Date: 8th December 2018 at 5:23pm
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Written by Neil Dawson

Bournemouth’s love of playing players back into form continued as they turned Salah from a jittery start to last seasons’ majestic form within 90 minutes. The result – another heavy legged performance without the ball and a fifth defeat in six games.

Gareth Southgate was here (presumably to check if Francis could replace Trippier) and we need to get round to banning him. His last three games have been today, the 0-4 at Burnley and the 1-4 at Huddersfield. Fans annoyed that Steve Cook doesn’t start for England ahead of Dunk might want to reflect on this. Cook’s uncharacteristic performance today means Mrs Dunk would get the nod ahead of him next time.

Worryingly, Southgate’s favourite Wilson didn’t start the game so Stanislas came in pushing King to the centre. As expected Surman replaced Cook. It looked like the formation might be 4-5-1 with Brooks behind King but it was the routine Eddie 4-4-2 with Fraser up front alongside the Norwegian.

This formation gave Liverpool lots of the ball with Bournemouth withdrawing into their standard 2018/19 season counter attacking position. Unfortunately, it was proving hard to get out with Liverpool’s’ defence outstanding at being first to the ball and King and Stan in particular strangely hesitant.

The East stand linesman was having a game to forget and clearly mesmerised by Salah. He allowed him two offside runs in a row and his derision from the home fans was sealed when he was one of the main features in Liverpool’s opener. Begovic should have held Firmino’s drive, or beaten it wide, he did neither and SALAH advanced from an offside position to slam home.

Liverpool were up to 77% possession by this stage – but Bournemouth did battle back and enjoyed the better of the last fifteen minutes. Against a defence that has only conceded five goals-chances were always going to be at a premium so it was frustrating that nobody seemed prepared to shoot on the wet pitch as Firmino had. Stan twice was in excellent positions but passed the buck. The one decent chance fell to Brooks but his shot was well saved by Allison.

HT Bournemouth 0 Liverpool 1

‘Keep it tight for 15 lads’ would undoubtedly have been Eddie’s half-time instructions with the game score-wise on a knife edge. He would have been infuriated with Bournemouth being the architects of their own misfortune. Franno, Stan and Cook playing needless triangles in dangerous areas leading to Cookie releasing SALAH. The Egyptian still had plenty to do but advanced well and cleverly passed the ball past Begovic as Daniels tried to tap his ankles.

This kind of killed the game as a spectacle with Liverpool having to conceded 60% of the total goals they had in the whole season to lose the match. Mousset came on for Brooks to lead the charge with two up front. Memories of two years ago would have been on the minds of the Bournemouth players and fans but that pipe-dream evaporated when COOK bizarrely deflected in Robertson’s cross for another freak own goal.

From that moment on Bournemouth had more of the possession which at least gave them a breather. Daniels and Stanislas registered shots towards goal although neither flustered Allison. The final goal will be one of those ones that feature on show-reels of SALAH’s career. He was put through and rounded Begovic but then George Best style stopped, rounded him again for good measure and body swerved two defenders before poking it past Ake on the line. Cheeky and firmly back in form for the rest of the season.

Whoever Wolves out of form forward is (Bonatini?) needs to get ten quid on himself scoring the first next week! We all do!

FT Bournemouth 0 Liverpool 4

Begovic 6 – Should have saved first, handled well for rest of game.

Francis 7 – Assured and led well I thought – pick of defence.
Cook 4 – A game to forget for the stalwart. Dragged around and cost two goals.
Ake 5 – Decent first half but dominated and bypassed in second.
Daniels 5 – Must hate playing against Salah – who can blame him?

Stanislas 4 – Non-existent, lucky to stay on, needs to shoot.
Lerma 7 – Stuck to his task manfully and clever use of the ball.
Surman 7 – I thought he moved it really well and prompted constantly.
Brooks 5 – Leggy, tired display with the odd flash. Needs a break.

Fraser 5 – Ran a lot but always out-powered.
King 5 – Didn’t put himself about or find gaps

MOM – three players up for it for me – Franno, Lerma and Surman. Hard to split but will give to Franno as he had the hardest challenge against him and rose above his fellow defenders.

Verdict.
We say it time and time again but in these games, you need straight and strong officials and no individual mistakes and potentially a slice of luck.

Much of the fans debate will centre on the linesman. Rightly so as the first goal is crucial. However, once you set that aside I think the level of our performances is starting to get alarming. That’s five defeats from six and the one win was a very poor performance with 30% possession. It’s hard to argue with 23 points before the half-way stage but I think we are starting to sink both in terms of ability to give our all (stamina) and personnel numbers.

Firstly stamina. This new way of playing without the ball is starting to take its toll. The players have looked shattered to me for some weeks and without strong recognisable reserves, this is a massive problem. Brooks has played too often on his step up a division and he is not alone in needing a rest. There won’t be one though and one wonders how Eddie is going to get his side through the six games in 12 days he has coming up. It could be the youth team against Chelsea at this rate. It’s the back four and centre mid that need freshening and hopefully, Eddie will pick the winnable games for the first team and experiment/rest players for the trips to Wembley, Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford. If we can get to 30 points by mid Jan we can re-group and hopefully make additions.

I think Eddie needs to consider if staying as a counter-attacking unit is correct. We have not beaten any top six sides this season for the first time ever pre-Christmas and I think giving them the ball is a strange way of approaching these games. Quality will out if you allow them near the box. We were better when we just went at them assuming we might lose but that we would give it a really good go. I think it has also been the main contributory factor into why we look so shattered. It was a very low energy performance from two or three people today – hence the result.

Personnel wise we are putting plasters on left right and centre now. We will rue never signing a right back as Fraser will end up there if Franno has the groin strain he looked like he picked up. We never replaced Arter as a PL quality midfielder – Lerma should have been the third one we had, not the second and now he is the only! We need to nurture the squad to January and then go look at centre midfielders and right backs.

It was a linesman that started it but we have to admit we could have done much more to get back in this match, great a team as Liverpool look to be.

Your say…

Rodmorg wrote…

Good report Neil, I totally agree with the conclusive statement – we could have been better but we didn’t have a chance of coming back after two-nil…

Surman was the pick of the bunch for me. Good cross-field passes to (ironically) Franno and very brave on the ball. I noticed this against Burnley when both Surman and Lerma played but when attacking, Lerma stays back while Surman pushes forward. He seems far better up the pitch than near our own box. Plus he didn’t seem to lose possession once. Lerma looked off the pace in the first half but definitely improved the second. – Join the conversation, click here.

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