IT’S BEEN SO patchy for Liverpool in recent weeks. And it may get worse before it gets better.
Essentially, what’s so frustrating for the club’s supporters this term is the calibre of performance against high-profile teams and the collapses against the scrappy underdogs.
They are unbeaten when facing clubs in the top-half of the table this season. That’s eight wins and five draws. Impressive stuff.
But they have crumbled against the likes of Leicester, Hull, Swansea and they suffered a 2-0 defeat to their forthcoming opponents Burnley back on the second day of the season.
For the neutral observer, it makes some sense. The high-intensity works against teams that enjoy a culture of trying to keep the ball and build from the back. But for others who don’t enjoy much possession, the immediate instinct when facing a better side is to sit back, allow them do the work and react to any mistakes.
Klopp was quizzed on it in his pre-game press conference but fronted up and said he’s not interested in massively altering his strategy.
“I know what people say and is not the first people have said something like this but I don’t have a Plan B in my mind”, he said.
We know how to play but in the end you have to come into specific spaces and make the right decisions. My job is to help them make the right decisions more easily. That is what training is for. It is a challenge”.
It’s certainly a challenge when Liverpool lose 3-1 one week and win 3-1 the next and the inconsistency is leading to the season petering out. There’s a genuine possibility they’ll be reeled in by both Arsenal and Manchester United, especially when you take a peek at their remaining fixtures: Stoke away, West Brom away, Southampton, Watford, Palace, West Ham.
Plenty to make any Liverpool fan nervy.
Cherries’ top-flight season is souring by the week
The Cherries are without a win in 2017. That’s quite alarming given we’re in mid-March. But it also explains the relief and joy that followed the full-time whistle at Old Trafford last weekend when the 1-1 draw was confirmed. Right now, not losing is a massive step in the right direction.
Going by the last ten games, Bournemouth are in relegation form, taking five points from a possible 30. And the huge concern is the amount of goals being conceded: overall 52 but 24 of those have come since St. Stephen’s Day.
They’ve managed nine goals in nine games so far this year. But dig deeper and four of them have been penalties.
So, issues are affecting the team at both ends of the pitch – not ideal as the slide down the table continues.
And with Tyrone Mings out for five games due to suspension, the problems are mounting for Eddie Howe.
The Hammers are winless in their last three games but with steady away form this term, they could crank up the pressure on their hosts.
Solid West Brom are missing one thing: their former player
Based on the last 10 games, these are both top-six teams. It’s a testament to the work Ronald Koeman and Tony Pulis are doing but in the Toffees’ case, there’s a genuine belief that a sixth-place finish is a reality.
They trail Manchester United by five points having played a game more so, if they’re genuine about those aspirations, they can’t afford to slip up here.
But the Baggies are difficult to break down. They’ve allowed just 34 goals – the same number as Liverpool – and despite not being too prolific up top, their defensive solidarity has put them within reach of they record Premier League points tally.
What they don’t have is a consistent attacker, capable of changing games. That’s because Everton signed him. Romelu Lukaku spent a season at the Hawthorns on loan from Chelsea and hit 17 league goals.
He’s managed 18 for Everton so far this term and has nine in his last 10 games – including that remarkable four-goal blast against the Cherries.
Stop him and West Brom should hold firm.
Under-appreciated Sigurdsson flourishing for Swansea
Gylfi Sigurdsson has been here before. After starring for Swansea on loan during the second-half of the 2011/2012 campaign, a permanent deal fell through when Brendan Rodgers moved to Liverpool. And it was Tottenham who swept in and made the capture. But he didn’t enjoy himself at White Hart Lane. The first season was difficult, the second not much better and he was back in Wales in 2014.
So, with more good form comes inevitable rumours of a move elsewhere. But he may be minded to stay put. Paul Clement seems to be getting the best out of him. In his eight games in charge, he’s seen Sigurdsson net three times but his influence goes far beyond that.
He’s also added four assists too, which brings his overall tally to 10 for the season – the highest in Europe’s top five leagues this term. Last season, he struck 11 times in the league and he has seven so far this term. Those 18 goals in the calendar year is a better midfield contribution than Dele Alli and Kevin de Bruyne. In fact, it’s the best in the top-flight.
And, how crucial that is because Swansea don’t have a prolific way about them. According to WhoScored, from their 35 league goals so far, Sigurdsson has been directly involved in 51% of them.
Swansea have been excellent against teams of a similar calibre: Crystal Palace, Leicester, Burnley. Odds are that they’ll get the job done against Hull this weekend and Sigurdsson will be influential.