Liverpool Lacked Patience in 1-1 Draw with Burnley

kloppLiverpool were left frustrated in the wake of the 1-1 draw with Burnley. In Jurgen Klopp’s own words, they played “proper football – offensive football, dominant football, possession football how it should be.” The final part of that sentence, however, is probably a bit of a stretch, as in order to truly do things as you should, a winning scoreline needs to be produced. Liverpool couldn’t do that, so despite a slew of match statistics to indicate that they were indeed the better team, they failed to come up with the three points.

As for those match statistics, they were pretty impressive. 71% of possession, 35 shots to Burnley’s five and nine shots on target to Burnley’s four. Perhaps that last number hints at where things went a little bit askew, though. Burnley picked their shots carefully enough, even with limited opportunities, to hit four of their five shots on target, while the Reds, with only nine of 35, blazed away with a high degree of frequency.

If anything, that’s what let them down: a lack of patience. They had all of the ball, and were almost completely in control of proceedings. The goal they conceded was the result of a long ball forward, and following some ordinary defending, Scott Arfield hit a delightful side-footed drive into the back of the net. Klopp bemoaned this in the post-match, saying that all of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ragnar Klaven and Andrew Robertson could’ve done better to snuff out the danger, and he was right. Burnley’s only other significant chances arrived late in the game, following two corner kicks, where Liverpool were again unable to adequately clear the ball.

Aside from those moments, though, the Reds were on the front foot. Yet they didn’t always seem to accept the fact that they could take their time. It may have been the result of having more of a counter-attacking style of play as their preferred way of going about it, or maybe it was just the dynamic, forward-thinking players they had in the side, but they just tried to be too swift in their movement of the ball. They were particularly bad, at least in this regard, prior to half-time. Too many long balls and fast-paced, off-the-ground, passes were attempted, and while this kind of ball is fine from time to time, a balance between speculative distribution and more patient, probing play is preferable. Here, Liverpool didn’t really find that balance, and the result was plenty of disjointed attacking.

In the second 45 minutes, the overzealous passing made way for some overzealous shooting. Whereas Liverpool only attempted five long shots prior to the interval, they belted a massive 12 after the break. Philippe Countinho, Liverpool’s main man, was a particularly big offender, taking six long shots for the game. None of these were on target and, in truth, none of them were really close, either. Most were skied over the crossbar and into the stands, and the fact that the Brazilian often attempted shots like this after dancing around defenders, to arrive in a solid area to find a teammate, made the whole process even more infuriating for fans of the Reds.

Klopp’s men simply took shots from poor locations, and together with a first half that lacked patience in possession, they didn’t maximise their time on the ball. When they did play with a little more of a probing mindset, though, they did generate some better opportunities. There was an instance in the second half, when Liverpool were pushing for the go-ahead goal, that illustrated this.

Milner kicked things off with a short ball into the final third, where he found a right-sided Daniel Sturridge. The striker then lifted the move’s momentum further by passing into the area. He found Roberto Firmino, and the Brazilian happily returned the favour by laying the ball back into Sturridge’s path. He then played a lovely dink over the top of the opposition defence, and Milner, who had continued his run, latched onto it. Not only that, but he hit a wicked first-time volley, and though it ended up being blocked by James Tarkowski, it was nonetheless an excellent piece of interplay.

Later in the half, as the full-time whistle approached, Milner instigated another chance to score. This time, he positioned himself on the left-hand side, and after a neat one-two with Robertson, found himself one-on-one with Matthew Lowton. He skipped towards the byline in order to gain a step, and followed up with a lofted cross to the far-post. Alexander-Arnold used it to his advantage, whacking a volley out of the sky. He made good connection with the ball, but, again, he couldn’t find a breakthrough as Nick Pope made the diving save.

Even later on, Liverpool’s best chance for the winner, a volley powered into the bar by substitute Dominic Solanke, originated as a result of slower build-up play. It allowed Liverpool to get numbers into the area, and even if the first-phase cross was a poor one, it led to Alexander-Arnold retrieving possession and subsequently teeing up the youngster’s shot. It came to nothing yet again, but at least in these moments, when Liverpool showed a bit more patience and decided to work the ball forward, they managed to generate some chances of true quality.

In truth, those moments probably should have been enough to see them win the encounter, but that’s like saying Arsenal should have won against Stoke not that long ago. Klopp, even with his slightly Liverpool-centric viewpoint factored in, seemed to recognise this in the post-match. “Unfortunately, I still don’t feel any positivity in this moment, I am still in the 1-1 mood, but it is easy to see all the positive things from tomorrow on again,” he commented. “They are there.”

They certainly are, and given that guys like Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson, whose long diagonals can be useful against deep-sitting defences, weren’t in the selected XI, it’s not all bad for Klopp. He needs to tweak things a little bit, especially in defence, but they have plenty of firepower in attack. Once Coutinho returns to full match fitness, the situation should improve even further.

Now they have to move onto Leicester, against another team who likes to sit back. That might be a cause of worry after the frustrating 1-1 against Burnley, but it should be viewed as a chance to restore some confidence against sides who operate in this fashion. Liverpool have demonstrated their counter-attacking credentials this season, now they’ll want to do the same in build-up play.