This might as well have been me Monday afternoon while Leicester City were walking right through Liverpool:
But I do. I do know what I expected. Not that. For some reason, entirely the opposite of that. In case you don’t believe me, here’s this from last Friday:
“Are the Foxes suddenly going to have the performance of their season against Liverpool on Monday? …Probably not.”
In their first match following the sacking of Claudio Ranieri, we saw the Leicester of yesteryear. One of resolute defending. One of purposeful long balls, which Jamie Vardy took advantage of. With only five goals through his first 22 PL appearances, Vardy notched a brace Monday afternoon. The Foxes struck early—just inside the half-hour mark—and never looked back.
But although I expected a different outcome, we shouldn’t be all that surprised. We see this sort of response often. This whole ‘back against the wall’ mentality. A team on the ropes experiencing a managerial change suddenly finding that spark. Other clichés. But it doesn’t last. It’s not sustainable. Yet for a side like Leicester, a side currently under threat of relegation, it’s necessary. Now with 12 matches remaining, they’re two points from safety.
Meanwhile Liverpool, what’s going on here? If there’s one thing that continues to define this PL campaign, it’s that only Chelsea win the matches we expect them to. Liverpool, like all other “title challengers”, just cannot step up.
But following a six-week stretch without a league win, the Reds finally broke out. February 11 rolled around as Liverpool confidently took Tottenham Hotspur to task. It would finish 2-0, but it could have—and absolutely should have—been more. Regardless, they were strong. Jürgen Klopp’s side, for the time being, was back.
Then came a 16-day layoff.
All that time, chatter surrounding Leicester intensified. Rumors around Ranieri continued to circulate while pressure mounted. The Reds were walking into an uneasy situation, but they were fresh. This was a match they needed to control, and now the winless monkey was off their back. But it wasn’t to be. And as we’ve seen for the past couple months, goals are drying up. Defending continues to cause issues. Now that goals are harder to come by, it’s the issue.
Sure Liverpool are level on goals (55) with Chelsea, but when it comes to the top-six—spots two through six are all separated by just five points, by the way—the Reds cannot keep opponents out of their own net. They’re the only side of the six who have conceded more than 30 (33). You have to go as far down as ninth to get a club that’s conceded more (44) than Liverpool. That distinction belongs to West Ham United.
Of course, it’s not as simple as the difference between goals scored and conceded. A Klopp-managed side always seems to lose their steam in the later stages of the season. This problem isn’t just exclusive to his time in England. It’s a matter of adjusting, of balance. Right now, there is little balance. Right now, we continue expecting a better Liverpool that just is not showing up.
So Monday afternoon came and went, and Leicester took advantage. They fought like a team that needed to. Liverpool didn’t, and sometimes it really is that simple.