You could have seen it coming as Liverpool began life in 2017/18 with many similarities to their strengths and weaknesses only last season. Set piece calamities and quick movement in attack summarising their play as Watford produced an admirable display to take a well deserved point.
It took just eight minutes for Stefano Okaka to score with a powerful header from a free kick as Liverpool left him unmarked. Sadio Mane pulled the scores back level with an impressive run, lay off from Emre Can and finish.
Once again though, the Reds’ forward was let down by shoddy defending allowing Abdoulaye Doucoure to find acres of space in the box as the likes of Georgino Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson in midfield failed to track back.
The second half saw something of an improvement. It even gave Liverpool a comeback as debutant Mohamed Salah won a penalty which was duly dispatched by Roberto Firmino. Firmino then turned provider for his fellow forward as his lobbed shot was going wide of the target until Salah poked home, giving Liverpool the lead only two minutes after being behind.
A late corner again showed Liverpool up though and Simon Mignolet could only deflect the ball towards his own net and allowed Miguel Britos the opportunity to head in from what looked like an offside position almost on the goal line deep into injury time.
Here is what The Boot Room learnt from the game…
Liverpool cannot defend set pieces
Now, this point may not fit in an article titled “three things learnt”, given that most Liverpool fans could have pointed this out to Jurgen Klopp in October 2015. However, now kicking off his second full season in charge, the German has still not resolved Liverpool’s biggest weaknesss.
The zonal marking set up failed completely as Stefano Okaka merely walked through the penalty box unmarked to power a header home as Emre Can and Joel Matip looked on. Watford’s third goal again came from a set piece with Simon Mignolet only getting a weak hand to push the ball in the direction of his own goal.
Watford could surprise many under Marco Silva
Whilst Liverpool were below par, Watford far exceeded expectations. Watford were strong and refused to be pinned back, looking to counteract Liverpool’s pressing with pressing of their own as they looked to bully the Liverpool midfield and defence into submission. It worked effectively.
There have been many who have doubted whether the number of changes made this summer would allow for a successful season at Vicarage Road, but the display was a promising one.
Alberto Moreno is not the answer
Given the nod at left-back ahead of James Milner and Andrew Robertson, the decision may have come as a surprise. Moreno enjoyed a wonderful pre-season which seemed to give him a new lease of life on Merseyside and gave him a shot at reviving his Liverpool career. This performance may have put that back in jeopardy.
The Spaniard failed to win a single tackle in the first half out of four attempts and was dragged out of position time and time again. He was given the run around by the Hornets and it seems inevitable that he will find himself back on the fringes of the squad after that display.