Crystal Palace 0-0 Liverpool

SELHURST PARK — On the plus side, a welcome clean sheet after the midweek thrashing by Real Madrid. On the downside, well, basically everything else.

At their best, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool were a team of Tasmanian Devils, a dizzying force of nature that would overwhelm their opponents with frenzied pressing, rapid passing and ruthless finishing. This season, their dominant spells come and go in waves, a 10-minute spell here, a 15-minute spell there. As the helter-skelter loss to Real encapsulated, they can remember how to play the greatest hits but are unable to carry a full 90-minute set.

In the aftermath of that record-breaking defeat, attention turned to how Klopp’s Liverpool 2.0 may look. The clamour for Jude Bellingham, the chosen one to fix Klopp’s creaking midfield, is growing ever louder and on Friday, Klopp acknowledged the club “has to do something in the summer” to keep up with their free-spending rivals. Clear though that may be, Liverpool cannot afford for their season to meander with a top-four place up for grabs.

A major inquest may not be required after the goalless draw with Crystal Palace, but it was still a performance that laid bare Liverpool’s shortcomings. Klopp had won all seven of his trips to Selhurst Park prior to Saturday’s evening fixture but conceded that a draw was a “good point” for his side. Liverpool had a few chances to score, but Palace looked the likelier of the two to snatch something late on.

The most striking aspect of Liverpool’s performance was just how many times they squandered possession with passes going astray and first touches turning into tackles.

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No player characterised the general sloppiness more than Trent Alexander-Arnold. The first half was the TAA show, and not in a good way. In the opening 45 minutes, Alexander-Arnold: aimed an attempted backheel straight out of play, fired a crossfield pass to Andy Robertson into touch, created Palace’s first big chance with a lax backpass and had his pocket picked for their second, both of which were squandered by Jean-Philippe Mateta.

At times this campaign it has seemed as though Alexander-Arnold is somehow doomed. That every misjudgement is inevitably punished. A tough evening was summed up when Alexander-Arnold’s goal-bound free-kick was diverted over the crossbar via the back of Jordan Henderson’s head. Of all the people to smash a ball at from close range, Henderson and his resting snarl face probably wouldn’t have been his first pick.

With the scores level 20 minutes from time and Liverpool hunting a winner that would lift them to within four points of fourth-placed Tottenham, Alexander-Arnold was taken off. A supplier of 14 league goals last season (12 assists, two goals) deemed expendable and 37-year-old James Milner shifted into his place.

“It was just clear,” Klopp said afterwards of his decision to take off the England international. “We thought before the game already if it was one too much for him or whatever, but then he started. That’s it.”

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Alexander-Arnold had a poor game against Crystal Palace (Photo: Reuters)

Alexander-Arnold is an obvious scapegoat for Liverpool’s general malaise given his errors generally occur in his own third, but he is far from a lone struggler in their ranks and has more credit in the bank than most.

Even the most dedicated members of the Naby Keita fan club would have resigned themselves to the fact that the one-time anointed saviour of Liverpool’s midfield is out of time and out of chances. After a bright start, the Guinean’s Anfield career has been on a slow irreversible decline. He was hauled off at the break after committing four fouls and misplacing four of his 20 attempted passes. A £53m signing five years ago will leave for free this summer and no-one will bat an eyelid.

Keita’s replacement Harvey Elliott was just as ineffectual. The teenager set two attacks in motion, but for the wrong team, careless passes that were quickly seized upon by busy striped shirts. He completed just 67 per cent of his passes; only Cody Gakpo (65 per cent) achieved an inferior rate of his teammates.

A theme of the night was Liverpool players turning and sprinting towards their own goal after losing possession, leading to pointed fingers, outstretched arms and furrowed brows all round.

Perhaps if captain chaos had been available things might have been different. Klopp revealed before the game that Darwin Nunez had suffered a recurrence of the shoulder injury picked up at Newcastle last weekend, although said he was hopeful of having him back for Wolves’ visit on Wednesday. Nunez, perhaps more than anyone else, has that pressing power that was once a hallmark of this team.

That being said, Nunez’s replacement Diogo Jota was arguably Liverpool’s brightest player on the night, forcing Guaita into his first save with a razor-sharp snapshot and hitting the post with a back post header. His return another plus point.

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