Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool were unable to cope with Brentford’s “chaos” theory in a shock 3-1 defeat on Monday that damaged their bid for a top four finish in the Premier League.
Klopp’s side endured a nightmare start to 2023 and they had only themselves to blame for the horror show in west London.
Ibrahima Konate’s first half own goal set the tone for an evening scarred by mistakes at the back from Liverpool.
Yoane Wissa doubled Brentford’s lead and although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got one back, Bryan Mbeumo wrapped up Brentford’s first victory against Liverpool since 1938.
In his first appearance since playing in France’s World Cup final defeat against Argentina in December, Konate took a large share of the blame for Liverpool’s woeful defensive performance.
But the centre-back was far from alone in deserving criticism for a Liverpool display that left them in sixth place, four points behind fourth placed Manchester United who play their game in hand against Bournemouth on Tuesday.
Rocked by Liverpool’s first defeat in five league games, Reds boss Klopp conceded Brentford’s clever set-piece tactics were too much for his players to handle.
“Brentford create chaos with set-pieces. When I say they stretch the rules, they do, in offensive set-pieces,” Klopp said.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s smart, but they do. If you could single out all the situations you would find five fouls but because it’s so chaotic no one sees it in the end.”
Although seventh placed Brentford are on a six-game unbeaten run in the league, including an impressive win at champions Manchester City just before the World Cup, it was still surprising to see Liverpool torn apart so easily.
“You know before the game how strong they are from corners. The game got decided by the second goal which was our fault,” Klopp said.
“We are not awake, they cross the ball and score the second that decided the game. The third goal should not have been allowed but we should have played better.”
Darwin Nunez, signed from Benfica for £64 million ($77 million) last year, was another poster-boy for Liverpool’s struggles.
The 23-year-old had 13 shots without scoring in his previous two league games and misfired again in the early stages.
Mohamed Salah’s superb pass unhinged the Brentford defence and Nunez looked certain to end his barren run when he rounded David Raya.
But Ben Mee scampered back to clear his shot off the line as Nunez held his head in disbelief.
Foreshadowing the damage to come, Thomas Frank’s team went in front from a corner in the 19th minute.
Mee tried to flick on but it was Konate who got the final touch as the ball ricocheted off his knee and squirmed past the wrong-footed Alisson.
Liverpool were fortunate to avoid more set-piece misery when Wissa struck from close-range after the Reds made a hash of clearing a corner, only for an offside call to deny Brentford.
Moments later, Wissa was left unmarked to drill home from yet another dangerous corner before an offside flag against Mee once again spared Liverpool’s blushes.
In disarray at the back, Liverpool were unable to deal with Brentford’s aerial threat and Wissa finally got on the scoresheet in the 42nd minute.
Mathias Jensen’s cross picked out Wissa and the Congo forward got in front of Trent Alexander-Arnold for a header that just crossed the line before Alisson could claw it out.
Klopp was fuming on the touchline as he raged at his shell-shocked players.
The German responded by sending on Joel Matip, Andrew Robertson and Naby Keita at half-time, with Virgil van Dijk replaced after suffering a leg injury.
Klopp’s changes briefly sparked Liverpool, who reduced the deficit in the 50th minute when Alexander-Arnold’s pin-point delivery was headed home by Oxlade-Chamberlain.
But Brentford’s knockout blow was a self-inflicted wound by Liverpool as Konate fell over while failing to deal with a long ball to Mbeumo, who ran clear to slot past Alisson.