By Alywin Chew
One would think Liverpool would be on fire after that 9-0 mauling of Bournemouth.
Alas, this was not to be the case.
Against Brighton on Saturday, we were nothing close to our title-winning selves.
Whatever happened to our counterattacks that used to be as fast as lightning, our overloads that were a little bit frightening, and our passes that were made with expert timing?
That six-goal thriller at Anfield proved to an incredibly nostalgic experience because it reminded me of the old school Hong Kong classic film One-Armed Swordsman.
Wait, what on earth does a football match have in common with this martial arts/Kungfu film?
If you saw what transpired, I think you’d agree with me that the Reds went into that match with only one arm – its left arm.
Once again, our right back Trent Alexander-Arnold (TAA) was woeful, and I feel utterly vindicated that some Liverpool supporters are finally expressing that on social media, with some even hailing him “Liverpool’s Harry Maguire”. Yikes.
You see, I’ve been lamenting about this bloody point since last season, only for everyone around to me to tell me I’m crazy, and that the young scouser is “the best right back in the world”.
Don’t get me wrong. TAA is not a bad footballer. The lad can definitely cross the ball, and he’s also great with freekicks and shots from range. But he’s just not a good right back. Just look at how often he’s caught out of position and how easy it is for the opposition to get past him.
And it doesn’t help that Liverpool do not have a backup option in this position.
No, please, for crying out loud, James Ribena Milner is not a backup option. Note this point, I’ll come right back to it in a minute.
To exacerbate matters, Mo Salah, who also plays on the right, has been a shade of his former self since signing that big money contract. In fact, both the Egyptian and TAA hardly saw any action in the second half as Luis Diaz was constantly given the ball down the left.
It almost looked as if their own teammates believed the Colombian was more effective at carving out the chances. Truth be told, he was. Liverpool’s equaliser came courtesy of a pass by Diaz to Roberto Firmino, who coolly shimmied before lashing it past the keeper.
The other reason why this match was nostalgic was because Liverpool’s performance reminded me of the Liverpool from ages past. Yes, that Liverpool. You know, the one that couldn’t seem to pry itself away from mediocrity but could at times rack up impressive wins.
I don’t think all fault lies on the gaffer. It’s amazing how quickly people forget that Jurgen Klopp was the very man who ended Liverpool’s wait for a league title. He is also one of the best in the business when it comes to transforming and motivating players.
If anyone can reverse the ailing fortunes of Alexander-Arnold and get him going waaa-TAA again, it’s Klopp.
I’m confident that the German knows exactly what is wrong and what needs to be done to arrest the spate of poor results.
But having a solution in mind and implementing it are different matters altogether. Case in point: player transfers. You don’t always get to buy the player you want.
One of the biggest issues practically all Liverpool fans agree on is that the team doesn’t have enough quality in midfield. While Thiago has brought flair to the middle of the park since the departure of Philippe Coutinho, the team still lacks another top-notch box-to-box midfielder like Gini Wijnaldum.
It has become apparent that Fabinho and the ageing Jordan Henderson aren’t quite enough.
And this brings me back to the point about Milner – he’s also not a great backup option for this position. But Liverpool fans would’ve noticed that the 36-year-old is often deployed as such, which is both worrying and mind boggling.
I mean, what about new loan signing Arthur Melo? Surely he can’t be worse than Milner?
Again, don’t get me wrong. Milner is a great servant of the club. But he’s the kind of player you send in to see off a match you’re already winning. He’s not a gamechanger.
The next big issue is, as I mentioned, sprucing up the attack down the right. Given their current form, Salah and TAA need to be benched. I’d like to see Diogo Jota start on the right. I’d also like to see someone other than Milner or TAA play at right back. Perhaps Joe Gomez might be able to step up.
But Liverpool definitely need to look into getting a world class right back in the next transfer window. Or perhaps look into playing TAA in a 3-5-2 or some other formation.
Then again, what do I know? I’m no coach.
There is one thing I know, though, and that is Liverpool are a team in transition. New young signings like Fabio Carvalho and Darwin Nunez will require time to make an impact up front. Harvey Elliot has all the potential in the world to be a superstar, but he too, will need time.
Succession plans will also need to be made for the defence. Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip are both 31.
Let’s be honest, Liverpool are pretty much out of the title race. Fans should instead keep their fingers crossed for other silverware this season.
We could also take solace in the fact that an excellent Brighton side did not humiliate us with a, ahem, 6-3 drubbing.
By the way, the One-Armed Swordsman does have a finale that most Liverpool fans would appreciate.
He kills his arch nemesis who is dubbed - I kid you not - the Long-Armed Devil.