Liverpool welcomed Boxing day as table toppers. They had 31 points. Only one loss, and life was good for Liverpool fans. Yes there were some questions about their away from home form but last week’s 0-7 against Crystal Palace was a sign that all will be good.
Fast forward 2 months and the situation is not looking good for the reigning champions. They’ve played 11 games since that stunning display against Palace, and only won 2 of them: 1-3 wins away in London against West Ham and Tottenham. After the tremendous run of 68 games unbeaten at “Anfield” Liverpool lost 0-1 to Burnley. And then they lost against Brighton, Manchester City, and even Everton, all at Anfield. Plus losses to Southampton at “St. Marry’s” and Leicester at “King Power.” Liverpool now sit 19 points behind league leaders Manchester City and 5 off 4th placed West Ham. After the historical last season and bringing title №19, Liverpool are making history once again. But due to all the wrong reasons. So what are the reasons for this transition from unplayable against to laughing stock in the last two months?
Of course this is the easiest explanation. Van Dijk and Joe Gomez were ruled out for the season in October, Joel Matip is out for the rest of the season too. Fabinho, Diogo Jota, James Milner, Naby Keita, and captain Jordan Henderson are in the infirmary currently. At different times during the season games were missed due to health problems from: Salah, Mane, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kostas Tsimikas, Alison, Shaqiri say-speak every Liverpool player spent some time recovering from injuries this season.
Liverpool’s offensive players are in terrible form. The front three don’t combine well, don’t finish well, don’t find the free corridors. At times they look like they just met, and not like the trio that terrorized the Premier league and Europe for couple of seasons. Diogo Jota just got on track, started to give competition to the trio and got injured, so they have no alternative. Divock Origi is a cult hero at “Anfield,” but is just not good enough to push the front three on a daily basis. Trent set a record for failed passes during the 0-1 loss to Southampton, then he bettered it… twice. Trent is a world class player and a key to Liverpool’s success in recent years, he just can’t reach the standards he set.
One of Liverpool’s best qualities from last season’s campaign is failing them. Alisson is the keeper in the Premier league whose errors led to most goals. After that final in Kyiv and Karius’ mistakes Klopp splashed the cash and brought Alison to Liverpool’s goal. The effect was instantaneous. He proved himself as one of the world’s best keepers. Just in the recent months his decision making and plays are not good enough, and they are leading directly to goals. Klopp has used 18 different pairs of central defenders. Van Dijk, Gomez, Matip, Fabinho, Henderson, Kabak, Nat Phillips, Rhys Williams all rotated at this position. And for central defenders the most important thing is synchrony which can’t be achieved if you change your pair almost every game. Of course this isn’t Klopp’s fault but…
Liverpool’s owners and Jurgen Klopp appear to work great together. The manager brings success without overpaying for players. But here appears a question: Does FSG back the manager enough on the transfer market? The German never complains but is he happy with the current situation or he’s just hiding inside? For the first time some tension appeared between the manager and the owner during the winter transfer window. Liverpool were in a desperate need of a defender. Finally they got 2, but that was at the very last day. Could they get them earlier? Did the manager want them earlier?
Jurgen Klopp is the best transfer FSG ever made to Liverpool. He’s the architect of this team, and the reason Liverpool fans celebrated №6 and №19. But I can’t help it but find some parallel between Liverpool now and Borussia Dortmund in Klopp’s last season there. The team looks tired, the coach looks out of control at times. Very often he looks late with the subs, some of his decisions and team selections are questionable (of course he knows the reasons behind them, they’re just not clear for the mass). There’s nothing left from the all-smiley manager we loved to see last season. Klopp looks grumpy and angry at reporters all the time. There are voices among Liverpool fans for sacking the German; but maybe he can turn everything around. If the Reds can reach top 4 and qualify for the Champions league next season, Klopp might get some new additions to the squad, get rid of the dead wood, and challenge for everything again. Will the owners wait for that? Or will they try to get Steven Gerrard in charge? No matter what happens Jurgen Klopp already has his spot next to Liverpool’s greatest managers. And maybe he’s the only one who can turn Liverpool’s current form to winners again.