Belfast Telegraph

Chaotic Reds miss Mané

Liverpool 2-3 Swansea City

By Simon Hughes

Will Ferrell was dropped off in the parking bay marked with a VIP sign outside Anfield's new main stand on Saturday morning; there as a guest of Tom Werner, Liverpool's chairman whose background is in the entertainment industry.

Ferrell is a Chelsea fan who once regretted a comment made on stage at a GQ magazine event about José Mourinho's defensive tactics when soon after, Mourinho was sacked. 'I feel horribly guilty because I feel like I had a hand in getting him fired,' he wrote on social media.

It is imaginable that Ferrell, in Ron Burgundy mode at least, would have judged that Liverpool did anything but stay classy in their miserable defeat to Swansea City; their management of the game lurching between the staid and the chaotic.

Liverpool's domination of the ball in the first half was nearly absolute but Swansea's defensive game plan worked better, reducing Liverpool to half chances from slung crosses; the pattern proving once again that possession statistics can be misleading because Liverpool were not really in control.

Then in the second half, Liverpool were all over the place, even in their recovery from two-nil down following Fernando Llorente's goals. By seeking to smother Swansea at 2-2 they were already playing like it was injury time despite there being 20 minutes to go.

Gaps were left in defence and when Gylfi Sigurdsson's winner came, Liverpool's players might as well have walked off the pitch there and then because Anfield was flattened.

There is probably no chance of Ferrell's allegiances switching after watching this mess. Assessing Jürgen Klopp's words afterwards, indeed, it seems as though Ferrell might be the closest Liverpool come to making a new signing before the January transfer window closes. It is ironic when you consider Jordan Henderson's injury problems since the turn of the year and Emre Can's unsuccessful attempts to cover for him. Maybe Klopp's team could do with a new Anchorman.

Klopp has consistently said that the focus of Liverpool's recruitment plans has been around the issue of squad balance rather than financial frugality. And yet, if Liverpool aren't careful, the monies retained from this month's inactivity might end up being placed on an improved contract for Sadio Mané when he returns from international duty with Senegal, should his agent choose to make the point out that his client's value has increased without him even being there.

Mané's absence has had a negative domino effect on the team when you consider Klopp's solution has been to take Adam Lallana out of a role where he was previously thriving, swapping him on Saturday with a midfielder so evidently low on confidence as Can.

Klopp was asked whether Liverpool could have done more to find new players to stop all of this happening. He and everyone else involved in transfer processes at Liverpool have, after all, known about Mané's unavailability since the moment they signed him last summer.

"I understand it is absolutely normal people ask whether we should have brought players in. The situation is yes, on the one side pretty simple, but on the other hand it is pretty difficult," he reasoned. "It is not as if there are 20 players out there who could make this team stronger, who are running around and are available. That is the situation."

There are issues Klopp should ponder as well. If Liverpool lose to Southampton at Anfield in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final on Wednesday night his record across December and January this season and last will be identical, only this year he does not have the excuse of it being his first Premier League winter.

There is a potential for it to read: P 13, W 5, D 4, L 4, and that, really, is in keeping with any manager in charge of a mid-table team.

LIVERPOOL: Mignolet, Clyne, Wijnaldum (Matip, 90 mins), Lovren, Milner, Coutinho (Sturridge, 57 mins), Firmino, Henderson, Klavan, Lallana, Can (Origi, 70 mins). Unused subs: Karius, Moreno, Lucas, Woodburn.

SWANSEA: Fabianski, Naughton, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson (Rangel, 79 mins), Cork, Carroll, Fer (Fulton, 90 mins), Routledge, Sigurdsson, Llorente (Borja, 85 mins). Unused subs: Nordfeldt, Amat, Dyer, McBurnie.

Referee: Kevin Friend

Man of the match: Fernando Llorente

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