Sunday Supplement: Liverpool have been below best in recent weeks

Liverpool lost 3-0 at Watford on Saturday night; remain 22 points clear at top of Premier League

Mohamed Salah looks dejected during the Premier League match between Watford and Liverpool
Image: Mohamed Salah looks dejected during the Premier League match between Watford and Liverpool

After Watford beat Liverpool to hand the runaway Premier League leaders their first league defeat of the season, the Sunday Supplement panel discussed all the fallout to the game.

Ismaila Sarr scored twice before Hornets skipper Troy Deeney rounded off proceedings to hand the hosts an unlikely 3-0 victory at Vicarage Road and reinvigorate their fight against relegation, while giving Liverpool the first real bump in the road as they head for their first title since in 30 years.

While there was plenty of praise for Watford's display and Nigel Pearson's tactics, the panel all agreed that the result was not the end of the world for the Reds and that the defeat had been coming...

'Liverpool haven't been firing'

John Cross, chief football writer at The Daily Mirror: "Having seen Liverpool quite a lot recently, I felt like they weren't quite firing and they weren't quite at the top of their game. They were always vulnerable.

"It was interesting to hear Klopp talk after about the team being under some sort of burden because everyone talks about these records and beating Man City's 18 consecutive win record, catching Arsenal's invincible record and going the season unbeaten. Those sort of things do weigh on players' minds.

Andrew Robertson shows his frustration as Liverpool concede for a third time
Image: Andrew Robertson shows his frustration as Liverpool concede for a third time

"You can talk all day about it and deny it, players will say that, and Liverpool is a fantastic place to be, the players are happy, but I think that burden of history just seems to have weighed on them.

"They're the best team by a million miles in the country, they're absolutely fabulous to watch. But it feels like they've had their little dip in the last few weeks. That coupled with the winter break and the controversy around that, meant they came to Watford and came up against a well-drilled side which was an obstacle too far.

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"We'll look back and it's a shame they won't create this history, but they will create history by beating the points tally and they have set records left, right and centre. This is a great team. They'll hit the reset button and go again to hit those heights."

preview image 2:53
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Watford's win over Liverpool in the Premier League.

'A horrendous day'

Dominic King, North West football correspondent at The Daily Mail: "Liverpool just had a horrendous day, probably the worst since they lost to Tottenham at Wembley in October 2017. There can be no complaints about it. Jurgen Klopp never had any quibbles. Virgil van Dijk said it was unacceptable and they just slipped so far below the standards they set, that Watford ran all over them.

"Joe Gomez missed yesterday with a tight hamstring, he should be back soon, they missed the captain Jordan Henderson yesterday too. He's been the player of the season for Liverpool. I know others get the headlines like [Mo] Salah, [Sadio] Mane, [Roberto] Firmino, [Virgil] Van Dijk, the full-backs, but the person who's been driving them forward over the last two to three months is Jordan Henderson. He could be PFA player of the year, he's been that good. They missed him and there was a huge void without him.

In terms of how Liverpool have been since the winter break, they've definitely been a beat or two slower.
Dominic King, Daily Mail

"In terms of how they've been since the winter break, they've definitely been a beat or two slower. At Norwich they managed the game, they had a little bit too much wiliness to win that. They were scruffy against West Ham but you never felt they would lose it.

"The tone yesterday was set early on. Trent Alexander-Arnold tried to play the ball back to Alisson and it went straight out of play. Those little bits of detail, with the standards they've set, they weren't there. It's nothing fatal. It was important to emphasise how well Watford did. That was as much about them winning as it was Liverpool losing."

'They've embarrassed the rest of the league'

Cross: "[Liverpool's record in the Premier League this season] does embarrass the rest of the league. We are watching the best team of the Premier League era. Football evolves and they're taking it to a whole new level. As brilliant as they have been, for other teams not to have responded is poor. I've been disappointed in City's title defence. Last year was brilliant as they went toe-to-toe and in any other year, Liverpool win it by streets.

John Percy, Midlands football reporter at The Daily Telegraph: "They almost get done with faint praise and it gets boring. How can a run be boring? But it's almost like 'oh Liverpool have won again', forget about it. To have that many points at this stage of the season is incredible."

3:05
Virgil van Dijk says the manner of Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat was not acceptable but was keen to praise Watford for their efforts.

King: "It's like PlayStation football. It's like the kids are playing and it is win, win, win. We've not seen it before. When you see those sequences of W's, it's like they've been playing on the PlayStation. It's been so remarkable and that's why it's such a shock that it's come to the end.

"People talk about the quality of the football they play, it's the sort of mentality and refusal to even contemplate losing. It all stems back to Barcelona last year and probably even further, when they put the sequence of wins together to put the pressure on City for the title. What they've done in the last year has been remarkable. 109 points from 111 - terrible!

"I think there is a loneliness of being in front. There is no pressure being applied or anyone snapping away at your heels to try and force a mistake. They've been in front for so long. Perhaps they lost a bit of concentration.

"It might sound strange but it could be anticlimactic if they have the title wrapped up by first week of April. You almost wonder if they need a second trophy to show their dominance in the domestic season. That's why I think the FA Cup game on Tuesday is so important."

'Important to emphasise Watford's display'

King: "It's very important to emphasise how good Watford were. You could see in the first half how well drilled they were and how well set up they were. The atmosphere was fantastic, the stadium was alive all the way through. They need to be given credit for a result which can possibly transform their season. It sees them get out of relegation trouble. Nigel Pearson has done wonders since he's been in, given how bad the situation was at the start of the season."

Percy: "He's a terrific manager and what he did at Leicester, the great escape and getting them promoted from League One all the way to the Premier League. They got seven wins out of nine there and he's been talking about doing that with Watford. Him and Craig Shakespeare, they're just a great little double act. They dovetail together well and they've given themselves a great chance.

Watford boss Nigel Pearson embraces his captain at the final whistle
Image: Watford boss Nigel Pearson embraces his captain Troy Deeney at the final whistle

"Sarr looks a real prospect. There has been a lot of talk about him for years and then last night - where has he been? They looked a really good and well-drilled side, Watford. I like the back four, I like Doucoure, he's a great player and now they're out the bottom three and Saturday for Villa and Brighton was bad, for everyone else fantastic."

Cross: "It's a hell of race down the bottom and it almost feels like the title race has become a bit of a turn off because Liverpool are so good they're embarrassing everyone else. It feels like the relegation scrap is the most exciting race of all."

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