Liverpool truth everyone already knew hammered home as Jurgen Klopp’s Achilles heel is again exposed
Liverpool were held to a 0-0 draw against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg and lacked firepower without Mo Salah and Sadio Mane.
It was the truth that everyone knew already. The fact that every fan feared.
The inevitable scenario each Kopite - both inside Anfield and watching from home - was simply waiting for.
It didn’t take someone with a Uefa Pro licence to predict Liverpool would struggle in the absence of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane.
But after the Reds they were held to a limp goalless draw against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, concerns have perhaps intensified markedly.
Already, there were fathomable frets about how the Reds would cope without their wing wizards while they’re away at the African Cup of Nations.
They’ve scored a combined 34 goals this season already. Salah has plundered a remarkable 23, while Mane has helped himself to 11.
Yet without the pair, who’ve scarcely missed a game in recent campaigns, Jurgen Klopp’s front line lacked any sort of ideas against the Gunners.
In truth, Liverpool couldn’t have been handed a better opportunity to get one foot in the Wembley door.
Their depleted attack was gift-wrapped a chance to step up in the 24th minute when the Gunners were reduced to 10 men after Granit Xhaka hacked down Diogo Jota.
This was the potentially game-changing moment Jota, Roberto Firmino and Takumi Minamino had to capitalise on. They had to run amok and cause havoc with a numerical advantage.
Instead, it was the antithesis. There was a dearth of ideas or imagination as Liverpool toiled and Arsenal grew stronger as the game wore on.
The Reds mustered just one shot on target. Minamino squandered a gilt-edged chance in the 90th minute when he blazed over the bar from 10 yards with Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale out of position.
It epitomised the hosts’ performance - and Minamino’s Anfield career.
Ahead of Brentford’s visit to Merseyside on Sunday, the second leg against Arsenal and then a trip to Crystal Palace, questions will be asked where the imagination will come from.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, who’s usually at the heart of Liverpool’s moves, was well below his best. He too needs to improve, as does Andy Robertson on the opposite flank.
Klopp also has to find solutions - especially when his teams are against 10 men.
It was the second home game this season Liverpool could not break down a team who’d had a player sent off.
The Reds couldn’t find a way past Chelsea in August and it happened again against Arsenal. Strangely, it’s been Klopp’s Achilles heel when top opposition have had a numerical disadvantage.
The Liverpool boss made changes too late. He had 20 minutes in the first half to see how Arsenal had adapted after Xhaxa’s dismissal. Substitutions at half-time should have happened.
After the Crystal Palace game in just more than a week’s time, Liverpool could well find themselves out of another domestic competition and the Premier League title race if they don’t buck up their ideas.
More goalscorer chances simply need to be conjured. A lot more ingenious is a necessity.