You just couldn’t write it. Liverpool have garnered something of a reputation when it comes to impressive performances against the top teams, then flopping against lower league sides.
This week, the Reds took that trend to new heights with a desperately disappointing defeat to then bottom-of-the-table Swansea City.
Jurgen Klopp’s men were fresh from stripping Manchester City of their unbeaten run in the Premier League in a scintillating 4-3 win, only for an Alfie Mawson strike to bring them hurtling back to Earth.
As a result, the jury is still out on just how Philippe Coutinho’s departure has impacted Liverpool.
One anomalous defeat to the Swans shouldn’t breed total pessimism in the Liverpool camp, they still sit comfortably in the top four, but the creative influence behind the Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino trio is lost for good.
ARE LIVERPOOL MISSING PHILIPPE COUTINHO?
Furthermore, it looks unlikely that Klopp will dip into the £142 million Barcelona paid for Coutinho in order to secure a replacement in the January window.
Thomas Lemar has been linked with an Anfield switch the most but his current valuation of €90 million looks set to keep him in the south of France until the summer.
Just how painful will the next five months prove for Kopites, then?
Well, in the opinion of Jamie Carragher, fans shouldn’t read too much into the drama. The club legend kept a keen eye on Liverpool during Monday Night Football and formed a very clear opinion of his old side without Coutinho.
CARRAGHER COMMENTS ON LIVERPOOL WITHOUT HIM
Reflecting on the match three days on, the 39-year-old penned: “A lot of people will look at the game and say they missed Coutinho. Of course that is a factor because he’s a top player and he was one of the most creative players in the team.
“But let’s not forget that he started those games with Burnley, Newcastle and West Brom earlier this season and it was a problem last season as well. So it’s not just down to Coutinho.
“I feel that the passing can be a little lethargic when the opposition get players behind the ball. If they moved it quicker, they might be able to exploit spaces when people do get out of position.
“Adam Lallana should help in that respect. He’s no Coutinho, of course, but he was outstanding in central midfield last season, so he should be able to add a link between midfield and attack.”
Too true, Jamie. It seems Liverpool’s problem against lower league sides stem from how the entire team behaves and sets up, regardless of whether Coutinho features or not.
Klopp might have to come to terms with the fact ‘gegenpressing’ just doesn’t cut it against Swansea and co.