Liverpool’s top-four hopes suffer huge blow as Brentford claim first win in 85 years
Darwin Nunez of Liverpool in frustration after their Premier League loss to Brentford at Brentford Community Stadium in Brentford, England, January 2, 2023. /CFP
Despite the darkness and dread that permeated the atmosphere at Anfield in the latter part of 2022, Liverpool welcomed the new year with optimism. The massive Premier League team headed to Brentford with the knowledge that a victory there on Monday night would bring them to within striking distance of the top four teams in the standings. It’s unfortunate, but old habits are difficult to break.
Jurgen Klopp’s team were outplayed, outclassed, and outmaneuvered by Brentford, who rightfully won their first victory over the Reds since 1938. The Liverpool defensive line, which has been a shambles all season, was exposed ruthlessly in their dismal 3-1 defeat.
Liverpool had a poor start to the season, winning only four of their first 12 matches, and appeared more like insignificant minnows than powerful giants. However, they have improved their play as of late and have won their last four matches in a row, which has helped them climb the league table. But the most recent defeat, which took place at the Brentford Community Stadium, brought them crashing back down to earth.
Brentford players celebrate with their home fans following their victory over Liverpool at Brentford Community Stadium in Brentford, England, January 2, 2023. /CFP
An own goal by Ibrahima Konate, who was making his first appearance since the World Cup final, and a superb header via Yoane Wissa gave Brentford a sɦock lead as Liverpool made a horrible start to the match. Roared on by a sold-out home crowd, Liverpool made a poor start to the game. Although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored his first goal in over a year to help the away team cut the lead in half, Bryan Mbeumo’s clinical finish put the game out of reach for the away team.
The outcome of the match means that Liverpool are now four points behind Manchester United, who have played one more game than Liverpool have. The miserable team managed by Klopp, who have already dropped 23 points so far this season and would have moved up to fourth place with a win, have now dropped one point more than they did in the entirety of the previous campaign.
This season, Brentford has demonstrated that they are a very aggressive and athletically impressive team, as evidenced by the facт that they have scored nine goals from set pieces. This is to the credit of the Brentford team. However, Liverpool was largely responsible for their own demise and made things more simpler for their competitors. Every time the home team took a corner, it appeared that they were going to put the ball in the back of the net.
Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk reacts after their Premier League loss to Brentford at Brentford Community Stadium in Brentford, England, January 2, 2023. /CFP
When Liverpool’s defense was in complete disarray, it was expected that the ever-reliable center back for the Reds, Virgil van Dijk, who made a lucrative move to Liverpool from Southampton several years ago, would be the one to bring the ship back under control. Van Dijk has been consistently wonderful over the years since making the move. However, the normally confident Dutchman regularly lost his composure in one-on-one situations, and as a result, Klopp was forced to make the risky decision to remove his talismanic captain at the halftime break.
According to the statistics source Opta, this was the first occasion that Van Dijk had been substituted out after 45 minutes of play since he was brought off after a pre-planned change during a League Cup match against Lincoln City in September 2020. There is little question that Van Dijk saw a concerning decline in form after returning from the World Cup, despite Klopp’s later assertion that the substitution was made as a preventative measure owing to the possibility of injury. Simply put, he was not equipped to deal with the intensity of Brentford’s players or their set-piece expertise.
Andrew Robertson, a defender for Liverpool, made the observation after the game, “It’s not good enough.” “Even though we’ve discussed things like consistency and similar topics, we still aren’t getting it… At the present, it seems as though we’re moving ahead one step while simultaneously taking one step back, which sadly makes it difficult for us to climb the league table.”
Brentford’s striker Bryan Mbeumo (R) celebrates after scoring during their clash with Liverpool at Brentford Community Stadium in Brentford, England, January 2, 2023. /CFP
Klopp, meanwhile, struck a defiant tone after the loss and even suggested Brentford got away with utilizing dark arts during set pieces.
“When I say they stretch the rules in offensive set pieces – and they do, don’t get me wrong, they are smart but they do – if you singled out every situation you would find five fouls,” the Liverpool manager told a press briefing. “But because it’s so chaotic, nobody sees it. That’s what they do, and it’s really good, they react to different things. They play like this against us, but against other teams they play football and it’s fantastic.”
“You cannot defend long balls all the time, they were super-direct. That limits them in some aspects, but in this kind of game they are able to create chaos and they organized that extremely well,” he added.
Brentford manager Thomas Frank applauds the fans after their victory over Liverpool at Brentford Community Stadium in Brentford, England, January 2, 2023. /CFP
In sharp contrast, Brentford boss Thomas Frank was in celebratory mood as his team remain unbeaten in six games, which is their best run in the top flight for more than 80 years. “This is a very demanding league and if you get a couple of injuries then it can be very tough,” said Frank. “But I hope the fans dream big, I hope the players dream big.”
For Liverpool, however, as long as their uncharacteristically conspicuous deficiencies in defense are not addressed, they will continue to lose ground in the fiercely competitive top-four race. At the end of the season, this upset might come back to haunт them once again.