With Harvey Elliot’s opening goal being the only bright spot in yet another poor display, Liverpool were deservedly dumped out the FA Cup by Brighton. An inability to keep the ball, create clear chances and make the correct decisions, all contributed to a second loss beside the seaside in just two weeks.
Recent clean sheets and greater robustness may have led some to believe that Liverpool had turned a corner; instead, they’ve driven down a cul-de-sac. Too often outfought and outthought, there was little quality, with Thiago and Keita continually guilty of lethargy, leading to loss of possession. Only Elliot, with a first-half opener giving his team a lead, that lasted less than ten minutes, displayed any energy or forward momentum.
Brighton’s equaliser, just before half-time, was no surprise. Yes, it took a deflection, giving Alisson no chance, but the corner that created the chance was needlessly given away, as Thiago yet again lost the ball. Time after time, Liverpool lost possession in midfield, allowing the home team to put a far-from-shore-footed defence under pressure. Surely there’d be big changes at half-time.
Staggeringly, both Thiago and Keita started the second half, thus, nothing changed. Quite what Klopp saw that led him to believe that changes in midfield weren’t required, who knows. However, it would be quite extraordinary if big changes to midfield aren’t made in the summer. Fabinho, lucky not to be red-carded for a dreadful tackle that somehow only warranted a yellow, just moments after being introduced, frankly looks done. Captain Henderson, also a late substitute, also looks to have most of his good games behind him, whilst persisting with Jones, who so often fails to convince, and with Milner, who replaced a furious-looking Trent, is ever more bizarre.
Further changes were made by Klopp, including a still-raw Darwin Nunez, being given fifteen minutes, as the game looked to be heading for a replay. Yet Brighton, energetic and committed to the end, snatched a winner. A failure to defend a cross led to a deft finish from Mitoma in injury time.
So Liverpool realistically have one trophy to play for, with Real Madrid standing in the way of a Champions League Quarter Final. Meanwhile, Wolves away, and an Anfield Merseyside derby, loom large. Recent displays, and a season that continues to disappoint, with even world-class players like Salah, appearing to lack confidence, make it difficult to predict six points from our next two Premier League fixtures – points that are desperately needed if a charge for Champions League qualification is to materialise.
Indeed, it’s difficult to predict with any certainty, just where Liverpool will be at the end of the season. One thing though is certain, tinkering with an ageing squad won’t be sufficient.