Liverpool analysis – Ibrahima Konate learns important lesson as Mohamed Salah truth emerges


Learning curve for Konate

This was a landmark evening in the burgeoning Liverpool career of Ibrahima Konate.

With Joel Matip benched in a Premier League match for the first time since late November, Konate was given an opportunity to further develop his understanding alongside Virgil van Dijk in only a ninth league start.

It represented a major show of faith from Jurgen Klopp, even if many believe the duo will be the Reds’ long-term centre-back pairing.

Konate could be pleased with his opening 45 minutes, Kane in particular peripheral save one shot blocked by Jordan Henderson, while the defender’s pace allowed him to keep Son in check.

Matters, though, became more testing when Konate became more exposed second half due to the Reds pressing for an equaliser. He was at times panicky with his clearances, but was rarely beaten in the air or the ground. This was a decent showing.

Van Dijk, meanwhile, came close to opening the scoring with a first-half header against the crossbar and was characteristically commanding in his defending.

It may not have been the result they wanted, but so continues two of Liverpool’s most curious individual records: Konate still unbeaten as a Liverpool player, Van Dijk still yet to suffer a home league defeat with the Reds.

Salah needs a break

Mohamed Salah jetted down to London on Thursday night to pick up his latest Footballer of the Year award. But the Egyptian would surely have been happier exchanging his personal accolade for a goal here.

It wasn’t that Salah struggled in terms of overall play. In fact, his perseverance up against a packed Tottenham defence while often double-marked was admirable, constantly chipping away in the hope of that one opening.

There is, though, no denying the goals have dried up for the forward at precisely the wrong time of the season, the brace against Manchester United last month the only strikes in his last 12 games. A little selfishness has understandably crept into his play.

The nearest Salah came was when, for the umpteenth time, he cut in off the right flank and drifted into the area before his goalbound effort was blocked by Ben Davies.

Elsewhere up front, while Luis Diaz once again impressed, Sadio Mane toiled hard without much reward in among the Tottenham central defensive giants while Diogo Jota’s disappointing cameo from the bench was further evidence he hasn’t quite been the same since his ankle injury back in February.

Salah isn’t playing badly. But he needs a stroke of fortune to kickstart another goalscoring run right now.

Tiredness impossible to ignore

Jurgen Klopp had spoken on Friday urging Liverpool to keep ignoring the inevitable tiredness of such a relentless schedule.

But it was impossible to avoid the nagging suspicion a number of players were jaded during yet another high-octane, pressing-heavy encounter, even if their overall energy levels had astonished Tottenham manager Antonio Conte.

Andy Robertson had a tough first half in Villarreal last Tuesday and it was telling he was replaced midway through the second half here. Fabinho, too, looked a little leggy before he was also substituted.

Liverpool, though, were as much exhausted mentally and emotionally as they were physically, given the imagination required to break down Tottenham and concentration to rein in their swift counter-attacks. Their ideas rarely hurt the visitors.

Few, then, would be surprised if Klopp opts to rotate heavily at Aston Villa on Tuesday, not least with the FA Cup final – the chance to complete the second leg of a still possible quadruple – four days later.

The Reds need a refresh. Now the strength in depth that has served them so well this season is being readied for one final push.