Men for the Big Occasion: Why Liverpool Struggle Against the League's Lower-Ranked Sides

Dominic Dawes

​Right off the back of a massive 3-1 win in the Merseyside derby over Everton, Liverpool slumped to a home draw against a side from the bottom half of the table as Anfield breathed yet another sigh of discontent. 

Against the other sides in the top six, Liverpool are unbeaten this season with a record better than any of their rivals against the big boys - making the points dropped in games against lesser sides all the more irritating. 

This season, Liverpool have already played all of their fixtures against the top seven and didn't lose a single time. Their five losses this year instead came at the hands of: Hull, Swansea, Bournemouth, Leicester and Burnley. 

Annoyingly, whilst the disappointing results continue, the reason for them seems to be changing slightly albeit with one recurring theme...Conceding soft goals.

At the start of the season, Liverpool were blitzing all who stood before them and as a result, lesser sides who didn't feel that they had the attacking ability to go toe-to-toe with the Reds simply sat back and let them have the ball.

This 'take the ball and do your worst' attitude of other teams left Jurgen Klopp's side with the task of trying to break down a lot of parked buses, both home and away, exposing the lack of a real plan b. Without the space that is often left by more positive sides  to allow for quick, deadly, counter-attacks , Liverpool were often left with all the ball and no idea what to do with it. 

Often with 20+ shots, the stats in these games would suggest to anyone reading them that Liverpool had dominated the game and were unfortunate not to come away with the points. In reality, hardly any real chances were created in most of those losses as the Reds feebly attempted to push politely through dogged defences.

Of course other sides do this too and sometimes go home saying "hey, it just wasn't our day". But that's where Liverpool differ. All visitors to Anfield seem to be warmly welcomed with at least one free goal, everyone scores against Liverpool. The story is the same away from home, too.

Whilst other big sides can half off days without shipping goals, that simply isn't an option for Liverpool who even do it on a good day - explaining why they have a worse defensive record than 19th-placed Middlesbrough. 

Liverpool v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League
Liverpool v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League

When it comes to conceding goals, the Liverpool goalkeepers, as well as their coaches, need to be looked at .  Loris Karius sits on the bench these days, thanks to his embarrassing display last time the Reds faced Bournemouth, meaning that Simon Mignolet is Liverpool's number one goalkeeper again. Oh joy. 

It probably seems harsh to bemoan Mignolet for last night's loss but it really isn't. As soon as Benik Afobe was through, everyone knew it was a goal. The Belgian has been relatively blunder-free recently but to be frank, he just doesn't seem to make saves that good goalkeepers do. A lot of the time, Liverpool may as well be playing with an open goal.


Of course, it doesn't help when those in front of you are barely above Sunday league quality. Joel Matip is usually impressive when he plays, but that isn't anywhere near often enough. The fact that a defender of Dejan Lovren's quality is one of the club's best centre-back's is worrying and Ragnar Klavan quite simply shouldn't be playing in the Premier League. 

To make matters worse, one of the club's best centre-backs is making a late claim for Crystal Palace Player of the Year as Klopp continues his petty dispute with the player over punctuality and other fairly minor issues.

Perhaps the only thing close to being as annoying to the dropped points are Klopp's post-match interviews. Klopp always seems to moan a bit that this 'could be better' or that 'wasn't the best' but he needs to face the facts.


He had ample opportunity to beef the squad up in the summer and didn't. He also had a second opportunity in January but decided to push through with barely anything more than a strong starting 11, which he is now paying the price for. 

Injuries to key players do, of course, make things difficult but the lack of both leadership at the back and a winning mentality throughout the side has been a much bigger hindrance this year.

Manchester United will draw level if they win their games in hand and with trips to Stoke and West Brom coming up, it probably wouldn't be wise to hold your breath for Champions League qualification this season.

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