Liverpool’s lack of control continues to undermine their good work
By Adam Bate
Last Updated: 23/12/17 12:23am
Liverpool's 3-3 draw at Arsenal highlighted the fact that their tendency to self-destruct at the back continues to undermine their good work in attack. But what can they do to solve the problem?
Liverpool have scored 54 goals away from home in 2017, their most in a calendar year since the glory days of the early 1980s. But it took just 388 seconds for their two-goal lead at Arsenal to evaporate amid a three-goal blitz that undermined all of their good work.
The Reds ran more than 120 kilometres at the Emirates Stadium and recovered possession of the ball no fewer than 86 times - the most by a Premier League team in a single game since their own 6-1 win over Watford in November of last year.
But this whirlwind-like approach to football comes at a cost. While Liverpool's games have featured more goals than any other club since Jurgen Klopp's arrival in October 2015, 105 of those have gone into their own net. Liverpool cannot control games.
James Milner was so lucid on the subject during his interview with Sky Sports immediately after the game, it seems that the problem is not lost on the team's senior players. "You've got to see the game out and we have got to become boring," said Milner.
He added: "There are just times in the game when you have got to tighten up and not make mistakes for five minutes. All the goals were our fault really and that's something we have to learn from. We need to do it quick because it seems to be a theme for us this year.
"We play such good football and sometimes we just need to switch off for five to 10 minutes in a game and sense the situations when it is time to take it easy, play a bit tighter and keep the ball a bit longer - rather than try to break every time.
"Against good teams, at this level, you get punished and it happened today."
Milner's sentiments were echoed by former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher. "They have no way of slowing the game down," he told Sky Sports. "We have all been in games like that where they go up the other end and score. But at 2-1, [you need to think] what can you do to stop that game. Just slow the game down, slow the atmosphere down.
"They are always involved in games that are end to end. It's a great watch but you will never get far. You have to find a way in a hostile situation - and Seville [where Liverpool lost a three-goal lead] was a perfect example - to kill the crowd. This crowd got lifted at 2-1."
Is there anything they can do?
Savvier sides than Liverpool might look to take the sting out of things by going down with an injury just to let things die down. Gary Neville recalled an example from Rafael Benitez's days at Liverpool that illustrates how teams can look to halt an opponent's momentum.
"They have to come up with some sort of mechanism," Neville told Sky Sports. "I always remember Jamie telling me about a Rafa Benitez one. After you concede a goal, the kick off after has to be launched into the corner so you don't concede another chance.
"They need to think up a tactic after they have conceded to make sure they don't concede another goal. Take the emotion out of the game. Liverpool with that heavy metal football in and out of position, they are not in control. They have to find a way to deal with that."
But will Klopp find the solution?
Whether Klopp sees it in those terms is less clear. In fact, despite his obvious frustration afterwards, he was largely content with the team's setup - pointing instead to individual aberrations that he felt masked an otherwise solid defensive performance.
"We didn't create any risk for our chances," Klopp told Sky Sports. "We were not open, we did not give space away." He added: "People will talk about defending but defending is a team game. Today we made individual mistakes.
"OK, that's not cool and unfortunately three of them in one game and that gave Arsenal the chance to get back into the game. But my job is to think also about the performance and our performance was a winning performance again. That is the most important thing."
Jamie Carragher's conclusion
Klopp is quite right to point out that Liverpool were the dominant side and that is a source of encouragement. But the mistakes that cost them victory are not isolated ones. They form part of a pattern. "The same things are letting them down," added Carragher.
"He is the only one who can change that. Liverpool are certainly one of the most exciting sides you can see in the Premier League. But the same people, the same faces, just keep letting them down. Until he does something about it, that's never going to change."
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