Liverpool's title challenge is in tatters after losing to the Premier League's bottom club and although manager Jurgen Klopp has grumbled about the lack of atmosphere within Anfield, it's a result that is down to his team not quite being the full package. Swansea should be congratulated for implementing a solid game plan that exposed The Reds' weaknesses in defence and lifted the Swans out of the relegation zone. For Liverpool, the title appears to be dead in the water. There are also issues that need to be addressed as the Manchester clubs will be smelling blood and could sense the opportunity to unseat the Merseysiders from their Champions League qualification position.
A flat-track bully is a team that dominates inferior opposition, but can't beat those at the top level and Klopp's team is now the opposite of that. Don't be surprised if Liverpool win their next league tie against leaders Chelsea, who are now at odds of 4/9 with bet365 to win the Premier League at the time of writing, as this Liverpool team have great results against top-six opponents. It's against those teams fighting for their Premier League survival that Liverpool are found wanting and the Swansea result can join the losses at Bournemouth and Burnley in conjunction with draws against Southampton and Sunderland as points dropped against mediocre competition. With these costly results the attitude of the players needs to come into question and the impression is that some players are turning up expecting an easy ride and three points. The Premier League has often held been aloft as the most competitive league in the world, therefore the responsibility must be on the shoulders of Klopp and captain Jordan Henderson to ensure the players are approaching the game in the right mindset. Too often this team has appeared lackadaisical against lesser teams and this was in evidence again against Swansea, as they only appeared to wake-up after two Fernando Llorente goals. Klopp has done great work in changing the mentality of the crowd and the players to ensure that there is a 'never say die' attitude around Anfield, but he still has work to do to ensure his team approach every game with high levels of tenacity rather than the complacency that has seeped into too many performances.
Leaders & Confidence
As Liverpool and England captain, Henderson is the player you would look at to provide the on-the-field encouragement but is often guilty of producing gesticulations rather than the drive required. It was always going to be hard filling Steven Gerrard's boots, but it's not unreasonable to ask more of the Englishman who has only contributed one goal this season. Hopefully, the return of Gerrard will be of benefit to Henderson and the Liverpool legend will be able to impart some advice to raise the captains' game. Leadership doesn't need to come from the team's captain alone and there are other players on the pitch that should be asserting more control and game management in these types of fixture. It's bizarre to think that Emre Can was once considered a rival to Henderson for the Liverpool captaincy as his recent performances have seen him take a few steps backwards after encouraging early outings. With a rating of 2.5 stars from goal.com against Swansea, he was one of the worst players on the pitch and might find his place in the starting eleven under threat if he doesn't up his game. Yet while a number of other players could be called out for their lack of leadership on the pitch, it could be that the more pressing problem is a lack of confidence at the back. Uncertainty oozes through the defence and after being rightly praised for his saves against Manchester United, Simon Mignolet must come under scrutiny again. When the opposition have just six shots but score three goals you need to question the performance of the goalkeeper and in Mignolet and Loris KariusLiverpool have two good keepers when what they need is one excellent keeper. The uncertainty that spreads through the team due to doubts about the keeper's ability is a problem from the Brendan Rodgers era that has yet to be solved adequately.
It appears that the Premier League title is now beyond Liverpool, but there is still much to play for and Liverpool should be happy with a Champions League place and possibly a domestic cup. Klopp will be hopeful of correcting the issues of attitude, leadership and defensive confidence to ensure that this is a season of progress for what is not the best team, but possibly the most entering team in the league.
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