Just like Anne Hegerty, aka the Governess on ‘The Chase’, Manchester City have flexed their muscles and caught up with – indeed surpassed – Liverpool in the Premier League table. The chase is far from over for the Merseysiders, but many more wrong steps like those against Manchester United and Everton and they will again be left regretting a season of what might have been.
It’s likely that the Reds will be four points adrift of the champions by the time they kick off against Burnley on Sunday and while their current position is not too alarming, they will surely hand Manchester City the title on a plate if they continue to leak points at the rate at which they’ve done over the last month and a half. Our statistical analysis looks at Liverpool’s recent sloppiness and wonders if their biggest problem is the toothlessness of their front three or the lack of creativity from midfield.
Last six Premier League games
Liverpool: W2, D4, L0, F10, A2, Pts 10
Burnley: W2, D2, L2, F9, A10, Pts 8
Let’s try to put a positive spin on Liverpool’s recent form – they’ve kept four consecutive clean sheets in the Premier League and five in all competitions, addressing the defensive concerns that had emerged during January. Far more worrying, though, is their Jekyll and Hyde nature at the other end. The 3-0 and 5-0 wins over Bournemouth and Watford respectively took on greater importance after drawing blanks at Manchester United and Everton. Indeed, over the last six games, they scored as many in the thumping of the Hornets as they did in the other five matches combined.
Prior to recent defeats against Newcastle and Crystal Palace, Burnley had been on an eight-match unbeaten run in the league. Their results of late have tended to come in blocks; before losing their last two games, they won two in a row, drew three on the bounce, won three on the spin and lost three consecutively. Keeping clean sheets has been an issue of late for the Clarets, though; their last shutout came in mid-January in a goalless draw at Watford. However, they have scored in five of their last six, including a splendid 2-1 win over Tottenham two weeks ago.
Premier League head-to-head record
Liverpool have certainly had the upper hand on Burnley over the course of the Premier League, with the Clarets’ only win coming two seasons ago, a 2-0 victory at Turf Moor. They have lost three of their previous four visits to Anfield, although they claimed a draw on their last trip 18 months ago. Sean Dyche’s men also took the lead the last time they met in December before Liverpool struck three times to leave Turf Moor victorious.
The first two Premier League meetings between the pair both ended 4-0 to Liverpool in 2009/10, with the Reds winning 1-0 away and 2-0 at home five seasons later. Klopp has also overseen a couple of 2-1 victories over Burnley, one at Anfield this time two years ago and one at Turf Moor on New Year’s Day 2018. Interestingly, the Clarets have scored against Liverpool in all five meetings since Klopp took charge of the Merseysiders, having failed to do in their previous four Premier League clashes.
Last Anfield meeting
Liverpool 1-1 Burnley, 16 September 2017
In their first Premier League game since a 5-0 mauling at the hands of Manchester City, Liverpool dropped their first home points of the season against a Burnley side who had already beaten title holders Chelsea and drawn with Tottenham in their early away games of 2017/18. The Clarets threatened another away day surprise in the 27th minute when Scott Arfield took advantage of dozy Liverpool defending to open the scoring.
Burnley’s lead only lasted for three minutes, though, with Mohamed Salah finding the net after a slick turn in the penalty area. The Egyptian had further chances to add to his tally but found Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope an impossible nut to crack, while Dominic Solanke crashed a volley off the bar, epitomising a frustrating day for the Reds and a frustrating season for the young England striker. This was a result which suggested that Liverpool’s tendency to come unstuck at home to ‘lesser’ teams remained as pertinent as ever.
Liverpool: Careless or toothless?
Liverpool have failed to score in three of their last four games, understandably leading to questions about the form of their attackers. Looking back on recent matches, is the Reds’ front line failing to make the most of chances or not even threatening to deprive the opposition of a clean sheet?
LFC 0-0 Bayern: 15 shots, 2 on target
A goalless draw against Bayern Munich in their Champions League round of 16 first leg was not a bad result in some respects, particularly the prevention of an away goal. However, the Reds had the upper hand territorially for most of the game and Sadio Mane was culpable of some poor misses in the first half, especially when shooting wide after turning in the penalty area unmarked. Joel Matip was also on the naughty list, fluffing a chance from six yards following Roberto Firmino’s cross.
Out of 15 shots, Liverpool only had two on target, Mane going closest when his late header forced a good save from Manuel Neuer. It left a sense of frustration at the final whistle, despite the tie being kept very much alive going into Wednesday’s second leg in Munich.
Man Utd 0-0 LFC: 7 shots, 1 on target
The shots on target ratio was about the same as in the 0-0 draw against Bayern, but Liverpool found chances much harder to come by at Old Trafford two weeks ago. Even with the home side seeing three players limp off injured before half-time, Klopp’s men were dismally subdued, so much so that Salah was substituted in the 78th minute, having been completely shackled by Luke Shaw.
David de Gea has often been the scourge of Liverpool in the past, but the Spanish goalkeeper was underemployed on the day. Indeed, the best chances fell Manchester United’s way, with a goal disallowed for offside and a let-off when Chris Smalling failed to connect with a teasing last-minute cross. The only shot Liverpool registered on target was a harmless 30-yard effort from Daniel Sturridge which de Gea collected with insulting ease. It was a bleak day for the Reds’ attackers, with an overly conservative midfield not offering much either.
LFC 5-0 Watford: 19 shots, 10 on target
Whatever pent-up frustration Liverpool had from the two previous games was taken out on Watford, who for the third season on a row were subjected to a five-goal mauling at Anfield. Mane stole the show with a sumptuous backheeled finish that looked far more difficult than the sitter he missed against Bayern, while Divock Origi reaped the rewards of dribbling into the box and letting fly and Virgil van Dijk took full advantage of slack Watford defending from set pieces.
The standout feature of the game, though, was the exquisite deliveries of Trent Alexander-Arnold. The 20-year-old didn’t feature against Manchester United, a game in which Liverpool’s threat from out wide was nonexistent, but the youngster showed how much of an asset an astute crosser of the ball can be, racking up three beautiful assists as the Reds ran riot. They managed 10 shots on target against the Hornets, having registered only three in their previous two games combined.
Everton 0-0 LFC: 10 shots, 3 on target
Last Sunday’s goalless draw at Goodison Park was similar to the Bayern game in that Liverpool created some gilt-edged chances but failed to make the most of them. Salah was guilty of spurning two opportunities that he’d have gobbled up in his sleep last season, or even as recently as December. Mane missed the target with a free header in the second half and Fabinho blew a glorious chance when he opted not to shoot from less than 10 yards. Matip again fluffed his lines with a late header, so Everton’s goal did lead something of a charmed life.
Liverpool managed only three shots on target in the derby, two from Salah in the first half and a free kick from Alexander-Arnold which was directed straight at Jordan Pickford. At least the Reds were creating chances, but they need to start taking them if they’re to stop Manchester City from becoming a faraway pot of gold in the distance.