It has been a long time coming for Liverpool. Monday’s 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers made it back-to-back wins and clean sheets for Jurgen Klopp’s side for the first time since early December. Liverpool are starting to look up the Premier League table again.
The Premier League weekend was kind to the Reds. West Ham United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, all of whom are fellow top-four contenders, dropped points. That gave Liverpool the chance to close the gap to the Champions League places at Molineux, and Diogo Jota’s goal in first-half stoppage time ensured they took full advantage. The Premier League champions may be miles behind Manchester City in top spot, but they are now only two places and five points adrift of the top four.
At this stage of the season results are more important than performances. That is just as well for Liverpool, who were far from their best on Monday evening. Wolves had more shots on target than the visitors, and the Expected Goals chalked it up as 1.29 vs 1.06 in the home team’s favour. Had Wolves been more clinical in the final third – Willian Jose and Adama Traore were both wasteful in advanced areas – Liverpool might have dropped two points.
It was clear in the second half that Klopp’s team are lacking confidence. They struggled to control the game and take the sting out of proceedings. They did create chances of their own, as a side containing Jota, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah always will, but Liverpool’s opportunities did not come at the end of relentless pressure. The Reds are still some way away to recapturing their best form.
Klopp will look to the positives, though. Nathaniel Phillips was again assured at centre-back, with the 23-year-old having now settled into the position. He will not play much once Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez are off the treatment table, but Phillips deserves credit for his recent displays. His improvement has in turn allowed Klopp to field Fabinho in his favoured position at the back of midfield, and that will serve Liverpool well going forward. Trent Alexander-Arnold is another player who has performed pretty well despite his team’s recent slump.
The fact that Liverpool have now kept clean sheets in back-to-back matches will also please Klopp. The first came against RB Leipzig, who are pushing Bayern Munich close in the Bundesliga title race. Wolves might not be the most attacking team in the Premier League, but Klopp will be pleased that Liverpool managed to keep the dangerous Pedro Neto quiet for the most part.
Jota’s return to fitness is another plus. The Portugal international was excellent in the first half of the season before injury struck. He played through the middle against Wolves, and may continue in that role even after Roberto Firmino returns to full fitness. The Brazilian has been brilliant for Liverpool over the years, but there is a growing sense that he is no longer guaranteed a place in Klopp’s starting XI.
The next task for Liverpool is to end their Anfield hoodoo after the international break. After a 68-game unbeaten run at home, the Reds have remarkably lost each of their last six Premier League games on their own patch. Next up is Arsenal away, followed by the visit of Aston Villa to Merseyside in mid-April. Liverpool need two wins to keep their top-four hopes alive.