Monday, 7 December 2015

Liverpool defeat NOT a sign they can’t challenge for title

Jurgen Klopp: Greets Adam Lallana after Liverpool's defeat at Newcastle United
Liverpool were deservedly beaten by Newcastle United on Sunday, but it is still impossible to say whether Jurgen Klopp’s side are Premier League title contenders.
This result will be billed by some as one which should bring Liverpool back down to earth following talk of a Premier League challenge.
The reality, however, is that few associated with Liverpool, certainly not Jurgen Klopp, had been encouraging such talk. Just 11 games into the German’s reign, as impressive as some of their performances have been, it was always too early to start talking about the Reds as title contenders.
However, it’s no less knee-jerk to suggest that Liverpool’s 2-0 defeat at St James’ Park is evidence that they cannot win the title this season, especially on a weekend which saw Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham also fail to win.
There are question marks about all of the teams currently above Liverpool. Have Leicester City been seriously tested yet? Can Arsenal and Manchester City cope in the absence of key players? Will Manchester United score enough goals? Are Tottenham drawing too many games? Such is the nature of this season’s Premier League that it is hard to feel confident about any team’s chances at the top.
Liverpool’s second defeat under Klopp was a reminder that they too have deficiencies, but it would take a clairvoyant in this crazy season to predict the make-up of the top six.
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However, although it is difficult to draw any great conclusions from this weekend, Liverpool’s lack of energy in the North East was noticeable. They made six changes from the team that thrashed Southampton 6-1 in the Capital One Cup in midweek yet never managed to build any serious momentum and were actually outrun by a Newcastle side that had been accused in the build-up to the game of not trying hard enough this season.
Hard work beats talent, as the saying goes, but on a day that Liverpool’s efforts were matched, they lacked the quality to pick up any points. Frankly, in a game alarmingly short on quality, Newcastle were the better of two poor sides, but their win was nevertheless thoroughly deserved.
Furthermore, the fine late finish by Georginio Wijnaldum to confirm the three points was a reminder that there is enough quality within their squad to pull well clear of the relegation zone.
Why they have struggled so much is a question perhaps only answerable from within the dressing room, but this result should give them the confidence to produce the sort of performances they are capable of and have shown signs of at fleeting moments of this season.
Thankfully for Liverpool, Klopp, as philosophical as ever, is not a manager that will overreact to one bad performance. “A few days ago we were brilliant, today we were not good,” he succinctly summed up after the game.
Sometimes, in an era of over-analysis, knee-jerk reactions and constantly-altering predictions, the simplest explanation is also the right one.
Liverpool did not play well, but that does not mean they will not play well in their next game. Newcastle were not fantastic themselves, but they were better than they have been recently. If they show the same level of commitment in every game, they should be fine, but in football there are no guarantees.
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