Liverpool U23s slumped to a 4-0 defeat to Arsenal on Friday evening, with some poor defending proving very costly.
Premier League 2, Meadow Park
September 21, 2018
Goals: Saka 21′, Nketiah 25′, 90′, Willock 79′
Critchley named a strong starting lineup, making five changes in total.
There was also a place on the substitutes’ bench for exciting youngster Edvard Tagseth—a player hailed by Steven Gerrard during his stint as U18s boss last season.
It was Liverpool who enjoyed more of the ball early on, with Arsenal, managed by former Gunners favourite Freddie Ljungberg, happy to sit deep.
Tolaji Bola brought down Adekanye just outside the penalty area, with the Arsenal man fortunate not to see a red card. He wasn’t even booked, bizarrely, and Adam Lewis curled the resulting free-kick just wide.
Millar blew a wonderful opportunity to play in Adekanye after a flowing counter-attack and Deyan Iliev saved from Rafa Camacho.
Despite Liverpool’s early dominance it was Arsenal who took the lead, with Bukayo Saka finishing well past Grabara from close range.
The hosts’ lead was swiftly doubled, with some terrible Reds defending, especially from Nathaniel Phillips, allowing Eddie Nketiah to fire home.
It was dawdling of the highest order, with the centre-back losing the ball directly in front of goal.
Matty Virtue saw a goal-bound shot blocked, as the Reds desperately searched for a quick response, with Markovic also heading inches wide.
Tyreece John-Jules came extremely close to putting Arsenal out of sight shortly before the break and was then superbly denied by Grabara.
Tony Gallacher replaced Millar at the interval, with lots of work to do for Liverpool.
Grabara was again busy at the other end, making another important stop, and Adekanye almost reduced the arrears, squeezing an effort narrowly wide.
The speedy winger was then denied on the line as the Reds upped their game, with Iliev making a smart save to keep out Markovic’s header.
Grabara, comfortably Liverpool’s best player on the night, twice made saves to keep his side in the contest, but time was fast running out.
Markovic, whose attitude appeared questionable throughout, missed a gilt-edged opportunity with the goal gaping, and was substituted for Glen McAuley soon after.
Joe Willock finished in slick fashion and Nketiah got his second of the game in stoppage time, putting the icing on the cake for Arsenal.
It was a bitterly disappointing night for Critchley and his players, compounded as Adekanye was stretchered off late on with a knee injury.
The defeat means the Merseysiders have won just one of their opening six Premier League 2 games this season, drawing three and losing the other two.
TIA Man of the Match: Kamil Grabara
Liverpool: Grabara; Camacho, Phillips, Johnston, Lewis; Chirivella, Virtue, Christie-Davies (Coyle 74′); Adekanye, Millar (Gallacher 46′), Markovic (McAuley 78′)
Subs not used: McKenzie-Lyle, Tagseth
After a successful start to their UEFA Champions League campaign on Tuesday night, Liverpool are back in Premier League action at Anfield, as they welcome Southampton on Saturday afternoon. Jurgen Klopp’s men are on a high, having won their first five Premier League games, but know they can’t afford to slip up on this potential banana-skin, with massive games against Chelsea and Manchester City following this one.
Klopp has a clean bill of health and is expected to field his strongest side to take the field against a Saints side, who will be bereft of Danny Ings, who cannot play as part of his loan agreement.
Roberto Firmino is expected to go straight back into the starting XI in place of Daniel Sturridge, while Naby Keita could also make a comeback into the Reds’ starting XI.
Here are some potentially key individual duels that could decide the fate of the game.
MOHAMED SALAH v RYAN BERTRAND
A lot was said in midweek about Salah’s performance and his perceived annoyance after Firmino’s late winner, but any questions about his unhappiness were put to rest soon after. Salah didn’t have a great game though, as the ball just didn’t stick for him, and he gave it away cheaply for PSG to score their second goal.
There is an opportunity to shut all the critics down on Saturday, though. But facing him will be one of the most consistent left-backs in the league over the last few seasons.
Salah’s performance levels are still not at a concerning level, it is just a few things like cleaner touches and better decision-making. His movement is still top-class, and he is still getting into the right positions – those of the kind which terrorised opposition defences last season.
He is just lacking a little bit of sharpness, and that should come with more game-time. It is a similar spell to the beginning of last season, when not just Salah, but the whole Liverpool team were creating loads of chances but not putting them away.
All it will take is one game where it all explodes, like it did against Maribor last season, for Salah to get back to the goalscoring form that we know. It is difficult to keep getting into threatening positions but not score at all, and the tap for Salah is just waiting to be burst open.
SADIO MANE v CEDRIC SOARES
Mane has had a fantastic goal-scoring start to the season and has benefited hugely from this changed role, where he is playing a lot more in central positions. He is also enjoying the added attention given to Salah and Firmino, which opens up a little more space for him to do his thing.
Against PSG, he started and ended the game like a house on fire, but for large periods in the middle, he was only a bystander who couldn’t really impact proceedings. Andy Robertson has been on fire, and that has helped Mane move infield without the fear of seeing the left flank unmanned.
Mane has also been hugely helped by Robertson’s ability to find him in space, in most situations. The Scot’s aerial balls have been pinged into Mane’s feet, which have allowed the Senegalese that extra bit of time on the ball to suss up the situation and then make his decisions.
Against Spurs last weekend, Mane’s decision-making was poor, but like Salah, that is nothing that points to any long-term concerns.
VIRGIL VAN DIJK v SHANE LONG
In the absence of Ings, who has done a lot of the Saints’ goalscoring this season, the onus to trouble the Liverpool rearguard is likely to fall on Long. That isn’t exactly a happy place for Mark Hughes to be in, given the scarcity of Long’s goals in the last few seasons.
Van Dijk was immense in midweek against PSG, matching Edinson Cavani in the air, and also matching the speed of Kylian Mbappe on the floor.
With Joe Gomez, he has formed a strong partnership at the heart of the Liverpool defence, and that is expected to continue in this game as well.
Long needs support from the likes of Mohamed Elyounoussi and Nathan Redmond, whenever Southampton get forward. The Irishman chases down every ball and there’s no such thing as a lost cause for him, but he will need support when Southampton do foray forward.
It is expected to be a lonely afternoon up top for Long, but if he can get into positions to deliver the sucker punch, Liverpool have the personnel to deal with it, not least the big Dutchman.
Liverpool are reportedly lining up a £31million move for Nicolo Barella after Juventus withdrew their interest in the Cagliari midfielder.
Barella had been on the radar of the Serie A champions following a series of impressive displays domestically, but according to reports in Italy, they are ready to walk away over what they deem to be an excessive valuation.
Calciomercato write that Liverpool have now jumped to the front of the queue for the £31m-rated central midfielder, although a number of other Serie A clubs, including Inter Milan, AC Milan and Roma are also tracking his progress.
Click here to read more of this story on MailOnline.
This story has been reproduced from the media. It does not necessarily represent the position of Liverpool Football Club.