Liverpool stuttered out of the starting gate earlier today to kick off their 2022-23 Premier League campaign with a frustrating 2-2 draw against Fulham at Craven Cottage in a match that the title hopefuls were otherwise expected to dominate.
A brace from Serbian international Aleksandar Mitrović helped Marco Silva earn a very credible point in front of the home support in the capital, but the Reds were able to put a poor first-half performance behind them and rescue a share of the spoils thanks to an excellent substitute appearance from Darwin Núñez in his Premier League debut, bagging a goal while assisting on Liverpool star Mohammed Salah’s equalizer ten minutes from full-time.
In an opening weekend that saw Arsenal fight to a 2-0 away win against Crystal Palace last night, and Tottenham thrashing Southampton 4-1 at home, Liverpool will be hoping that Chelsea, Manchester United, and Manchester City stumble in their own right if they are to not begin hostilities already in the wake of their closest domestic rivals.
For Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp, the performance was far below the standard if the Reds are to once again try to push Man City in what is once again expected to be a two-horse race at the summit.
When reflecting on a frustrating result, Klopp was as candid as ever.
“You really want to know on a scale of one to 10? Twelve. Very. First of all, I have said it a couple of times, I feel much more responsible for defeats than if you win, and that’s unfortunately my nature. The performance was a defeat – the result is not a defeat but the performance was a defeat and that’s why we have to figure out what happened. It can happen.”
“And again, if we win today and don’t learn anything from the game, much worse than getting a point and learn the right things – I’m fine with that. So that’s what we are working on now. That’s not us today, it was not us today.”
It possibly was a shock for many that summer signing Darwin Núñez was on the bench once again, as he was in the Community Shield win last weekend, but the Uruguayan had another influential appearance when he came on in the 51st-minute to replace a disappointing Roberto Firmino. For Klopp, it is clear that Núñez will thrive when Liverpool finds their footing.
“All fine, that’s how it should be. In a situation like that when we don’t really find a way in front of the goal, you need this extra determination, and the difference as well, it makes it difficult for the opponent obviously. Yes, a great goal, could have scored another one as well, maybe two – crazy. So, he is involved in a lot of goal-scoring situations – that’s really cool and that’s where we have to bring him up. Now imagine we would play good, how often we could set him up then?”
But perhaps most importantly for the German tactician, the manner in which Liverpool started the match set the tone for the result from the first whistle.
“So, we started actually exactly the opposite way that we wanted – the first pass outside Robbo, Robbo passed the ball back, it’s just a little sign. Nothing happened there but we said we have to break lines and what we did, we played into their hands.”
“Fulham obviously defends in a 4-4-2, it’s a really good system, we realized it a couple of times, especially when the opponent is not playing quick enough because then you always have the winger, the eight, and the striker there in a situation when you pass the ball to the other side – it’s a pressing trigger. Because of that, we didn’t find a way in the game.”
With Crystal Palace to come next and then a key test against Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United the following weekend, Liverpool must dig deep early to find the right formulas if they are to avoid chasing all season long.