Since the turn of the year 2021, Liverpool have struggled to live up to the high standards Jurgen Klopp’s men have set for themselves in the past couple of years. They were on a winless run for five consecutive matches in the Premier League recently and their extraordinary unbeaten run at Anfield was broken by Burnley in Matchweek 19.
So, what has gone wrong with the champions of England? Is it just a blip in what could be a successful overall season? Or should Liverpool fans be concerned about this poor run of form the team finds themselves in currently? Here are some of the questions we’d like to answer in this blog.
INJURIES TO KEY PLAYERS
Last season saw Liverpool as the standout team of the English league and nobody even came close to the Reds in terms of the title race. This season, after a bright start to the Premier League campaign, Liverpool were expected to run away with the title once again as they were easily the best team in the country. But it all changed in the Merseyside Derby earlier in the season. When Everton’s keeper, Jordan Pickford fouled Virgil van Dijk, the Liverpool faithful had their hearts in their mouths. Everyone assumed the worst and it turned out to be true – the premier centre-back found himself out with an ACL injury which needed surgery. In the same game, Liverpool’s statement signing of the summer, Thiago Alcantara also received a poor tackle and he remained out for the next three months.
Diogo Jota who was a bright spot in the Liverpool attack but found himself injured after a match in the UEFA Champions League. To make matters worse for the champions in their defensive areas, Joe Gomez, who was the second choice centre-back in the squad got injured while on international duty with England and found himself being ruled out for the season.
The injury list kept mounting on so much so that at one point the team found itself without a recognised centre-back partnership. These injuries to key personnel have taken a toll on the squad and we can now see the after-effects of it.
LACK OF MONEY SPENT
It is apparent by looking at the squad that Liverpool have to buy another centre-back in this January window. They let go of Dejan Lovern in the summer and didn’t replace him in the window. With the first-choice pairing of Van Dijk and Gomez virtually out for the season, there’s a lack of players in the squad who can do this job.
Klopp has deployed Fabinho, who is a midfielder in the defence and the Brazilian has done brilliantly so far. But his ability to break the opposition play in the midfield and his effortless pressing ability in the middle of the park has been lacking for the champions. Joel Matip who is the other senior team centre-back has a disastrous record with injuries and at this point, he can’t start two consecutive games given the fixture congestion.
Klopp has played Jordan Henderson as the centre-back on a couple of occasions and it hasn’t worked out as well as he would have hoped. Rhys Williams who is just 19 has been given some big match starts but the kid is just learning his craft and it is unfair to criticise him.
It is clear that the management needs to help Jurgen by getting a centre-back but with the current situation of uncertainty due to the pandemic and revenues being diminished by the day, we need to see whom Liverpool can get onboard.
SAME FRONT THREE SINCE 2017
There’s no doubt that Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have been the most lethal front three football has seen in recent years. The devastating pace, precise finishing skills and the link-up play between the three have been magnificent to watch over the years and they were one of the biggest reasons why Liverpool went on to lift their sixth Champions League trophy and their first Premier League title.
When Diogo Jota came in the summer, it felt like it was the perfect time to add some competitive spice in those attacking positions. Jota started off on a high and made himself one of the first names on the team sheet. Firmino’s position in the team came under scrutiny and it seemed like Jota was the preferred choice for Klopp. Since Jota got injured in December, goalscoring has taken a backseat. Liverpool have failed to score in four straight Premier League matches and this stat seems unreal with the number of chances the team makes in the final third.
The front three of Salah, Mane and Firmino have been together for the last three seasons and this usually is when players tend to fall off when it comes to goalscoring returns. They seem devoid of ideas and confidence currently. This seems to be a significant headache for Klopp to solve in the season.
FULL BACKS RUNNING OUT OF STEAM
Liverpool’s biggest assets have been their full-backs in the past few seasons, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. Both have been fabulous with the way they have emerged as players and have redefined the role of a full-back with the numbers they have managed to achieve. Left-back Robertson managed to provide 23 assists in the previous two Premier League seasons while right-back Trent provided 25 in the same period. Unlike other teams, Liverpool’s creative spark came from the full-backs rather than the midfield and that’s what made them unique and difficult to play against.
If we talk about numbers from this season, the duo has just managed to stack up around seven assists in the Premier League so far and are way off from the high standards they have managed to achieve previously.
These two were instrumental in breaking the opposition low blocks in the previous two seasons, something Liverpool have struggled against in the recent few games. At present, their game looks laggy and the speed at which they move the ball has gone down. Mental and physical fatigue could be the major reasons for this fall off due to the relentless nature of the fixtures in the season.
If you look at the Expected Goals (xG) stats from this season, then Liverpool have lost on the xG count only in four matches but they find themselves losing out on points on 10 occasions. Clearly, they are creating enough quality chances to win these games but the confidence in the forward players seems to be shaky.
The team is too good not to come out of this bad run of form. They need one positive result to go their way and things will change dramatically. We’ve seen almost all the teams endure a spell of patchy football in this unpredictable season and Liverpool are going through their worst run possible. It is a concern for Klopp for sure but months isn’t something he’ll shy away from but will look to tackle it head-on in the coming few matches.
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