Liverpool suffered perhaps their poorest defeat of the season against Nottingham Forest on Saturday, but the outlook for the Reds improved as the weekend went on.
Whisper it, but, in the grand scheme of things, last weekend may not actually have been as much of a catastrophe for Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool as it might seem.
It seems a bold claim given that the Reds lost 1-0 to bottom-of-the-table relegation favourites Nottingham Forest, who hadn’t won since August 14. To make matters worse, Liverpool had actually built some momentum, rattling off three consecutive victories and winning four of five overall.That momentum was brought to a grinding halt, and the Reds’ resurgence was quashed. In this context, it felt like potentially the biggest blow of the season so far.
But it’s important to look at the bigger picture and the results elsewhere in the Premier League over the course of the weekend.
On Saturday evening, Chelsea and Manchester United played out a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. While Liverpool fans may instinctively have bemoaned Casemiro’s last-gasp equaliser for their arch-rivals, it was, without doubt, the outcome that suited Klopp’s side most, with both teams dropping points.
Then, on Sunday afternoon, Arsenal failed to win for just the second time this season, drawing 1-1 away to Southampton. Some will retain hope that Liverpool can finish above the Gunners, arguing that their early-season form is simply unsustainable.
However, the gap does stand at 12 points, and Liverpool no longer have a game in hand on Mikel Arteta’s men. Right now, it’s looking like a tall order to reel them in, and the Reds may be better served focusing on the teams below. The relevance of the result at St Mary’s, then, is unclear.
However, the most significant scoreline of the weekend for Liverpool, aside from their own of course, was Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Newcastle United.
Amidst the focus on the Reds’ woes, Tottenham’s own difficulties have somewhat flown under the radar. They’ve now suffered back-to-back defeats, having been beaten 2-0 by Manchester United in midweek, and lost three of their last five top-flight matches overall.
It was an excellent start to the season for the Lilywhites, who amassed 10 points from their first four matches. But since then, they’ve picked up just 13 points from a possible 24, and they’re only seventh in the Premier League form table.
Liverpool will need to overhaul two of the ‘big six’ if they are to finish in the top four — Newcastle are unlikely to be a factor — and along with United, who are in the first year of a long-term project under Erik ten Hag, Spurs look most catchable.
Of course, rival slip-ups won’t really matter unless Liverpool improve themselves. Indeed, where some would view the weekend as damage limitation, others would see a missed opportunity.
The big concern for Liverpool right now, in terms of qualifying for the Champions League, is their form away from home. If Klopp can fix that, Liverpool will give themselves a chance.
They currently rank a dismal 16th for their results on the road, having failed to win any of their first five. They’ve only been able to manage two draws and three defeats, scoring just five times and conceding eight at the other end.
Yes, they’ve faced two of the toughest away tests in the division at The Emirates and Old Trafford, but the results against Fulham and Forest suggest that the problem runs deep.
Liverpool are fourth when it comes to home form, only a point worse off than Spurs and Arsenal, but their ceiling will be low this season unless they begin to deliver in the other half of their fixtures.It could be argued that the unusual nature of the 2022/23 season could aid the Reds. With the World Cup set to halt the Premier League for more than a month, perhaps it’s important to simply stay in touch in the coming weeks, and bank on the valuable opportunity to reset before the turn of the year.
In that respect, Liverpool’s competitors may have just done them an important favour.