We were all hoping that Jurgen Klopp’s first game in charge at Anfield was going to produce a rousing performance amidst the euphoria surrounding his appointment as our new manager. I felt optimistic after watching Liverpool work incredibly hard in the goal-less draw at White Hart Lane against Tottenham in a game that will not be put onto a DVD any time soon, but there was always the danger that our inflated expectations were going to be far fetched and.
So it proved as Rubin Kazan, who are enduring an awful season in the Russian Premier League, crashed Klopp’s welcome party with a determined performance that ultimately snuffed out Liverpool’s inability to create any real clear cut opportunities. The fact it took us nearly 75 minutes to test the goalkeeper tells you everything you need to know about our profligacy in front of goal, but although the Rubin Kazan goal came under huge pressure late on, you never got the sense that Liverpool were going to make the all important breakthrough on a night which promised much, but delivered little.
The Rubin Kazan game was sadly a reflection of Liverpool’s season; uninspiring, flat and toothless with the added kick in the teeth of another poorly defended goal, although you have to take your hat off to Marko Devic for controlling and finishing the long through ball superbly. Our third consecutive 1-1 draw in the Europa League was made even worse by the fact that we played against ten men for just under 55 minutes and still could not find a way through. There were, however, signs of Klopp’s tactics that were so effective at Borussia Dortmund coming into play at Anfield, with Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno offering excellent width and more attacking options in the final third. Liverpool could be >good value on a football coupon with Coral to gain revenge in Russia in a fortnight’s time, but we should try and avoid getting carried away and expecting us to win by a convincing margin, particularly as travelling to Rubin Kazan will not be easy. I would undoubtedly take a scrappy 1-0 win for Liverpool to ensure we improve our chances of progressing into the knock-out phases, but we will have to play much better than we did at Anfield.
No amount of blame can be put at Klopp’s door considering he only arrived through the doors at Anfield less than two weeks ago; he may one of the highly-rated managers in Europe, but he is not a miracle worker. It is going to take a considerable amount of time for the players to get used to Klopp’s tactics and style of play – success will not just come instantly over night. You can tell that the players are extremely low in confidence and not trusting their own judgement on the ball, none more so than Philippe Coutinho who is arguably our best player but is not producing the magic that we all know he is capable of.
Playing in Russia will require character and strength to not only fight through the cold extremities, but also put in a strong performance against a team that will fancy their chances on home soil. Another draw would not exactly be the end of the world for Liverpool, but you would expect a club with our pedigree and quality to produce the goods when it matters and put a big smile on the face of Klopp and all the fans.