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Champions League Final: What happened Edition

I know this is almost 48 hours after the game ended, but forgive me a bit that I needed a little time to digest what happened and honestly a little time to recover from the pain that fans suffer when their team loses such a big game.

As you all know Real Madrid defeated Liverpool 3-1 on Saturday to win the Champions League title. So, sure congrats to them on their three-peat and winning 4 out of 5, but this will focus on what happened to Liverpool and why the result went the way it did.

1. Karius

It doesn’t take anyone with any real knowledge of the sport to know that Karius had a bad day and it was the type of day that cost his team a chance at winning the Champions League title.

Really simple math will do here. Liverpool lost the game 3-1 on a night that Karius gave up two goals that my dog probably wouldn’t have let in. The first was a play that was simply the type of play that you have to wonder if he was match fixing or if he was under the influence of some sort of illegal substance when he tried to roll the ball out to a defender but instead rolled it off of Karim Benzema’s foot which somehow ended up in Karius’ net for the opener.

The second in someways irritated me more. The first was a fluke as bad as it was and it was bad and it should never ever happen, but the second was a simple shot that seriously I would have saved even if I had drank a 12 pack before the game. There is absolutely no excuse for this and it cost his team any chance of a comeback.

Who knows if they’re able to get an equalizer but after the second gave them a 2 goal deficit the game was over. Karius cost them the game or at least a chance at winning the game because without Karius it would be 1-1 so they still would have had to find a goal or win in penalties.

I was one of those that was on the fence about Karius. I started out as not a huge fan, even saying for a long time I wasn’t sure if he was even better than Simon Mignolet, but come January and Klopp naming him the number 1 I started to turn the corner on him seeing his improvement over the season, but I still was a bit hesitant about him.

I would say on Saturday I was on the fence about if we should spend the money on a Allison or Butland, but after Saturday I am convinced it has to be done. If we can get Allison or something at that level great, but if we can’t I am more than fine with Butland at this point. Something has to be done we can’t continue to lose points in the league or lose the biggest game on the planet because we have amateur hour between the pipes. Klopp has done so much right, so I would hate to see his tenure be ruined by his stubbornness to not get a real high level goalie in here and I’m sorry Karius is not that.

As a human I hate to see what happened to him on Saturday, it sucks and he may never emotionally recover from this. I hope he does cause you would hate to see a guys career or even life ruined by one bad game on a the biggest of stages, but I am also an emotionless bastard when it comes to the teams I root for. As a kid I loved the players and became attached to them, but as an adult I don’t become attached to them because I know there could be someone better and we may have to cut the cord to improve and this is how I feel about Karius. I sucks for him and I really hope he recovers, but if I see him play in a Liverpool shirt again then I will really be pissed off. There is no excuse for what happened in the final and it can never happen again.

 

Karius wasn’t the only thing that went wrong in Kiev.

2. Salah

When Mo Salah went down in the 31st minute  and was ultimately taken out in the 37th minute I knew Liverpool was in trouble. Salah had scored 44 goals this season, but without him the team dropped at least 2 or 3 levels in their ability. No doubt Salah had a season that could rival anyone in any European league, but for a team as talented as Liverpool to drop their level of play so bad was concerning.

We had seen it time and time again when Jurgen Klopp would remove Salah late how poorly the team would perform when he was on the bench.

Just think back towards the end of the season when they blew a late 2-0 lead at West Brom when Salah was subbed off late or against Roma when a 5-0 bloodbath turned to 5-2 late which gave Roma a glimmer of hope going to the second leg.

So, when Serigo Ramos decided to pull a pro wresting move on Salah which ended Salah’s day before the half I knew Liverpool was in a lot of trouble. I actually said outloud the game was over. I hoped I was wrong but all my confidence was gone.

It was a shame too Liverpool was controlling the game before Mo went down. They were by far the better side in the first 37 minutes.

Liverpool’s game plan of pressing the living crap out of Real Madrid was working as well as they could have dreamed of. For instance for the first 15 minutes of the game Liverpool forced 7 turnovers. The next 45 minutes without Salah they only forced 9 turnovers, they were able to get 8 in the last 15 minutes, but that was desperation. but it was obvious there was a significant drop off without him. (I will have more on the midfield’s role in this later)

Firmino was dropping like he always does and continually forcing one turnover after the other and Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold were doing a fine job working 2v1’s down the right side putting Madrid back on their heels continually for the first half hour of the match.

Liverpool had a higher xg in the match, which says a lot but without Salah so much changed.

Gone was the press, mostly because this forced Salah and Mane to drop much deeper and Adam Lallana for all the ability that he has is not a winger which really exposed Liverpool. I actually thought this was the one huge error Jurgen Klopp made, when Salah went down and he chose to bring Lallana on to replace him he should have gone with a formation switch by playing a 4-4-2 diamond by moving Mane more central with Firmino and playing Lallana behind them, yes it would have changed the way they played but it would have fit Lallana’s strengths more.

But by playing Lallana at right wing he was exposed very badly. Real Madrid really attacked that side on their attack because they knew they didn’t have to worry about Salah having the space down that wing anymore.

It really sucks when you dream of playing in this type of game to lose your best player the player that captured all of our hearts so much this season, but it makes a game like this that much tougher to swallow when you know had a not been injured their was a great chance they would have won.

Plus it makes it worse when he goes down on a dirty play by a player who is the dirtiest damn player on the planet.

I can’t believe how many people out there really tried to say they he didn’t do this on purpose. Are you f’ng kidding me? Sergio Ramos purposely locked arms with Salah, but instead of letting him go when he accomplished his goal of not letting him get to the ball he had to then shoulder toss him like it was pro wrestling.

What makes this worse for me is that so many pundits like Stu Holden on the telecast tried to defend him and saying he didn’t do this on purpose. Are you new here? Have you not watched Ramos play before?

He’s earned his rep for being a dirty mofo. Everything he does out on the pitch has bad intentions and he always knows what he’s doing. He’s sneaky so he’s not going to make it look dirty but he damn well knew what the hell he was doing.

It’s not a coincidence that most of the pundits and people I saw on twitter defending him were Amercian. There is a reason why we are who we are in this sport, and this type of play just like it is in England is encouraged much more than technical ability. Which is a shame. I went on a rant about Salah and how he wasn’t protected after the Stoke game, well this was so much worse than what Stoke did.

3. Midfield

Anyone that has read me on here or follow me on twitter knows that I have had a problem with our midfield for a long time. Even before Virgil van Dijk and our problems in the back I was saying our midfield was our biggest problem and that at the time a lot of our defensive problems came from our midfield.

This problem came back on Saturday and came back in a huge way.

Look, I love the midfield trio of Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, and James Milner. Liverpool would not have got to the final without them, but if you don’t think they are very limited and are the biggest weakness with the club, I’m sorry but you’re blind.

They do have strengths they work their asses off, there is no doubt about that and they run miles every match but that’s the extent of their strengths the rest of their game is limited, it has been exposed before and was exposed again in the final.

The things they do well have nothing to do with technical ability it’s all things that really only involve running and hard work. Like they’re good at pressing, getting in passing lanes, working back to protect and block shots, but when it comes to moving the ball they are very limited.

They struggle when it comes to control, we really bypass the midfield to get our attack going. If we’re not going all out we struggle and this falls squarely on our midfield. This was exposed in a big way against Real Madrid after Salah went down.

In the first 30 minutes before Sergio Ramos eliminated Salah they were fine. They did what they do well which is being the second line behind the front 3 on the press, winning the ball back and getting the ball quickly to one of the front 3 or getting it out wide to either Andrew Robertson or Alexander-Arnold to spring a counter attack.

This is something they do well, but when Salah went out and the team dropped deep they were exposed. Luka Modric Real Madrid’s midfield wizard had a dominant game in midfield working the ball in the midfield like a magician and this is something that none of these guys have in their skill set. They’re fine I admire them for all their work and should stay as options off the bench and depth but this level of game is too high for them.

When the team dropped deep and Madrid took control of the game the midfield needed to be the part of the team that wrestled the game back, but none of them pose the technical ability to get on the ball to make this happen. It’s not a slight against them but it just says who they are as players.

For all the great things Henderson has done for this club the one thing he is not is a true defensive midfielder. I have been saying for a couple years this is something that Liverpool really needs before they can really be taken seriously as an elite team. They have come a long way under Klopp but it is really a miracle to get to the Champions League final with this midfield and Jordan Henderson as your deep lying midfielder.

It was a lesson learned on Saturday no doubt and there is a lot of anticipation about this off-season and my number 1 need for this team is to completely overhaul this midfield, then a goalie, then a depth winger, and another striker, or I could just say overall squad depth to be able to compete on all 4 fronts, so they can compete with City and really be looked at as an elite team.

Well thankfully before I could even get to writing this Jurgen Klopp and Michael Edwards got to business to sign Fabinho from Monaco for a reported price of 39 million.

What a move this was! They finally went out and signed that proper defensive midfield a guy who is elite at this position, someone who is calm on the ball and can start the attack.

If you have followed me on twitter you will know that I have mentioned Fabinho before for this position. I had Jorginho as my top choice but Fabinho was my second choice, this is the perfect signing and it could not have come at a better time to cheer us all up and wake us up from our post Champions League Final slumber.

Kudos to Klopp and Edwards for getting this done in such quick fashion and getting it done without anyone and I mean anyone having this ahead of time. The first rumor came out early Monday afternoon in the States and the deal was being announced for Liverpool a hour later.

As I just stated the midfield needed to be overhauled but we are only 2 days removed from the end of the season and 2/3 of it is done with Fabinho and Naby Keita now a Red.

Let’s hope that Fekir is next to complete the overhaul.

That is it for me for the 2017-2018 Liverpool season. This has been fun during the last few months and run to the Champions League Final writing for this blog.

The season itself was a wild ride and a lot of fun, even though the end was heartbreaking the season was a huge success and there is a lot to build on from it.

Obviously fixing the midfield this summer should be priority number 1 and we’re already 2/3 there.

But, one thing to remember is that they weren’t supposed to be here yet. Klopp is still building this so I really believe bigger and better things are ahead for this club.

I will be back all summer to give my opinions on the transfers and I really expect it to be a huge one for us which it is obviously off to a great start with Fabinho and Keita, but I expect much more to be happening.

Plus I will be here to write about the World Cup even though I am really tired of Fox talking about it during the biggest game in club football.

Until then YNWA ALLEZ ALLEZ ALLEZ

 

 

 

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