Lack of confidence is costly
Liverpool’s fragile confidence was evident even before Richarlison’s opening goal. In fact, the game was only a few seconds old when Ozan Kabak misjudged a long ball, gifting Everton a corner and immediately putting the home side on the back foot.
The hosts struggled to regain their composure after that and their shaky start was swiftly punished when Thiago Alcantara lost possession in his own half with a misjudged header and James Rodriguez slid Richarlison in on goal behind Kabak. “His body position is wrong,” said Carragher of the Liverpool defender.
There were more awkward moments to come for Kabak but he was not the only one who struggled. Liverpool’s midweek meeting with RB Leipzig had provided some relief from their domestic woes but their first-half performance was as sloppy as anything they have produced in the Premier League all season.
They funnelled the ball forward effectively enough, but Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, so deadly in previous seasons, struggled to carve out openings or even complete passes to each other.
Attacks broke down around them and Everton, sensing their rivals’ fragility, defended ever more aggressively, with centre-backs Ben Godrey, Mason Holgate and Michael Keane ensuring Liverpool’s front three had little room to manoeuvre on the ball.
The result was that Klopp’s side only mustered two shots on target in the first half, and while they were at least able to create a few more opportunities after the break, the overriding feeling come the final whistle was that they did not deserve any more than they got.
“Two-nil doesn’t flatter Everton,” surmised Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness afterwards.
Creativity, finishing issues
Liverpool dominated possession and territory but the lack of cutting edge at Anfield was striking.
Their only meaningful chances in the first period came from long-range efforts and when they did find themselves in more dangerous positions after the break, the finishing was woeful.
Carragher summed it up. “Even though Liverpool have dominated possession, it means nothing if you create nothing,” he said. “That is a big problem for this Liverpool team at the moment.
“We keep talking about Virgil van Dijk and the problems at the back but very rarely when you see Liverpool play now do you expect them to score a goal.
“Going forward is as big a problem as what we are seeing defensively from Liverpool now.”
The lack of composure in front of goal was summed up by Firmino, who blasted horribly over when presented with a clear sight of goal on the edge of the Everton box in the 73rd minute, then dragged another effort wastefully wide in the closing stages.
Jordan Pickford deserves credit for his performance in goal, of course, but Firmino was not the only one to waste opportunities.
Mane was well-placed to score on more than one occasion and Salah’s one-on-one miss in the second half was also a big moment.
Liverpool’s ruthless streak appears to have deserted them and it can be seen in the statistics. Since the turn of the year, during which time Liverpool have lost five of their eight Premier League games, they have the lowest shot conversion rate in the division.
Liverpool’s attacking players are entitled to complain about the level of service they are receiving, but their shooting is clearly the bigger issue right now. Often, when the ball did arrive in the six-yard box against Everton, as it did from a wicked Trent Alexander-Arnold cross midway through the second half, there was nobody there to even attempt to apply the finish.
It’s not the Liverpool we know.
Yet another defensive injury
Klopp revealed he has come to dread the bulletins he receives from Liverpool’s medical department in conversation with Sky Sports ahead of the game and his miserable luck with defensive injuries continued at Anfield when Henderson went down in the first half.
Henderson, forced to move from midfield to centre-back this season in the absence of alternatives, now joins a lengthy injury list which includes Fabinho in addition to long-term absentees Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip. “It’s not good,” said Klopp of the 30-year-old’s injury afterwards.
Nat Phillips came on in Henderson’s place, joining new signing Kabak at the heart of Liverpool’s beleaguered defence as they became Klopp’s 18th centre-back pairing of the season.
Klopp talked about having to “rebuild the team” every three days in that same interview with Sky Sports ahead of the game and now he must do so yet again.
The circumstances are tough on Kabak, who is already having to adapt to a new country and a new league, but his performance against Everton did not inspire confidence for the short-term.
“I know the conditions are bad but every time Everton have hit a long ball towards Kabak he has been all over the place,” said Carragher. “It’s not easy for anyone on the pitch but no one has had as many problems as him.”
Liverpool need the 20-year-old to find his feet quickly but the task becomes even tougher given the continued uncertainty around him.
The team will hope to welcome at least one of their absent centre-backs back from injury in time for next weekend’s meeting with Sheffield United but there is no reversing the damage already done.
Reds lack bite and intensity
This was just the latest performance in which Liverpool have lacked their usual intensity both in and out of possession.
“What you associated with Liverpool over the last three or four years was real intensity and aggression but this is passive football,” said Souness.
“As a Liverpool supporter, l am deeply disappointed by my team. It didn’t look like they had any aggression, fight or energy about them.
“Liverpool used to be horrible to play against. Now everybody wants to play against them. They are an easy touch.”
It was a damning assessment from the former Liverpool captain but it is difficult to argue with it. According to Premier League tracking data, Everton outran the home side by four kilometres at Anfield. The aggression came from the visitors rather than the hosts.
Klopp talked about “mental fatigue” taking a toll on his players physically after the defeat to Brighton earlier this month and this performance shows there has been little change.
The Liverpool boss will hope a fixture-free week on the training pitch will help his side recharge and get back on track when they resume their Premier League campaign next weekend.
With ground to make up on the top four already, and with their season threatening to spiral into crisis, he knows they can ill-afford another false start.