An attribute that Klopp once labelled the Liverpool side, mentality monsters is clearly missing now. This current Liverpool side have been a shadow of what they were during the previous season. They managed to win just three games in their last 11 premier league matches. With the defeat against Everton, the reds have lost all four of their last home games after a 68 game unbeaten streak.
It’s been 98 years since Liverpool suffered four successive defeats at Anfield. To make their nightmarish season even worse, Henderson has added to their long list of injury concerns. At this stage, a place for the Champions League spot hangs in the balance. What is the reason behind this slump? Is this due to the loss of Van Dijk and other injuries, burnout due to a tight schedule or something more?
To say that Liverpool have been unlucky with injuries would be an understatement. All of their centre backs, including the talismanic Van Dijk, are ruled out for the season due to injuries. They also missed the likes of Alexander Arnold, Henderson, Milner, Keita, Robertson, Thiago and Jota for significant periods throughout the season.
For a team as interdependent as Liverpool which play an intricate pressing game, the absence of Van Dijk has caused a domino effect throughout their lineup. They had to do with a makeshift defence consisting of either Henderson or Fabinho or both. Although they've brought Kabak and Ben Davies, it will take some time for them to settle in.
Problems in the mid
Since Henderson and Fabinho have been shifted to defence from the midfield, there is a lack of dynamism and bite in the midfield. Moreover, without Dijk and Gomez’ pace, Liverpool is unable to play at a high line which is so crucial to their offensive play. Liverpool also missed Van Dijk’s aerial threat at set pieces. He bagged six goals last season.
Another issue is Thiago. There is no doubt about his footballing ability. He is considered one of the best deep lying playmakers around. But there is an argument that he often slows the game down and doesn’t suit Liverpool's overall style of play. Still, it’s very unjust to make Thiago the scapegoat who just made 11 premier league appearances so far.
It's not just the defence and midfield, Liverpool’s attack also doesn’t have the same edge as the previous seasons. Salah is scoring loads of goals but he isn’t quite as electric. Mane looks out of form and Firmino’s creative output has significantly dropped.
Liverpool’s deadly attack has always been reliant on advanced full backs. But this year, they too aren’t that consistent. It’s especially true for Alexander Arnold. His chance creation has dropped as he sends fewer crosses and defensively looks shakier.
On top of that Diego Jota's injury just made matters worse. The Portuguese forward made a blazing start to this season scoring seven goals in his first nine appearances. Klopp will surely hope Jota gets back to fitness and hits the ground running sooner rather than later.
To be fair there were signs of their dip in form since the 2nd half of the last season. The 7-2 defeat against Aston Villa came before Van Dijk’s injury. There may be a case for mental fatigue and lack of determination. After all, they have virtually won everything in the last three seasons: reaching the champions league final twice and clinching the premier league title after 30 years.
Is the downfall natural?
If we look at all the great teams, we’ll see they usually have a longevity of three-four years. Then, the squad go through a rebuild. Even Guardiola’s Man City are going through an evolution with young players Phil Foden, Ferran Torres and Ruben Dias coming to the scene.
With the sheer intensity and energy Klopp's side plays, it wouldn’t be too surprising if a lot of players have already passed their peak. All of their front three are 28 or older and the likes of Henderson and Milner are on the wrong side of 30. This squad probably need an overhaul sooner than Klopp hoped for.
Liverpool’s downfall can’t be pointed to one particular reason. They have been very unlucky with injuries and are dealing with piles of intricate problems. But if there is one person who can turn it around for this Liverpool side, it's Jurgen Kloop. The league is already lost and now he must salvage whatever he can from this nightmarish season.
The writer studies economics at Dhaka University. [email protected]