Everton 0-0 Liverpool: Have Reds become too cautious on the road? Danny Murphy analysis
It might not be deliberate but there seems to be something overly cautious about Liverpool's play in away games at the moment, and it is starting to become a concern.
I am not just talking about Sunday's 0-0 draw at Everton, because it has been the case for the past few weeks that Jurgen Klopp's side have not been as dangerous as I have expected on the road.
It was the same at Manchester United last week, and at West Ham earlier in February too.
Maybe it is the pressure of being in a title race but Liverpool dropped points in all of those games, scoring only one goal in total, and on each occasion there were times when Klopp could and should have been bolder.
I do not mean they had to go for it from the start of those matches, either. It is fair enough for Liverpool to go to Goodison Park or Old Trafford and begin by keeping things tight, not open up with a really attack-minded gameplan.
What is more of a worry is that Klopp did not react to what was happening during those games, and increase his side's attacking threat when they were offering so little compared to what we have come to expect from them.
In terms of results, I actually thought a draw at Old Trafford was OK, even with all United's injuries, because it meant Liverpool were still top of the league.
This weekend it was different. They needed to beat Everton to go back above City but there never seemed to be a point in the game where Klopp really said 'we are going to make changes and go for this'.
Salah missed and nobody else looked like scoring
Liverpool's thinking in their recent away games seems to be along the lines of 'stay solid and hope our front three will nick a goal'.
If Mohamed Salah had taken one of his chances on Sunday then that plan would have worked but, this time, it didn't and nobody else looked like winning the game for them.
Part of the problem was the way Liverpool were set up in their 4-3-3 formation, because of the personnel in their midfield.
Whatever the combination is out of Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita or James Milner, they all have similar traits and there are not many goals in there.
I remember watching Liverpool a few times earlier in the season when they played in a 4-2-3-1, with two holding midfielders instead of three and Roberto Firmino behind Salah, who was playing down the middle.
They might not have been quite as good defensively, but they looked a threat the whole time.
One of the options Klopp had was to revert to that shape at Goodison, because what he was doing was not working.
It is not as if he was going to be changing to a system his side had not played before, or that he would be putting players in that were not capable.
Instead, Liverpool just kept on trying to do the same things and, at the end of the game, Everton were actually the team pushing on.
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Surprising that Shaqiri has not had a bigger role
When Liverpool were flying, before Christmas, Xherdan Shaqiri played a big part in their good form, and I am surprised he has not been used more recently.
Now, it is always difficult to analyse a player and say whether he should be starting when you are not watching him on the training pitch but, every time I see him play, he brings energy and he is a goal threat who is good at set-pieces and long-range shots.
Shaqiri has played in big games for many years at club and international level so he is not going to be fazed by any occasion.
Even in the 4-3-3 shape that Klopp went with at Everton, I was a little bit confused why he was left out from the start.
Although Divock Origi did well and scored against Watford on Wednesday, I would not play him ahead of the Switzerland international, especially down the left.
But it was even stranger that Shaqiri did not get off the bench when I thought the game was crying out for someone with his creativity and explosiveness.
Liverpool need more than a rock-solid defence
I certainly don't think Liverpool have blown their title hopes with Sunday's draw at Everton, but I saw it as a poor result.
Yes, it was the derby, so of course Everton were going to raise their game. They desperately wanted to halt Liverpool's title charge and there was an energy about their play that I have not seen for a long time.
But listening to the Reds players afterwards, they sounded disappointed to leave with a point, which is understandable considering the way Everton have struggled in recent months.
The result means Liverpool are off the top of the table but let's not forget how well they have done to get to this stage of the season having only lost one league game and to be competing so closely with Manchester City, after finishing 25 points behind them last time.
Just because Liverpool have led for so long but are now in second place does not mean they have turned into a bad side overnight.
They defended very well again against Everton and limited them to very few chances. At the back, Virgil van Dijk was fantastic yet again.
But they are in a title race and they need to win games so, on its own, that is not going to be enough.
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- Reaction to the draw at Goodison Park
- How do you think the top six will look in May?
Danny Murphy was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.
|Race for the Premier League title|
|Date||Liverpool fixtures||Date||Man City fixtures|
|10 March||Burnley (H)||9 March||Watford (H)|
|17 March||Fulham (A)|
|31 March||Tottenham (H)||30 March||Fulham (A)|
|5 April||Southampton (A)||6 April||Cardiff (H) (could change due to FA Cup)|
|14 April||Chelsea (H)||14 April||Crystal Palace (A)|
|21 April||Cardiff (A)||20 April||Tottenham (H)|
|24 April||Manchester United (A)|
|26 April||Huddersfield (H)||28 April||Burnley (A)|
|4 May||Newcastle (A)||4 May||Leicester (H)|
|12 May||Wolves (H)||12 May||Brighton (A)|