Klopp’s selections have raised more than a few eyebrows lately. For Sunday’s Merseyside derby, he decided to put Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino on the bench, and failed to win the match. Against a West Brom side without a win in almost four months, the Liverpool manager decided not only to recall them both, but also to retain Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
The decision to use all four of his main attacking players against a team who had gone almost four months without a victory brought to mind the old saying about sledgehammers and walnuts. However, Albion proved rather more durable, while Klopp’s team were surprising edgy.
The home side’s first-half performance could best be described as disjointed. The fact that Klopp had made six changes to the team that drew with Everton was undoubtedly a factor. Liverpool’s manager has now made a total of 65 team changes to his starting line-up in the Premier League this season. It is the highest number in the division by a distance.
Albion had dropped into the bottom three following Crystal Palace’s late comeback win over Watford on Tuesday, and desperately needed inspiration here.
Their head coach Alan Pardew had won on his previous two visits to Anfield as manager of Crystal Palace, and his plan to frustrate Liverpool worked in the early stages.
However, his team were fortunate not to go behind when Salah got the better of Jonny Evans and played in a low cross from the right that Firmino, in behind Allan Nyom on the far side, somehow steered back across goal and beyond the post from little more than six yards.
That was a warning to the visitors, who frequently pulled 10 players back behind the ball when Liverpool had possession.
It meant that Klopp’s full-backs had licence to get forward, and Andrew Robertson almost profited with a firmly struck volley that Jake Livermore did well to block.
Yet Albion did not rely entirely on defence; Claudio Yacob sent a header over the bar following a Nyom break down the right, while Livermore was only denied by a well-timed Ragnar Klavan challenge as he tried to turn on to James McClean’s low pass into the penalty area.
Robson-Kanu’s near miss was the moment that should have jolted Liverpool into life, but they continued to labour for a breakthrough. It almost came eight minutes before half-time, as Trent Alexander-Arnold burst forward from right back and slung over a low outswinging cross that would not quite bend into the path of the onrushing Salah.
Just before the break, Firmino cut in from the left to hit a cross-shot that was charged down, before Salah’s follow-up was also blocked.
Albion, though, continued to pose questions. From way out on the left, Grzegorz Krychowiak whipped in a free-kick that would have dipped under the bar had Karius not tipped it over. The German goalkeeper then made an even better save moments later as Evans powered a header towards the top corner from Krychowiak’s corner.
Liverpool’s attack finally threatened to click into gear after that, with Firmino breaking down the left on to Georginio Wijnaldum’s pass and cutting back, only for Mane to slice wide from 15 yards. Then Salah could only glance beyond the far post after Alexander-Arnold’s cross had clipped off Krychowiak’s head.
Ben Foster had been relatively untroubled in Albion’s goal, but was almost embarrassed with 25 minutes to go, punching Mane’s cross into the air, then fumbling straight to Wijnaldum as it dropped, and watching on gratefully as Evans cleared.
Liverpool continued to labour for a breakthrough, and thought they had scored with eight minutes left when Dominic Solanke turned in fellow substitute Joe Gomez’s cross from close range, but referee Paul Tierney disallowed it for handball.
Solanke was then denied again by Ahmed Hegazi’s clearance inside the six-yard box after Foster had dived at the feet of Coutinho. Albion got their point and escape the Premier League relegation zone on goal difference; they also set an unwanted club record of 16 consecutive matches without a win. At least, though, this points gives Pardew something to build on.
Karius 7; Alexander-Arnold 7 (Gomez 80), Lovren 6, Klavan 7, Robertson 6; Wijnaldum 6 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 77), Can 6, Coutinho 6; Salah 6, Firmino 6, Mane 6 (Solanke 77).
Foster 6; Nyom 6, Hegazi 7, Evans 7, Gibbs 6; Livermore 7, Yacob 7, Krychowiak 7 (Brunt 79); Robson-Kanu 7 (Rodriguez 71), Rondon 6, McClean 6.