The glass-half-full guys left Anfield celebrating.

On the face of it, the 3-1 weekend victory over Bournemouth was pleasing. All three starting forwards scored, the new signings settled in nicely and, in times of adversity, Liverpool found the right solutions.

But there was no hiding behind the defensive concerns and the issues that have left Jurgen Klopp’s side looking worryingly vulnerable to counter-attacks when they lose possession.

Outscoring opponents — especially when you’re down to 10 men — is entertaining, and Liverpool, with their wealth of attacking options, are well-positioned to see off the Premier League’s lower-ranked sides.

What happens, though, when they meet their match and a straight shootout is not possible?

Liverpool have conceded 23 attempts on goal over their opening two games. Can they afford to be as open as they have been in these first two games against Chelsea and Bournemouth?

A closer look at the first 10 minutes on Saturday highlighted some of the problems that were predicted at the start of this campaign.

The warning signs were there during pre-season, when direct balls over the top caught Liverpool out. Space down the right when Trent Alexander-Arnold moved inside to assist attacking build-up play was also exposed.

“We were not immediately fluent enough,” Klopp admitted when discussing the shaky start. Liverpool had to dig themselves out of a hole by calling on their attacking talent when it mattered the most.

So what went wrong in those initial exchanges against Bournemouth, and how important is it to tighten up ahead of what promises to be a testing trip to Newcastle United on Sunday?

(George Wood/Getty Images)

You can see the gaps that are already starting to emerge in defence.

Very early in the game, it became clear that Alexander-Arnold was playing in a flexible hybrid role — typically, as a right-back when Liverpool were out of possession and a No 6 when they had the ball — having impressed in that position last season.

The image below is from the opening minute.

Look how central, advanced, and far from the right side of defence Alexander-Arnold is already as he waits for a pass to be played to him. This leaves so much space in-behind.

On this occasion, Bournemouth are unable to take advantage when winning the ball back, yet if they had moved it quickly enough they would have been in on goal. This risk vs reward method is a strategy Klopp has been willing to persevere with following his team’s successful end to last season.

Alexander-Arnold showed as the game unfolded why he is so consistently brilliant when in possession but, still, the space that is left when he moves into midfield is often too great.

It was also clear that Bournemouth were ready to pounce on Liverpool’s weakness by testing the water with early balls over the top.

Here, still before the match is a minute old, Marcos Senesi clips a long ball towards the right side of Liverpool’s defence:

Alexander-Arnold is actually in a good position here, but some unusually poor control lets him down and allows Bournemouth in:

Fortunately, Jaidon Anthony is a fraction offside, so the apparent goal he is gifted gets quickly ruled out.

“You’d think it is the wake-up call we needed, but a minute later we concede,” Klopp said.

What happened during those frantic early minutes on Saturday will have been alarming. Liverpool tried to casually play their way out from the back but were unable to execute their movements with conviction.

When Virgil van Dijk plays a pass into Alexander-Arnold, as shown below, a heavy touch allows Bournemouth to pounce and Antoine Semenyo ends up giving the visitors a surprise lead:

That wasn’t the only time it got messy at the back, either.

The goalkeeper, Alisson, gets his feet in a muddle just minutes later when trying to decide which short pass to pick. Below you can see the two options he is looking at:

After hesitating on the ball and then losing possession, Alisson commits a foul and is punished with a yellow card.

“It was not good and not what we needed,” Klopp said about those opening 10 minutes. “But they are human beings and they tried to figure out why (it was going wrong) and, step by step, we found a way into the game.”

What followed from Liverpool, at least in the attacking positions, was impressive, although the rest was still not perfect. There were times when they looked vulnerable in counter-attacking situations, even before being reduced to 10 men following Alexis Mac Allister’s unfortunate sending-off just before the hour.

It was the same stuff at Chelsea in the 1-1 draw the previous weekend, and during the pre-season period.

The lack of a tried and trusted holding midfielder in the team has played a part. Mac Allister and fellow new signing Dominic Szoboszlai are both supremely talented midfielders but, as with Curtis Jones, their skill sets are not centred on a deep-lying role.

It’s perhaps why Liverpool have faced 23 shots in these first two fixtures. To put that into context, in their 2019-20 title-winning season, they faced an average of just nine per game.

Work is still needed on the structure to make Liverpool tougher to expose.

Admittedly, the start of this season was always likely to be a little unpredictable. The departures of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson to Saudi Arabia were not planned and even before those exits the midfield group needed freshening up, not only to protect Alisson and the defence, but to inject fresh life into a team that’s in transition after the successes of recent years.

Moises Caicedo, the Brighton midfielder Liverpool tried to sign before he moved to Chelsea, would have been the perfect replacement, as he can comfortably operate as the last line of defence on the cover and also drop into right-back when required. His ball-carrying skills would have helped, too, because so much is asked of the player in the No 6 position — with attacking full-backs pushing up high and leaving space that must be covered.

Speed is essential because of the need to recover quickly. It’s why Romeo Lavia of Southampton, who chose Chelsea too, was also targeted. He’s quick and agile.

The task of holding it all together is now likely to fall to Wataru Endo, the 30-year-old who was rushed into a debut on Saturday after a swiftly-arrange move from German Bundesliga side Stuttgart. Japan’s captain, Endo now has one of the most important roles in the team as Liverpool continue to feel their way into the new season and figure out the next steps in their evolving journey.

Only in time will it become clear if Endo is the right fit.



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If defensive solutions cannot be found, then having one of the most feared front lines in the division is not a bad alternative. At least it promises to be entertaining.

(Top photo: George Wood/Getty Images)