Liverpool's defence is a laughing stock – here is the proof
In moments of heightened emotion after a European night at Anfield, Jürgen Klopp has often reached beyond the usual football phrasebook.
It was after the riotous comeback against Barcelona four years ago when, after checking he was safely past the watershed, Klopp called his team “f------ mentality giants,” coining a phrase and codifying an identity.
A rather less glorious evening on Tuesday called for a more prosaic response. Liverpool’s defending for their second goal was described by their manager as “Slapstick. Should not happen. Can’t happen.”
Unfortunately for Klopp and his team it was not an isolated incident, not during this worst European home defeat and nor in their recent games.
Here is the only appropriate soundtrack for a run-down of Liverpool’s recent defensive exploits:
Vinicius Jr for Real Madrid, Feb 21
We should start with the goal which Klopp was referring to and with a degree of sympathy for the tiny bobble the ball appeared to take just before Alisson’s pass. The question is why Liverpool’s goalkeeper was attempting to find Joe Gomez to his right, with Vini Jr closing down that angle, given Virgil van Dijk was free to his left:
You would say it was uncharacteristic error, had Alisson not made a nearly identical one against Wolves in the FA Cup under significantly less pressure:
An absolute howler from Alisson! 😳
The Liverpool goalkeeper has gifted Wolves the lead!@EmiratesFACup | #ITVFootball pic.twitter.com/WHq0jtWDLY
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) January 7, 2023
Slapstick level: Home Alone
Eder Militao for Real Madrid, Feb 21
Been a while since we’ve had a good old froth at the notion of zonal marking, so a pleasingly retro feel to the goal which gave Real Madrid the lead.
Here is where Militao started, beyond the far post and lurking behind Trent Alexander-Arnold:
As Luka Modric took his free-kick, Miliato set off on a simple run towards the near post. Any chance anyone fancies tracking him? Attacking the ball?
No, apparently not:
Slapstick level: Dumb and Dumber
Karim Benzema for Real Madrid, Feb 21
Natural to sit back and attempt to contain when a game, a Champions League campaign, a season, an era is getting away from you.
A high chance that Liverpool have become a touch too deep here, though, seemingly attempting to form an offside line around their penalty spot:
Once again they then allow a dangerous player, in a dangerous position, to travel with the unfettered ease of a pensioner with a freedom pass. A simple one-two gets Benzema past Fabinho, Van Dijk comes out belatedly to close him down to little effect and the too-deep Gomez is punished with a deflection off his heel, wrongfooting a hapless Alisson.
Slapstick level: The Comedy of Errors
Karim Benzema again for Real Madrid, Feb 21
Quite aside from the mess Fabinho made of Alexander-Arnold’s throw (miscontrol off knee, Modric stealing in, Fabinho then raising his hands like someone about to tell you they can’t help with some minor act of manual labour), how can you explain this situation?
Alisson has been put on his bum while attempting to tackle Benzema, and is so far out of his goal he has three of his own defenders behind him. Gruesome.
Slapstick level: Keystone Cops
Craig Dawson for Wolves, Feb 4
A tragicomedy in four acts. Andy Robertson fails to deal with a regulation free-kick from out wide, allowing Matheus Cunha to take the ball to the byline:
Alisson and Gomez get in a muddle about who should deal with the subsequent cross:
Cody Gakpo has it headed at him at close range but fails to bring it under control:
Michael Dawson wants the loose ball more and takes a rare opportunity to lash it home:
Slapstick level: Punch and Judy
Solly March for Brighton, Jan 14
Little danger, you would think, as Joel Matip receives a pass in plenty of space in his own half:
Oh, he’s passed to a Brighton player:
You know the rest:
Slapstick level: Tom and Jerry
Concerningly for Liverpool we could go on. Brighton cut through them again for their second goal in that 3-0 win, Brentford’s first two in another 3-0 were preventable messes from corners, and the assist for Leeds’s opener in their 2-1 win at Anfield in October came from Gomez passing past Alisson and straight to Rodrigo.
There was a time when Alexander-Arnold was a rare and slight weakness in Liverpool’s back four. Now his shakiest moments seem to have become instructional for his team-mates. Everyone seems infected, and with every new mistake the collective confidence takes another hit.