Sign a midfielder, Jurgen! Liverpool winners, losers and ratings as Konate and Van Dijk take a battering at Brentford

Klopp Van Dijk Konate Nunez Liverpool Brentford GFX
Ibrahima Konate and Virgil van Dijk both endured nightmare outings in a 3-1 defeat in London but midfield remains the Reds' real weak spot...

Liverpool's frailties were laid bare once more as they ushered in the New Year with a risible 3-1 defeat at Brentford.

Jurgen Klopp's side could have moved fifth in the Premier League with a win, but they folded in West London, conceding twice in the first half and then again late on, as the Bees leapt to within two points of their vaunted opponents in the table.

Ibrahima Konate's own goal gave Thomas Frank's side a 20th-minute lead, and after Brentford had seen two goals chalked off for offside, Yoann Wissa doubled their advantage three minutes before half-time.

Klopp made three substitutions at half time, with Virgil van Dijk among those replaced, and Liverpool started the second period well, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain heading them back into the game five minutes after the restart.

But they were unable to build on that goal, and after Konate and Darwin Nunez had spurned chances, they were undone on the break late on, as Bryan Mbeumo got the better of Konate to fire home.

Liverpool could now find themselves seven points off the top four if Manchester United win on Tuesday, with the optimism of a four-game winning run completely dampened by another terrible away showing.

Here, GOAL runs through the winners and losers of a remarkable game...

  1. The Winners

    The Winners

    Brentford's home support:

    The popular story may be about Liverpool's misery, but for every loser there is a winner, and in this instance there could be no argument. Brentford deserved their win, and their home fans deserved the chance to rub it in to their Red counterparts. "We're just too good for you," sang the Brentford fans in the closing stages as Liverpool, like Manchester United earlier in the season, left the Gtech Community Stadium with nothing. Jurgen Klopp's side had returned to Premier League action with a pair of scrappy wins over Aston Villa and Leicester, but they had no answer here to the Bees' robustness, energy and set-piece threat, especially in the first half. They rallied after the break – they had to – but Thomas Frank's side stood firm and took advantage of yet another defensive slip-up to seal the points. As Liverpool's players sloped off to the dressing room at the final whistle, Brentford's conducted a lap of honour, and why shouldn't they? 2021 was glorious, 2022 successful, and 2023 has started in fine fashion for the men from West London.

    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain:

    It feels a little bold to single out any Liverpool player as a 'winner' from this contest, but Oxlade-Chamberlain at least marked a landmark game with a goal, and a well-taken one at that. It says everything about his injury struggles at Anfield that this was his 100th Premier League appearance for the Reds. He has, after all, been with the club for five-and-a-half years. And some would say his presence in the starting XI for a third successive game hints at the squad issues facing the Reds currently. But there he was, setting up a chance for Kostas Tsimikas in the first half with a lovely flick and then timing his arrival into the penalty area perfectly to glance Trent Alexander-Arnold's cross home. It looked then like Liverpool may be set for a rousing fightback, but it wasn't to be. Oxlade-Chamberlain made way for Curtis Jones late on, continuing a remarkable record; he hasn't completed 90 minutes in the Premier League since April 2018. At least he was on the scoresheet here, not that it will provide him or his team-mates with much consolation.

    Manchester United:

    Tottenham are faltering, Chelsea are struggling and Liverpool remain nothing if not inconsistent. And with all that, Manchester United find themselves in the box seat to secure a top-four finish, and with it a return to the Champions League. Erik ten Hag's men can move seven clear of Liverpool by beating Bournemouth at Old Trafford on Tuesday. Given the way Klopp's side are playing, that would be a significant deficit.

  2. The Losers

    The Losers

    Liverpool's midfield:

    Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool can't 'play Monopoly' in January, but they certainly can't afford to ignore the midfield issues which are undermining their bid for Champions League qualification. Set-pieces and crosses may have been their undoing in the first half here, but their problems stemmed from the middle of the field, their inability to cover spaces and control games as a result. Jordan Henderson had struggled badly against Leicester on Friday, but he could not be blamed here. Instead, it was Harvey Elliott toiling on the right of the midfield three, the youngster overrun and unable to offer enough with the ball to compensate for his passiveness without it. Klopp has sought to reinvent the 19-year-old as a midfielder, but the experiment is yet to bear fruit. Liverpool need established talent in there, and they need it fast. Whether that's Matheus Nunes, the latest player linked with a move to Anfield, or someone else, something needs to happen in January. If it doesn't, the Reds can kiss goodbye to the top four.

    Kostas Tsimikas:

    There was nothing surprising about Brentford's approach here. From the kick-off, they sent the ball backwards and then launched it upfield, looking to put Liverpool's defenders under pressure and seize upon any second balls dropping in the final third. Initially, they started by testing out Konate and Virgil van Dijk, but it wasn't long before the hosts began to train their sights on Liverpool's left-back, and Tsimikas had no answer to the bombardment which came his way. All the chaos came down the Greek's flank, with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Thiago Alcantara offering insufficient protection. Tsimikas missed a good chance to level the game at 1-1, denied by David Raya, and he could not get close to Mathias Jensen before the Brentford skipper crossed for Wissa to make it 2-0. It was no surprise when he was replaced by Andy Robertson at half-time.

    Ibrahima Konate:

    It's not been the best couple of weeks for Liverpool's No.5. Having suffered the heartache of defeat in the World Cup final with France, Konate endured a miserable return to club action here, scoring an unfortunate own goal to give Brentford the lead, and then ending up flat on his face as Bryan Mbeumo secured the points for the home side late on. Konate wanted a free-kick for a push, but referee Stuart Attwell was having none of it and his VAR, Darren England, agreed. It was timid defending from a player whose physicality and power is usually an asset. With Van Dijk taken off at half time, Liverpool's starting centre-backs had a nightmare. Klopp needs Konate to recover quickly from this one.

  3. Liverpool Ratings: Defence

    Liverpool Ratings: Defence

    Alisson Becker (6/10):

    His head must have been spinning at what unfolded in front of him in the first half. Made one great save from Mbeumo.

    Trent Alexander-Arnold (5/10):

    Bullied whenever Brentford got the ball forward in the first half. Recovered in the second to become prominent in an attacking sense, delivering his first league assist of the season, but he looked like he'd given up by the end.

    Ibrahima Konate (4/10):

    Unlucky with the own goal but weak for Brentford's third goal. Not his day.

    Virgil van Dijk (5/10):

    Done by Mbeumo's movement in move which led to first goal. Unable to prevent the set-piece chaos. Subbed at half-time.

    Kostas Tsimikas (4/10):

    Terrified by Brentford's physicality, and missed a good chance at 1-0. Taken off at the break.

  4. Midfield


    Fabinho (5/10):

    Could not do it all alone in midfield. One of the better players second half.

    Thiago Alcantara (6/10):

    Tried to get on the ball and make things happen, but played his team into trouble on more than one occasion and couldn't open Brentford up in the second half.

    Harvey Elliott (4/10):

    A passenger without the ball and didn't do much with it. Tough day for the teenager.

  5. Attack


    Mohamed Salah (5/10):

    Too wide, too often. One great pass to release Nunez early on but other than that he was very subdued.

    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (6/10):

    Quiet in the first half, save one nice flick to Tsimikas, but got his side back into it with a well-timed run and header.

    Darwin Nunez (5/10):

    Denied by a good block from Mee at 0-0, had a goal ruled out for a tight offside after the break, dragged another effort wide when well placed and got booked. Not his day, again.

  6. Subs & Manager

    Subs & Manager

    Joel Matip (6/10):

    Better than what went before.

    Naby Keita (6/10):

    Added some drive and collected some second balls, but was poor for Brentford's third goal.

    Andy Robertson (7/10):

    Immediately injected energy and tempo to the game. Should have started.

    Curtis Jones (N/A):

    Back in action late on.

    Jurgen Klopp (5/10):

    More midfield woes, and a defensive collapse to add to his troubles. His team did not deliver in any of the key moments.