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Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp’s scared gesture speaks volumes as win at Brentford overshadowed | Football | Sport

Mohamed Salah came off the bench to grab a goal and an assist as Liverpool comfortably cruised to a 4-1 victory over Brentford. But three points came at a heavy price for Jurgen Klopp as the Reds suffered two more injuries to add to their growing problems.

Klopp’s reaction speaks volumes after two fresh injury fears

First Curtis Jones hobbled off. Then Diogo Jota was carried off on a stretcher. Just as Klopp was ready to welcome back Salah from a hamstring issue, Liverpool’s injury problems took another disastrous turn. Salah was forced to make a premature return, replacing Jota, and Klopp will be relieved that the 31-year-old navigated the remainder of the affair with no issues.

Broadcaster TNT Sports reported that Jota’s injury is to his knee. Klopp is understood to have been frustrated with the nature of several tackles made by Brentford.

Liverpool were already missing Alisson, Joel Matip, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dominik Szoboszlai and Thiago Alcantara for the trip to west London. It is unclear if any of those five will be fit for the Carabao Cup final clash with Chelsea next weekend, let alone Jones or Jota. Darwin Nunez was also taken off at half-time though it is not clear if he also suffered an injury.

It was particularly telling when Klopp visibly winced at the sight of Conor Bradley being on the end of a strong challenge towards the end of the first half. The German is clearly scared of any further injuries heading into the Premier League run-in. His side cannot afford to lose any more key players.

Nunez’s wonderful chip is the sign of a forward finally realising his potential

Jota’s injury will come as a particular disappointment due to his blossoming relationship with Nunez. With Brentford up the pitch following a free-kick, Virgil van Dijk’s long pass was wonderfully headed straight into the path of Nunez by Jota.

Nunez bore down on goal and produced a brilliantly executed chip over Mark Flekken. It was evidence of a striker finally finding his confidence in front of goal.

The Uruguayan has at times been criticised for his wastefulness in similar situations. Prior to the trip to Brentford, he had scored eight Premier League strikes this season from 14 expected goals.

He now has two in as many top-flight matches, having scored a thumping header against Burnley last weekend. There is a consistency creeping into Nunez’s performances that points to a forward who might suddenly explode in front of goal – something figures at Liverpool have been expecting for a while.

Naive Brentford should have prepared for counter-attacking Liverpool

The prospect of a Liverpool counter-attack became obvious as Brentford filled the Reds’ penalty area at a 33rd-minute free-kick. It took only a long clearance from Van Dijk, a header from Jota to Nunez, and a neat finish, and the Bees were 1-0 down despite only a minute earlier having a promising set-piece of their own.

It should not be new to any side facing Liverpool that they are at their most dangerous when their opposition is unorganised and far up the pitch. It was inevitable that once the ball was cleared Klopp’s side had a major scoring chance.

Later in the game, Brentford went man-to-man at a Liverpool goal kick and three touches later, Salah was placing the ball into the corner. Brentford’s risky game plan failed to produce a positive result, with Gakpo rounding off the game after Ivan Toney’s consolation.

Bradley answers major question for Liverpool’s next manager

Alexander-Arnold at right-back or in midfield? It will be one of the biggest questions facing Liverpool’s next manager. Even Klopp, who in 2021 criticised Gareth Southgate for using the 25-year-old in the middle, has come around to the idea of him as a midfielder.

If the answer is to be in midfield, Liverpool’s next head coach might previously have needed to sign a new right-back. But the emergence of Bradley has given them a suitable alternative to Alexander-Arnold.

The Northern Irishman, who was making his first appearance since his stunning display against Chelsea on January 31, excelled against Brentford. Bradley’s link-up play with his team-mates gave the impression he had been present in this Liverpool team for years.

If Xabi Alonso is to replace Klopp, the Spaniard could adopt the back three with which he has had vast success at Bayer Leverkusen. Bradley, a much more traditional wing-back than Alexander-Arnold, would allow his colleague to move into midfield in such a scenario.

Salah’s positive return

Given Liverpool’s injury situation, the return for Salah was perhaps a bigger positive for Klopp than the three points. The Egyptian replaced Jota and provided for Alex Mac Allister’s goal, before bagging a goal for himself.

Keeping Salah fit must be Liverpool’s priority for the next few months.

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