On Tuesday night we were treated to one of the more appealing ties in the Carabao Cup – whatever the fuck that is…
In a game of two halves, Liverpool were left ruing a flurry of missed chances – a whopping 13 attempts on goal in the first-half alone – as Leicester City secured their place in Round 4 of a competition they have won three times. The Reds dominated the game for long periods and should have been out of sight before half-time; however, in a similar vein to last weekend’s game against Burnley, they were unable to make long spells of possession count.
Andy Robertson was by far Liverpool’s most threatening outlet, finding heaps of space on the left-hand side, linking up well with Coutinho; the latter dancing through Leicester’s defence at times. But when the little magician was subbed at half-time – Klopp presumably saving him for a return to the King Power this weekend –we saw the game swing in Leicester’s favour. The Foxes had more time on the ball, found it easier to pick passes, and with the added energy of Shinji Okazaki they created a smattering of chances which they converted.
Here are three things we learned from the game:
Slimani isn’t worth the paper his £30 million contract is written on
I’m not exaggerating when I say Slimani could be one of the worst Leicester City signings since Peter Taylor added Ade Akinbiyi to the Foxes’ books back in the year 2000. While I admit the Algerian international scored a sumptuous 20-yard strike to put the game to bed, he did next to nothing for 78 minutes of the game. I mean, nothing.
When Slimani wasn’t half-heartedly jumping into challenges and protesting to the referee about being out-muscled on the ball, he was running around aimlessly like a lost kid in a supermarket. He might have been known as the Dragon Slayer in a previous life, but around the King Power stadium he is quickly establishing himself as Ulloa’s younger and, dare I say it, feebler brother. To be fair, Shakespeare’s tactics didn’t help Slimani’s cause: asking two chunky centre-forwards to lead the charge in a counter-attacking side was never going to work. Surely anyone can see that the Foxes are ineffective when they don’t have pace in their forward ranks?
Neither Slimani or Ulloa were particularly effective at holding the ball up in the opposition’s half, either – a task that Shakespeare presumably asked both to do. This caused Leicester’s floundering midfield to retreat into defence to support a very busy Wes Morgan and Aleksandar Dragović. This all changed when Okazaki came on and resuscitated a team who, up until then, had been bereft of ideas. Shakespeare lauded himself in a post-match interview for bringing the Japanese international on for Leonardo Ulloa, but failed to point out that this was only because the Argentinian took a bizarre knock to the head – the forward’s most exciting input all game.
Foxes fans will be hoping Vardy quickly bounces back from his groin strain this weekend.
Coutinho will turn Liverpool’s form around
When Liverpool fans saw the starting line-up for last night’s match, it must have come as a shock. With 4 tricky away games on the horizon for Klopp’s side, the inclusion of Coutinho was a bold move.
The 25-year-old Brazilian playmaker may have riled a few Reds with his attempted move to Barcelona, but having spent 45 minutes toying with Leicester City’s defence, it’s clear that he has made some amends. He was a constant threat, linking up with Andy Robertson – a player who has surely earned a start over Moreno – to leave poor Marc Albrighton at sixes and sevens; not something Foxes fans have been used to since their title-winning campaign. The Leicester City defence were living life dangerously by standing off the little magician, leaving him space to do what he does best in that advanced role.
Fortunately for the Foxes, Ben Hamer was on hand to make a couple of great saves, but on another day – like in three days’ time – I see Coutinho getting the better of Leicester.
Demarai Gray needs to make the most of his starts
Since swapping Birmingham for the East Midlands, the young winger has made it very clear that a lack of opportunities frustrates him. This was verified by Eddie Howe’s Cherries, who tried to swoop in with a £30million offer for the under 21 international.
While Gray did have a few bright moments against Liverpool – like a determined run early on that resulted in a wayward shot – his quality didn’t match his bravado. There’s no doubting that the lad obviously possesses talent: darting movements across goal share uncanny similarities with Deli Ali; however, there currently isn’t an end product to his game. Not unless you count games against inferior opposition.
If he wants more first team action he must keep his head down, listen to what the coaches tell him and most importantly, spend less time sending enigmatic messages on social media. Until then, he will have to make do with starting cup matches and playing a bit part in Premier League fixtures.