Liverpool is not “in crisis.” Never was. Probably won’t be anytime soon. And certainly isn’t after a wild 3-2 victory over Leicester City on Saturday.
Because Liverpool still has one of the most resplendent attacks in the world. And in part because that attack still features Philippe Coutinho.
But Liverpool isn’t without issues either. And certainly not after a wild 3-2 victory over Leicester City on Saturday.
Coutinho pinged a pinpoint cross to Mo Salah and curled a majestic free kick into Kasper Schmeichel’s top corner to finally, truly announce his return from transfer saga and “injury.”
His brilliance should have been enough to quell concerns around Liverpool and propel the Reds to three points. In the end, it accomplished the latter.
But the former? Not quite.
A disjointed defense and shoddy goalkeeping very nearly threw away 2-0 and 3-1 leads. Heck, before that, lax positioning and indecision from Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip almost allowed Leicester to take an early lead. Simon Mignolet saved Jamie Vardy’s shot, and Riyad Mahrez sailed the rebound high and wide.
But that was only the beginning. On the stroke of halftime, Mignolet – perhaps impeded by Shinji Okazaki – flapped at a corner, and Okazaki poked home right on the goal line.
Jordan Henderson restored Liverpool’s two-goal lead, but poor individual defending from Joe Gomez and and some good Leicester fortune again let the Foxes back into the match.
Mignolet was ultimately the only reason the hosts didn’t climb all the way back to 3-3. He saved Vardy’s penalty.
But he had conceded it, too, by inexplicably trying to play a through ball with his feet rather than claiming it with his hands. He did get a slice of the ball, and was probably unlucky to be whistled for a foul on Vardy, but that didn’t excuse the decision. Only his penalty save did.
It also preserved three points for Liverpool, and those three points will excuse the defensive issues for now.
But after a week of vocal dissatisfaction from Liverpool fans – fueled by a midweek League Cup loss to Leicester, but also by almost two years of defensive shortcomings under Klopp – nothing about Saturday’s win will silence doubt.
Much of that doubt has been overblown. “It sounds like we have no points and are completely the worst team in the league,” Klopp said on Friday.
“Yes we have problems, that is why we ‘only’ have eight points and not 15,” he admitted, a day before picking up points 9, 10 and 11. “We can make it more serious than it is or we can take it like it is. We have work to do but that would be the same if we had 15 points.”
And he’s right. But that work is also much of the same work his Liverpool side had to do before the transfer window shut, and much of the same work it had to do at this time last year. That’s the frustration. And it’s frustrating because the problems hold Liverpool back from genuine title contention.
For all their flaws, though, nothing about the attack has been blunted. Even with Sadio Mane suspended, it is as potent as ever. Especially with Coutinho back in the team and back in form. His first-ever connection with Salah surely had Liverpool fans salivating:
The flaws don’t overshadow or override all of what Coutinho, and Salah, and Mane, and Roberto Firmino can do going forward. At least not when it comes to a top-four challenge. And they didn’t overshadow or override all of the attacking firepower on Saturday. But only just.
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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.