Mohamed Salah anger doesn't reveal Liverpool truth as Jurgen Klopp plea misread

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 27: Mohamed Salah of Liverpool and Dominik Szoboszlai of Liverpool during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Liverpool FC at London Stadium on April 27, 2024 in London, England.  (Photo by Vince Mignott/MB Media/Getty Images)

Klopp gets wrong reaction to plea

When Jurgen Klopp called for more fight from his Liverpool team, this wasn’t what he had in mind.

The Reds boss becoming embroiled in a strong disagreement with Mohamed Salah on the touchline during the second half of this avoidable draw here at West Ham United made for an ugly sight.

It says much that it was Darwin Nunez who had to act as peacemaker, stepping into the path of Salah as the Egyptian began to visibly remonstrate with his manager as he prepared to be introduced just seconds after the Hammers had dragged themselves level.

For a squad that has forged its success on unshakeable unity throughout the club, this was a rare and very public example of discord within the ranks between the two most prominent figures of this Reds era.

READ MORE: 'Maybe a new voice is needed?' - National media make sad Jurgen Klopp point after Liverpool fury

READ MORE: Liverpool player ratings as Luis Diaz excellent but five more struggle in West Ham draw

And it was a pity such fire in the belly was not shown by Liverpool as a collective during the meek Merseyside derby surrender at Goodison on Wednesday.

Klopp, as perhaps expected, was keen to play down the incident afterwards, even if Salah was somewhat less circumspect when passing gathered journalists on leaving the London Stadium after the game. Few would be surprised it there was more to it than either is willing to admit right now.

For those seeking explanations for Liverpool’s faltering title challenge, this disharmony was swiftly highlighted as evidence of a squad in meltdown with a departing manager who has clearly ran out of patience after so long at the helm.

Of course, it isn’t that. The reason the Reds are now primarily targeting the few points still required to secure Champions League qualification is due to their inability to turn domination into goals since the return after the international break last month.

That was on show here when they wasted a succession of opportunities, particularly in the second half, to leave themselves open to the sucker-punch of old foe Michail Antonio heading in an equaliser and dousing the dying embers of Liverpool’s interest in the championship race.

Yet for all the increasingly familiar frustration of missed chances and more needlessly dropped points, the abiding image of the underwhelming conclusion to Klopp’s time in charge is now likely to be the manager and his best player gesticulating wildly towards each other in full view of the stadium and millions watching on television.

It won’t be the lasting freezeframe under the German. But while there is rarely an easy way for any long-term relationship to end, everyone involved can do better than this.

Slot has obvious issues

Recent setbacks have meant the final leg of the Jurgen Klopp farewell tour hasn’t quite had the significance it appeared set to possess barely a month ago.

Indeed, it has now taken on a different dimension with the Liverpool squad now aware of the man they will have to impress from pre-season onwards, with Feyenoord boss Arne Slot on the brink of being confirmed Klopp’s successor.

Slot will know work remains to be done to build on the progress of the Reds this season that saw them overachieve until reverting to the mean during the last few weeks.

And if the Dutchman’s template isn’t far removed from that of Klopp, his list of issues will be similar to the ones supporters are contemplating at present.

Revitalising Dominik Szobsoszlai will be a priority, along the best course of action with Darwin Nunez and determining whether a new defensive midfield should be recruited.

It will be interesting to see, too, what Slot does with compatriot Ryan Gravenberch, who in his last two outings – scoring when on the left of the midfield triumvirate against Fulham last Sunday, and here at West Ham intermittently shining on the right – has shown flashes of his potential.

Still only 21, Gravenberch has experienced an at times difficult campaign. But the Holland international will hope coming through that will steel him for the future.

Youth deserve chance

The desire to shake the Liverpool forward line out of its going stupor saw Jurgen Klopp roll the dice once again here.

And this time he landed on a formula that had most notably been seen before at Wembley as the starting front three in the League Cup final win over Chelsea.

In truth, Cody Gakpo, Luis Diaz and Harvey Elliott all had reasons to be encouraged by their performances, particularly Diaz whose direct running and pressing during the second half caused the West Ham defence headaches.

Gakpo’s shot led to the second goal and while Diaz could claim an assist for Andy Robertson’s equaliser, his end product continued to frustrate. Nevertheless, it was a strange call for the Colombian to be hooked for the closing stages.

That win at Wembley was also an afternoon when Liverpool benefited from the enthusiasm of youth, with Bobby Clark, James McConnell and Jayden Danns all lively during extra time and taking that confidence into subsequent appearances.

However, they have barely been seen since the international break. And with expectations now having shifted for the remaining games, it may be time for Klopp to give the next generation another outing.

Defensive concern continues

Another game, another failure to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League. Not since the dramatic win at Nottingham Forest nine games ago have Liverpool managed to prevent the top-flight opposition from scoring.

And for all the rightful discourse over the misfiring attack, the Reds would have earned welcome victory here had they been able to shut up shop during the closing stages.

Fingers will be pointed at Jarell Quansah losing Michail Antonio for the equaliser – the 21-year-old was otherwise largely solid – but that and Jarrod Bowen’s scrappy opener were further examples of how easy it has become to score against Liverpool.

That comes not just from the backline but the defensive set-up as a whole, from the make-up of the midfield to the willingness or otherwise of the wide forwards to track back.

Liverpool’s greatest successes under Klopp were built on their defence. The incoming Slot is going to have to ensure the same.