Liverpool: Why Reds risk playing themselves into bad form – Jenas

Match of the Day 2 analysis

In terms of the result, losing to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge will not be a major concern for Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp – but his side’s performance must have been a worry.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand how difficult it must have been for the Reds players to get their mind-set right on Sunday, after the euphoria of reaching the Champions League final in midweek.

But they were off the pace and, right through their team, the level of play we expect to see from this Liverpool side at their best just wasn’t there.

Liverpool XI V Chelsea
Ten of Liverpool’s starting XI against Chelsea also began their 5-2 win over Roma. Trent Alexander-Arnold replaced the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in midfield at Stamford Bridge, with Nathaniel Clyne in turn replacing him at right-back, but the Reds managed only 10 shots against the Blues, fewer than half as many as they did against the Italian side.
Liverpool: Why Reds risk playing themselves into bad form – Jenas
Liverpool: Why Reds risk playing themselves into bad form – Jenas

Of course the Champions League final on 26 May is a distraction here, because it is staring them in the face. I don’t think it is possible for their players to get that game out of their mind, because making it there was such a huge achievement for them.

Every single member of their squad is going to want to play in Kiev, and they have also had a situation where one of their star players has just suffered a major injury.

I am sure some of them looked at what happened to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and thought ‘I don’t want that to be me’.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Oxlade-Chamberlain is out of this summer’s World Cup with a knee ligament injury suffered in the first leg of Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final win over Roma

Reds risk playing themselves into bad form

As a player the worst thing you can do is look at a big game in isolation when it is one or two matches away and think ‘should I give 100% this weekend, because I might pick up an injury and miss it?’

If you do that, you inevitably play badly which sends you down a whole different road. Your confidence goes a little bit and, before you know it, the big match is next and you are thinking about how to get back into some form rather than staying at the top of your game.

That is the problem that Liverpool’s players are facing at the moment.

What happened against Chelsea was not a one-off, either. In the Premier League, some of their results and performances in the past few weeks have been poor, which is why they have not maintained their push for second place.

Premier League snapshot - top of the table: Man City 1st, Man Utd 2nd, Liverpool 3rd, Tottenham in 4th, Chelsea in 5th and Arsenal 6th

Of course you can forgive them for that, because those games have been played around some enormous European ties against Manchester City and Roma, but it is something they need to be careful of because the risk is that they lose focus to the extent that they play themselves into poor form.

So, in a weird way, the fact that Liverpool are likely to be under a bit of pressure going into their final Premier League game of the season might actually help them.

It is not just about the top four for them, they have got the Champions League final coming up too. Having to concentrate on this game when Kiev is around the corner is a bit of a nightmare really, but it might allow them to find the spark that got them in this position in the first place.

When they face Brighton next Sunday, potentially requiring a win to finish in the top four, they need to get back to the way they will have to play against Real Madrid.

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Hate the result, fine with the performance – Klopp

Has the tricky trio turned into every man for himself?

Mohamed Salah did not look that interested against Chelsea, which was odd, but I was more concerned with the way Liverpool’s entire front three played at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday.

I saw something in the second leg of their semi-final against Roma which I have not seen all season, which was Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane being selfish for the first time.

Usually, when they counter-attack, all three of them are trying to find each other and the best route to goal. Yes Salah has scored the majority, but they have been sharing the goals out, which is one of the reason things have worked so well.

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When Mohamed Salah met Mohamed Salah

This time, it seemed like it was suddenly every man for himself at the top end of the pitch – it was like they did not want to pass to each other anymore.

It was almost as if they had looked at the records books about who had scored what in the Champions League and were thinking ‘I want to be the man who scores the most’.

That doesn’t matter. People have been talking about this Liverpool attack as being among the best front threes we have seen in European competition, but that is on the basis of them playing together as a unit.

Yes, it is just one game where that did not happen but it has happened this week, and it was followed by another game against Chelsea where they did not link up as well as usual.

Liverpool were laboured. They were trying to get on the ball and make things happen but from one-twos around the box to their movement, it was not quite there.

When they did get into good positions around the box, Salah had one of the worst games I think he has had in a Liverpool shirt.

He is entitled to have a bad game given the season he has had, but Liverpool need to fix this quickly because they have got two of the most important games of their whole season coming up.

When Liverpool were a well-oiled machine

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Reds in final sounds crazy – Klopp

Liverpool’s front three did not score against Chelsea but you have to give some credit to the Blues there, because they defended very well.

You would not say the same about Liverpool, however, and that must also be a worry for Klopp.

I am not going to be overly critical of their attack-minded approach because they are in a Champions League final and what they did in the first leg against Roma, when they scored five goals in the space of 35 minutes, is the main reason they made it.

But I just feel that what they did against Manchester City over both legs of the quarter-final was a better all-round team performance in defence as well as when they went forward.

That is when the machine felt like it was well oiled in every area and I don’t think Klopp will be anywhere as near as happy with what he has seen from his team since.

Beat Brighton and kick on for Kiev

I don’t think focus is an issue for the forwards, because they operate on instincts in that area of the pitch.

It does make a difference in midfield and defence, though, because you need to maintain your concentration for 90 minutes and stay switched on to what everyone else is doing.

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It’s Liverpool’s year to win Champions League – Dublin

I think the reason Liverpool had been looking so strong was because, defensively, they tightened up. If you look at what has happened to them of late, then they are shipping goals again.

That has always been their Achilles heel under Klopp and they need to put it right before they face Real, who we know are a team for the big occasion because can turn it on when it matters.

Liverpool must prove to themselves they can do the same, which is why they need this game against Brighton.

They need to show they can be that well-oiled machine again and raise their game to dispose of this team and make sure they qualify for the Champions League. Then they can kick on for Kiev from there.

I think they will do it, but I am sure it is something Klopp will be talking a lot about this week to make sure they do.

Jermaine Jenas was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

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