniyi found the net and handed Klopp’s Reds the defeat.

Liverpool then had a reprieve from the early kickoffs until late January and this time they were the hosts, welcoming Chelsea to Anfield. But the lack of travelling didn’t change much in Liverpool’s performance as an out-of-form Reds team struggled in front of goal, hitting the target with just three of their 15 shots. Fortunately for them, Chelsea also suffered, resulting in a goalless draw.

Fast forward to March and six days on from beating Man Utd 7-0 at Anfield, Liverpool will have fancied their chances even in the early kick-off on Saturday at Bournemouth. They were facing a side bottom of the table who will have been devastated by last weekend’s result when they gave up a 2-0 lead against Arsenal to lose 3-2 in injury time. But it was more of the same for Liverpool, a second defeat in the early kick-off and now the fourth in a row without scoring.

Billing scored the crucial goal but Dango Outtara was excellent in the build up, and Peter Crouch and Joe Cole were scathing in their analysis of Virgil van Dijk’s attempts to stop the move.

“It was disappointing. Van Dijk seems to give up, Trent Alexander-Arnold switches off and it’s too, too easy for Bournemouth,” Crouch told BT Sport at half-time.

Cole added: “It’s a simple ball over the top. He gets back in but now he needs to switch on, he should be in business.

“When have we ever seen Virgil van Dijk just stroll past someone in that situation? He just switches off. Look at that reaction, you don’t want that from your captain.”

And Liverpool didn’t really test Neto in the Bournemouth goal, even though he ended the game with five saves, they were fairly routine. When they had beaten him, with Mohamed Salah sending him the wrong way from the spot, the Egyptian also put his shot well wide of the goal. A far cry from the 9-0 win at Anfield earlier this season. But perhaps we should have expected it. On the four occasions that a team has lost 9-0 in the Premier League, they have gone unbeaten in their very next game against the same opponent, with two wins and two draws.

It also means Liverpool have failed to win away against all three promoted clubs in a single Premier League season for just the second time (after 2010/11 when they lost all three against West Brom, Newcastle and Blackpool). If we briefly look to the FA Cup too, Liverpool also exited from a slightly earlier start time, beaten 2-1 by Brighton at the Amex on a Sunday with the 1:30pm kick-off. And Steve McManaman lamented the lethargy from the Liverpool team.

“I thought they were terrible today,” he told BT Sport.

“Everything Liverpool did last week when they won at Anfield was completely the opposite today. They were lethargic, they were slow, they moved the ball sideways so many times, there was no urgency to go forward.

“Defensively, five clean sheets, they looked as if they couldn’t play again today. [They were] stepping forward when they didn’t need to step forward, always taking chances trying to play offside. They’ve got arguably the quickest back four around. They just never looked as if they were going to win the game.

“I mentioned at half time, it was a bit like the Nottingham Forest game, and it was. Forest were bottom of the league, showed more fight, Liverpool made chances, petered out, never looked as if they were going to get into the game. It was exactly the same today. Made all kinds of substitutions, didn’t matter. Diogo Jota made the goalie make one save, but that was it.

“Liverpool had five super centre-forwards on today, they didn’t do anything. Incredibly disappointing result.”