In mid-January, Jurgen Klopp admitted that the league humbling at Brighton was his worst match as manager.
Fast forward three weeks, same score line of 3-0 in another away match. This time, Klopp was somewhat not that straightforward in his post match interview: hard to explain the first 15 minutes of the game was his verdict.
Indeed, Liverpool were already 2-nil down inside 12 minutes and this encounter would have already been called game over if it was not for the Reds’ reputation under Klopp.
But they must really be cursing fortuitous deflections these days.
Last weekend it was Lewis Dunk who inadvertently changed the trajectory of a long-range shot from Tariq Lamptey that allowed Brighton to equalize.
Murphy’s Law must be like a monkey on Liverpool’s back as this time, a cut back from Hwang Hee-Chan hit the legs of a backtracking Joel Matip and the ball struck the opposite upright before finally getting into Alisson Becker’s net.
And the Merseysiders were still recovering from their pains when Wolves scored for the second time.
A free kick for a cheap foul by Cody Gakpo started everything. In the second ball from the set piece, Joe Gomez inexplicably headed it back in his own penalty area instead of leaving it to Alisson who was right behind him ready to catch with his usual safe pair of gloves.
Former West Ham defender Craig Dawson duly obliged from 6 yards out, scoring his first Wolves goal in his very first match for his new team.
No one can say for sure if Ali had signalled Gomez to leave the ball for him. But considering the other defensive lapse between the two of them during the Leeds match back in October, communication has to improve between the central defender and his goalkeeper.
Matip tried to redeem himself from his own goal with his trademark forward incursions deep into opposition territory. On the 20th, he was at the origin of a move that nearly resulted in a Mo Salah goal but the Egyptian King lofted the ball just above the cross bar.
Symptomatic of the uncertainty in the Liverpool camp these days, the same Matip dallied on the ball 6 minutes later and gifted Matheus Nunes with a shot on target. Should have been 3 nil if it was not for Alisson’s fine block.
This was not Brighton though
Unlike the recent Brighton league game, Liverpool did not retreat into a shell during the first half after falling behind. Instead, they tried to create chances and were even spurred forward by the travelling Kopites.
In fact, they continued their sustained pressure on Wolves in the second half and should have been awarded a penalty on the 51st for handball by Maximilian Kilman.
Quite baffling that even after VAR consultation, the pretty obvious handball was not deemed as one. Being awarded this penalty could have changed the whole course of the game but nowadays, the definition of a penalty is as clear as mud.
Nonetheless, the Reds kept going. Nunez received a long pass from Trent on the 67th and went one on one with Wolves keeper.
If he had tucked this one in instead of shooting straight at Jose Sa, Trent’s wonder pass from deep inside Liverpool’s half would have been a major talking point of the match.
Sadly, as it has all too often been the case this season, it was then time for the opponents to apply the fatal blow. A counter-attacking move on the 72nd minute saw Adama Traore running in acres of free space down their right.
He had time to wait for an onrushing Ruben Neves before squaring the ball to the Portuguese who then had a simple tap in to finish.
What to make of this latest setback?
The defence was again put very much in the spotlight for some questionable performance. Just like in 2020-21, the absence of Virgil Van Dijk costs a lot as he is the maestro in organizing the backline and he communicates clearly the expectations to each and every one. Most people would even be hard pressed to remember when our perceived most effective pairing of VVD and Konaté had featured this season.
Another injury absentee Luis Diaz would certainly contribute more incisiveness to the midfield which is today described as a pale shadow of its former self.
Upfront, Gakpo is not a number 9 striker but he is more effective running from midfield if his performance in the Dutch national team and PSV Eindhoven is to go by.
The return of Firmino and Jota will hopefully restore a more balanced side with Gakpo dropping back to his favoured position and rejuvenate that midfield which is so important in Klopp’s pressing game.
Speaking of refreshing the team, Stefan Bajcetic already excels in the defensive midfield position for an 18-year old. He has quickly earned Klopp’s confidence and shows a lot of maturity for his young age.
Unsurprisingly, the match reactions from mainstream media, social media and pub talks were far from being favourable. There were even ludicrous extreme suggestions of Jurgen Klopp getting sacked or walking away.
The German has been and is still the best manager that Liverpool can possibly have. Rome was not built in a day and he opened the floodgates of trophies nearly four years after he started the job. Thereafter, he became one rare manager who has won every trophy there is on offer.
Now that we are waiting for the return of the injured players and a rebuilding job looks to be on the cards for the longer term, it is time to show Klopp that he is not walking alone.