Deja vu for Liverpool in defeat to Toulouse

Earlier in the week, I said that despite the optics, the draw with Luton Town couldn’t be any more different to the disappointing results of last season.

Liverpool carved out multiple chances away at Kenilworth Road and with some better finishing, they romp to a big victory

The loss against Toulouse, however, was right out of the 2022/23 playbook. 

Granted, Jurgen Klopp rotated the side and his options were fairly limited due to injuries to Ryan Gravenberch and Curtis Jones but the Reds still fielded a strong starting XI. 

Caoimhin Kelleher started in goal with Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Jarell Quansah and Kostas Tsimikas in defence. Wataru Endo anchored the midfield and was sandwiched between Alexis Mac Allister and Harvey Elliott. In attack, Klopp went with Ben Doak, Cody Gakpo and Luis Diaz. 

By no means was this a first-choice team but there was more than enough quality on display. It was also fairly well-balanced too. 

Despite this, Liverpool struggled massively.

They dominated the ball in the opening 45 minutes, finishing the half with 70% possession. However, they had just seven attempts and created chances with an Expected Goals value of just 0.30. By comparison, the hosts created one big chance, scored a goal and had an Expected Goals haul of 0.5 even though they had fewer shots. 

The Reds seemed sluggish. They were off the pace and second to the ball on far too many occasions. In the first half, they won just 35% of their ground duels. Endo was 0/4 in ground duels and Mac Allister was 0/5. Without some dominance in the middle third, they weren’t ever going to be able to turn that possession into something meaningful. If you aren’t winning duels then you aren’t controlling the space.

Simply put, you have sterile possession while the opposition funnel you into areas they want you to play in. 

Kostas Tsimikas - Liverpool vs Toulouse - Propaganda

Kostas Tsimikas - Liverpool vs Toulouse - Propaganda

Klopp made changes at the break, replacing Ben Doak, Wataru Endo and Kostas Tsimikas – the man at fault for the opening goal. He brought on Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dominik Szoboszlai and Mohamed Salah in an attempt to kickstart his team. 

It didn’t really go to plan. 

Toulouse scored just moments into the second half but it was ruled out for a foul on Matip. The hosts did eventually double their lead with a smart finish, though the entire thing was far too easy. 

READ MORE: 5 talking points from Liverpool's defeat in Toulouse

Liverpool clawed a goal back through a comical own goal but Toulouse restored their two goal lead just a minute later. 

Diogo Jota scored in the 89th minute and Quansah thought he’d snatched a draw in the 97th minute only for his goal to be controversially ruled out for an earlier handball.

In his post-match press conference, Klopp didn’t hold back in his assessment of the game. 

He said: "It was well deserved to lose because they won pretty much all the decisive challenges, battles. We have too many situations where we should have won the ball but we didn't.

"On top of that we gave the ball away easily at least twice - one was a goal, the other I am not sure if it was an allowed goal or a disallowed goal. Counter-attack, third goal, last line too deep. Defending-wise it was just not good enough."

Jurgen Klopp - Liverpool vs Toulouse - Propaganda

Jurgen Klopp - Liverpool vs Toulouse - Propaganda

The half-time changes didn’t spark anything.

Liverpool won the same number of ground duels (15) but a slightly higher percentage (39%). Mac Allister finished the game having won just 2/10 ground duels while Szboszlai won just one of four. Cody Gakpo spent 73 minutes on the pitch and he won just one of 10. 

The Reds didn’t dominate the ball. You can’t dominate the ball if you’re winning just 37% of your ground duels.

Toulouse dominated the space due to their ability to win duels. This meant Liverpool had possession in non-threatening areas and did nothing with it. 

READ MORE: Toulouse 3-2 Liverpool – Player Ratings

It felt like deja vu from last season in games against Wolves, Nottingham Forest and Brentford.

The opposition would allow Liverpool to have possession before hitting the Reds on the break when it suited them. They were able to pick and choose their moments because Klopp’s men couldn’t cope with the aggressiveness and the physicality. It was the same story in France. 

The midfield revamp was supposed to eradicate this issue. The fact it still remains is a concern moving forward. 

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