There was a moment inside Anfield’s mixed zone last night which hinted at the trust issues that linger at this club. As the media waited in hope for players to stop and speak about Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Sevilla, Philippe Coutinho was ushered past by Ray Haughan, Liverpool’s player liaison officer.
Coutinho had his head down but at least he turned to look, offering an awkward smile. In front of him, a fray of enthusiastic Spanish journalists fired off questions in the direction of Joaquín Correa, another South American whose equalising goal had determined the outcome.
We have been told Coutinho remains a Liverpool player, of course, because there were neither the options available nor the time to replace him despite nearly two months separating the start Barcelona’s of interest and the transfer window closing. Liverpool also wanted to show the world it is not a club that always sells its best players.
Though Sevilla’s remarkable record in the market over the last decade might suggest otherwise, trading widely has never been a simple case of one player fitting into another’s boots, particularly when the incoming player is still relatively young and there are immediate expectations at his destination, particularly also when that destination is in another country.
At 6ft 2in tall, Correa is a different type of attacking midfielder to Coutinho and yet, his aggression – his willingness to provide needle - as well as his skill, vision and output (he also contributed towards Sevilla’s opener), should remind Liverpool where to look after Coutinho eventually goes because ultimately, though their stance over the summer might be considered admirable by some, realistically it probably only delays the inevitable.
Ever since Tom Hicks and George Gillett almost ran Liverpool into the ground, trust issues have existed and this has been a burden to carry for Fenway Sport Group. It has been a difficult challenge and it is fair to say that it is one they have not carried well enough, though it is true they have been undermined by the actions of people they have trusted themselves, albeit too much.
At this time, it is Liverpool’s defence is the focus and again, it relates back to trust. Tuesday was not a good night for Dejan Lovren because his attempted hack at a clearance ended in a goal for the opposition. It was not a good night either for Emre Can because he did not commit to a challenge with Correa as forcibly as he should have done twenty seconds earlier. With Can trotting back, Jordan Henderson out of position as a consequence trying to do two jobs, as well as Alberto Moreno choosing to run in the opposite direction when danger was coming his way, it was later difficult deciding who was to blame the most for Correa’s equaliser following a quick throw in. Roy Keane, speaking from a television studio, was scathing in his assessment. “That sums up in a nutshell why Liverpool aren’t going to win any big prizes,” he said.
Presumably Henderson did not know about Keane’s observation having only just emerged from the dressing room but it was one he echoed. “To concede from that situation, it’s very disappointing and we need to learn because in the Champions League you’ll get punished,” he admitted. Joël Matip, meanwhile, had earlier warned, “Sometimes one or two goals have to be enough to win a game.”
Jürgen Klopp simply has to find a way to address this problem, whether it is through coaching, alternative organisation or transfer activity. There have been encouraging signs of progress under his guidance and yet at times, his reign has felt like an extension of the Brendan Rodgers era because Liverpool’s defensive shortcomings are illustrated so frequently, just like they had been under Roy Evans twenty years ago.
Evans ultimately lost the trust of the crowd and Rodgers went the same way. This is a Merseyside crowd, indeed, that demands its team be streetwise over anything else because locals ask of this intrinsic survival quality from themselves. When they see the same juvenile mistakes happen over and over again, it chips away at confidence. History has proven it can eventually erode trust entirely.