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Toothless Liverpool midfield against Salzburg proves creativity is needed

When a game doesn’t quite go the way you want it to, it’s not always the fault of individual players.

There wasn’t necessarily a single, specific area during the hardships Liverpool faced against Salzburg that was to blame.

However, if we were to be really critical, Liverpool’s midfield didn’t cover itself in glory.

The midfield is usually one of our most consistent areas but they lacked any real bite and allowed Salzburg to play through them.

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What Went Wrong?

Fabinho has been a stand-out performer for the Reds this season and put in a typically steely performance.

But he didn’t have the same impact that he’s had recently in controlling the game and jumpstarting Liverpool’s attacks.

He was subdued in an attacking sense as the Salzburg midfield grabbed control, forcing him further onto the back foot.

Minamino was instrumental for Salzburg, popping up all over the park, and Liverpool’s midfield failed to control him.

Henderson and Wijnaldum, so often trusted by Klopp in these big fixtures, provided little protection on the night.

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Wijnaldum endured one his quiet evenings, where he was industrious and hard-working as always, but failed to make an impact.

And while the same could be said about Henderson, he was at least more involved in Liverpool’s better spells.

It wasn’t surprising when the two were substituted and James Milner came into the midfield that Liverpool looked more resolute.

Milner’s experience and wily nature saw Liverpool take the sting out of Salzburg’s midfield again and re-establish control.

But this shouldn’t have been allowed to happen, and it’s a concern that it did in the first place.

What Needs to Change

It was arguably the first time this season that Liverpool’s midfield has been so passive which is a worry.

The three selected have largely been top performers this season, so for them to be put to the sword was unexpected.

So is a change in personnel something that could help to remedy the issue?

Both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita sat on the bench, and you can’t help but feel one of them could’ve made a difference.

It felt like the tenacity from Gini and Henderson was missing, and one thing that Keita and Chamberlain have is that in abundance.

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They both press fast and high, snap into tackles and look to drive forward when they’ve got the ball.

Too many times against RB Salzburg, Gini and Hendo were found wanting in possession and being unable to execute the press.

A change in system seemed a little extreme but it felt like Klopp failed to realise that there was a problem.

I understand that Ox and Keita are far from match fit or match sharp, but having their vibrancy would certainly have helped.

But one thing is for sure, other teams will have sat up and taken notice of what Salzburg did.

Are There Wider Implications Moving Forward?

Domestic and European rivals alike will have watch Salzburg dominate Liverpool’s midfield and taken inspiration.

The way the Austrian’s monopolised the territory in the middle of the pitch was impressive and it stunted Liverpool’s play and confidence.

Genk, Napoli, Manchester City, Spurs and Manchester United, all who Liverpool face in the coming weeks, will have noted this.

It’s something Liverpool need to make sure they’re aware of and are ready to combat.

Teams already seem more willing to attack us this season, so we need to work on quashing any potential Achilles’ heel.

It’ll be interesting to see how the work rate and personnel are affected by the Salzburg match.

Something needs to change. Whether that’s a tweak in the line-up or a Klopp-style ‘telling off’, the midfield need to shake that off.

Or have Salzburg just found the tools to dismantle this Liverpool side?

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