After an impressive win on New Years Eve against Manchester City, Liverpool were flying high into 2017. With relegation-bound Sunderland on the horizon just a few days later, Liverpool looked near certain to go within 3 points of Chelsea at the top of the table, but it simply wasn’t to be.
After a lively start from the Reds, Daniel Sturridge put his side up 1-0 with a great header off a Dejan Lovren chop-shot. But a poor foul from Ragnar Klavan just minutes later awarded Sunderland a penalty, and Defoe calmly put it away. For most of the second half, Sunderland looked keen to pack it in and simply defend, a tactic that has recently seemed to be Liverpool’s kryptonite. But Sadio Mané saw a corner kick headed off a defender and land at his feet. He casually put the ball away and Liverpool were back in the lead. But Sadio Mané’s good deed was undone in the 84th minute, as Sunderland were awarded a cheap free kick in a dangerous spot. Mané was part of Liverpool’s wall in front of Mignolet, and as the ball attempted to split the wall, Mané stuck out his hand purely out of instinct, and Sunderland were awarded yet another penalty. Defoe struck calmly and Sunderland were level…again.
And so Liverpool drew yet another side they should be beating. The level of inconsistency the Reds have displayed this season has been a detriment to their title hopes. Chelsea are taking care of business every time they step on the pitch and the gap from 1st to 2nd may continue to grow.
I have said it before, but I firmly believe taking care of the teams you are supposed to be beating is essentially your one-way ticket to a Premier League title. There are 84 points available against teams who sit outside the top 6 in the table, and there are 60 points available against teams who sit in the bottom half of the table. If you take care of the teams you are supposed to beat, you have a very good chance of winning the league.
Liverpool, under Klopp, have had a tendency to beat the big clubs and drop points to the smaller clubs. In fact, Klopp has never lost to Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, or Arsenal in league play. But yet teams like Bournemouth, Burnley, Swansea, and Newcastle have given Liverpool fits over the last 2 years. Klopp is a master at getting his teams up to play against big clubs. That same mentality should be used to approach every team the Reds play. That killer instinct is what separates a title team from everyone else. Liverpool will need to carry that killer instinct with them going forward, whether they are playing Barcelona in the Champions League or Bournemouth in the Premier League, you have to treat each opponent as a threat to what you want to accomplish, and make sure they don’t stop you.
I do not expect Liverpool to win every match they play. That would be mad and I would find myself in a fairly constant state of disappointment. What I do want to see is an increased level of consistency when playing a large club or a smaller club. I want to see the same mentality from the players that I see when they step out to face Sunderland as I do when they step out to take on Manchester City. The consistent killer instinct will make Liverpool title contenders again.
Written by Ian West