As the referee blew for half-time at Molineux during Monday night’s FA Cup Third Round tie, Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp were left with a sobering revelation.
The team fielded by Liverpool against Wolves had performed so poorly in the opening 45 minutes, that alarm bells must have been ringing for Klopp and the travelling Reds supporters.
The German sensibly chose to rotate his side and selected some of his fringe players for the occasion. Expectation will have been high, that given their chance in the first team, the players he picked would jump at the chance to impress.
While Klopp is unlikely to ever publicly lambaste his men, he will have been privately furious at an outright failure from his fringe men against Wolves.
Many pundits and supporters are unanimous that Liverpool have bigger fish to fry this season and will not mourn a third round exit in the FA Cup. They are not wrong, but this defeat leaves Klopp with some real issues to address.
Passed up a chance
The likes of Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge, Alberto Moreno and Simon Mingolet were chosen to face Wolves, alongside a handful of youngsters. Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri were also thrown in to the mix.
Ultimately Klopp pointed to a “lack of rhythm” which hurt his side. However, if he’s being honest, it was a first-half display that saw some of his players shamefully pass up a wonderful opportunity to impress, which cost him so dearly.
Some players looked downright disinterested, while others abandoned their discipline and left the likes of Fabinhno and Milner overloaded, exposed and chasing shadows.
As I said, few Liverpool fans will bemoan their cup exit, but the performance should be cause for concern. If this is Liverpool’s genuine second XI, then it is nowhere adequate.
Keita and Shaqiri were hugely disappointing, as both totally failed to get a grip on proceedings. Yes they had little movement in front of them, but you would expect better control and more of an impact from players who are not currently guaranteed a starting place in Klopp’s first XI. The less said about Moreno and Sturridge the better.
Liverpool have been outstanding in the Premier League this season. Twenty games unbeaten and a mean defensive record are achievements they can be genuinely proud of.
However, the title race they have stormed into is merciless and they are up against a Manchester City side with a growing capacity to win trophies. The same cannot be said of Liverpool. Since their last FA Cup win in 2006, they have won just one piece of major silverware. What’s more striking though is their run of defeats at the final hurdle.
Since that shootout win over West Ham, they have lost two Champions League finals, a Europa League, FA and a League Cup final. Throw two runners up spots in the league – when they had lead at Christmas – into the equation and a dangerous precedent is firmly established.
Liverpool urgently need to win some silverware. The mentality it brings to a football club can make a huge difference. There is no doubt that this current Reds team is the best they’ve had in three decades, but unless they can win something soon, the barren run is only going to get harder and harder to end, as Spurs and Newcastle fans can attest to.
Another opportunity to address this issue went begging in Wolverhampton and Liverpool must now dig very deep in their title tussle with a City team that knows exactly how to win.