Liverpool’s hopes of second and maybe third in the Premier League took a big hit on Saturday as the Reds drew their second-straight match, this one nil-nil versus Stoke City at Anfield.
A frustrated Jurgen Klopp “saw everything I wanted to see apart form fluency and fun and joy.”
[ RECAP: Liverpool 0-0 Stoke City ]
While the Reds could’ve easily won either match, its depth is proving a real challenge to competing in the top competitions available to clubs: the Premier League and UEFA Champions League.
Perhaps both draws versus West Brom and Stoke would best be put down to bounces, near misses, injuries, and — yes, largely — Champions League schedule congestion. Like Manchester United last season, Klopp’s men have drawn too often to compete for a higher table spot.
In fact, it’s interesting to speculate whether the Reds wouldn’t be contending for the Premier League crown with a deeper squad.
On matches touching a UCL matchweek, Liverpool has 11 wins, eight draws and three losses.
The Reds are 9W-4D-1L in all other match weeks.
While it’d be fair to submit that Liverpool’s straight-forward group and a first draw versus Porto allowed a certain amount of leeway, the Reds haven’t had the luxury of plugging in impact depth players and expecting a win.
Part of the problem was surely the Philippe Coutinho drama, the obvious need for a January arrival like Virgil Van Dijk, and new players meshing with the team — Mohamed Salah scored just five of his 31 goals through the first nine matches (As much as I advocated taking Barcelona’s millions and selling was the right call inside their financial culture, keeping him — in an atmosphere where it’s possible to keep him reasonably happy — probably converts some of those draws to wins).
Cite injuries? Sure, but mostly meh. Few of those came to stars, and plenty of megawatt men on PL powers missed time this season including one-name guys like Pogba, Sane, Kane (I keep wanting the last two to rhyme…).
And again, luck. There was the interfering equalizer from Watford on opening day, Sadio Mane‘s red card meaning he missed a visit from Burnley, and even this week Salah missing a breakaway in stunning fashion early in the game.
“It was always clear there would be a day when he missed chances,” Klopp said. “I told the boys at halftime they did not make much pressure on our passing players but we had no offers in between.”
“It looked a clear penalty, on the TV it is blatant,” Henderson said. “If his hand isn’t there Alberto is there for a tap in, so it is a poor decision from the referee and the linesman and it has cost us three points.”
All that’s fair, but Liverpool doing better than 3-3 at Watford on Opening Day, drawing at Newcastle, and at Burnley, plus these two results (It’s tempting to throw in Oct. 14’s 0-0 home draw with Manchester United, but the Reds were on the road at Benfica a one day after Liverpool cruised at Maribor).
Perhaps when all’s said and done, the difference between Man City and the chasing pack is those extra million invested in depth (Though Chelsea has cared deeply about depth and disappointed). Maybe City was just the first team to account for this, and Liverpool and others will react to their standard. We shall see, because all the big boys are making a lot of money these days.