DOMINIC KING: Liverpool have an uphill task to finish in the top four

Liverpool are playing as smoothly as a car with a clogged exhaust, spluttering and stalling through games… Jurgen Klopp’s side is too good for things not to click but they have a fight to finish in the top four

  • Liverpool dropped points again after drawing 0-0 with Everton at Goodison Park
  • The Reds could have won the Merseyside derby but cannot quibble the point
  • Their new-look attack is struggling to live up to Liverpool’s usual high standards
  • Jurgen Klopp’s side are the only team to fail to score against Everton this season

Alisson sprung up like a quarterback and hurled one of those pinpoint throws that enabled Trent Alexander-Arnold to start scampering as a wide receiver would.

Liverpool, suddenly, had an opportunity to grab the initiative in the Merseyside derby. Four red shirts surged forward to join Alexander-Arnold, among them Darwin Nunez. The right back passed the baton to the Uruguayan, who only needed to turn the ball inside and Luis Diaz was in on goal.

Instead, Nunez fumbled and the chance, 23 minutes in, was gone. There would be no touchdown, there would be no lift-off. Unable to comprehend the breakdown, Jurgen Klopp waved his arms at his £85million signing in exasperation. Nunez, in response, gestured an unconvincing apology.

Liverpool may have a fight on their hands to finish in the Premier League’s top four this season

This little snapshot rather summed up Liverpool’s season so far. They are moving as smoothly as a car with a clogged exhaust, the brief moments when it starts to purr outweighed when there is spluttering and stalling.

Yes, they might have won this wonderful spat, contested in an atmosphere that left the ears ringing — Everton manager Frank Lampard called it an ‘outstanding 0-0’ and he was absolutely right — but Liverpool could not have any quibbles about having to settle for a point.

‘Rule No 1,’ said Klopp afterwards. ‘If you cannot win the derby, do not lose the derby.’

So far, Liverpool have taken 50 per cent of the points on offer to them in the Premier League and this is very much glass half-full or half-empty territory. The positive is that they have squeezed out five more points than they may have done against Fulham, Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Everton.

Darwin Nunez missed a great chance early on to fire Liverpool ahead in the Merseyside derby

But the alternate view is that they will pay the price for not being able to go the early gallop. For all the talk about title challenges and going head-to-head with Manchester City again, Klopp has one prime objective every year and that is to secure Champions League qualification.

It is, of course, early days but Klopp won’t want to give Arsenal and Tottenham too much rope — and that is without mentioning Chelsea and Manchester United, both of whom will have designs on Europe’s top club competition after their eye-watering summer spends.

There are too many good players in Liverpool’s squad for things not to click but there is a little bit of a lost sheen about them at present — Alexander-Arnold and Fabinho are out of form, Diaz and Nunez look like newcomers, injuries are having an impact — and there are issues to address.

‘I believe it is only because of the circumstances around us,’ Alisson argued. ‘The injuries. There are so many reasons you can point the finger at. In the end, it is on us. We have to have the right attitude on the pitch, working against those kind of problems and fixing those problems.

Jurgen Klopp’s side dropped points again as the Reds drew 0-0 with Everton at Goodison Park

‘We fix that with football. We have to stick with our idea of football. We have to fight, too, be physical sometimes. We are trying to do that and we are getting there. This was a good example of what we can do this season.’ 

Alisson was comfortably Liverpool’s best performer, with two brilliant saves in the second half to preserve a clean sheet, but there was a huge sigh of relief when VAR Darren England deemed Conor Coady to be offside after he turned in Neal Maupay’s cross-shot.

‘We’re Everton, aren’t we? It was going to be offside!’ said Lampard, who felt Virgil van Dijk should have been sent off for a foul on Amadou Onana. ‘My instinct was it was going to be close. I didn’t really celebrate because I felt those ones that flash across goal can go either way.’ 

This game, too, could have gone either way — Liverpool were denied primarily because Jordan Pickford had a superlative afternoon — but had the visitors left with three points, it would not have masked the fact everything just feels clunky at present.

Liverpool’s attack has seemed to suffer following the departure of star winger Sadio Mane

Injuries, undoubtedly, are having an impact. Liverpool missed the presence of their hamstrung skipper Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara’s return cannot come soon enough, but how Klopp gets the best from Nunez, Diaz and Mo Salah will be key.

Adjusting to life without Sadio Mane is not going to be straightforward — you could have imagined him making the right choice during that 23rd-minute breakaway — but Liverpool, who have difficult games on the horizon, are not blessed with time to do it. This situation, certainly, will be a test.

‘It is a long season and points are really important at the end,’ Alisson said. ‘Now is not the time to look at that, at the end of the season you can see whether we dropped points or not. For now we are not carried by the feeling of losing points or not.

‘This could be a point that makes a difference. We could have lost, Everton are a really good side and are improving. We are not happy at all but we had to get the point.’

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