It is remarkable to think that only a few months ago Liverpool were challenging for an unprecedented quadruple and they were looking to carve out their own slice of history.
But fast forward and Liverpool’s issues have been laid bare, and they look like a pale shadow of the side that went toe-to-toe with Manchester City last season for the EPL title.
Things have unraveled spectacularly, and their decline has been alarming. To be 14 points off the pace after just eight games in the EPL seems scarcely believable for a team of their caliber.
But what is the root cause behind Liverpool’s struggles and how do they turn it around? We have identified their problems and tried to suggest how Jurgen Klopp can turn things around.
Fatigue setting in
Last season was arguably the most taxing for Liverpool. 63 games were crammed in, and as mentioned, they were fighting on all four fronts right up until the end of the campaign.
While the likes of Sadio Mane moved onto pastures new over the summer, the crux of the Liverpool squad has remained. Last term, six players — Jordan Henderson, Diogo Jota, Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, and Mane –– turned out more than 50 times for the Reds.
Now, Liverpool possesses one of the oldest squads in the EPL, as the average age is nudging 28. Perhaps it is little wonder that their exertions are taking their toll, but they have started games in such a sluggish manner.
Klopp needs to impress this point upon his players. They need to shake themselves out of it and seize the initiative from the first whistle.
No case for the defense
It may seem rather harsh that much of Liverpool’s defensive struggles have been pinned on Trent Alexander-Arnold, but they have been too feeble at the back.
Previously, the defense was robust, but these stats are rather eye-watering:
- Liverpool have fallen behind in 10 of their last 12 matches (83.35%) as opposed to just twice in the 12 games before this.
- Klopp’s troops have kept just two clean sheets in their past 12 matches compared to 10 in the dozen games preceding this.
- In the past two seasons, Van Dijk had to make on average 0.5 and 0.6 tackles per game, but that has risen to 0.9 tackles per game this term.
Of course, the right channel is where the bulk of chances have been created by opposing teams, and Alexander-Arnold has been targeted.
The full-backs usually make Liverpool tick, but there has been a significant reduction in output this term compared to last season across key metrics – assists (-9.3%) and chances created (-23.9%).
There needs to be some accountability taken and more time on the training field should be spent on practising defending crosses and being much braver, otherwise, the vicious cycle will only continue.
Shake things up tactically
Klopp was the mastermind of gegenpressing and it has been a hallmark of Liverpool’s game. However, against Arsenal for example, there was a lack of tracking back and making recovery runs when they weren’t on the ball.
At the Emirates, while Liverpool tried to be intricate with their attacking play, the final stages of the game saw them harried. When they chased the game, they were aiming for diagonals and ambitious balls over the top which meant their attacks quickly broke down.
Recently, Klopp has been using a double-pivot in midfield with Thiago partnering Jordan Henderson, but Liverpool need to get back to basics. They have become too predictable to play against, and Klopp needs to find that spark to reawaken the “mentality monsters” that have been dormant so far this term.
Get the best out of Mohamed Salah
For much of the season, Salah has been a peripheral figure. Yes, the Egyptian forward has been playing virtually non-stop for club and country over the past 12 months, and he has clocked up plenty of miles on the field.
Arguably he has been played out of position to accommodate summer signing Darwin Nunez, but last season’s joint-top scorer has managed just a paltry two goals this term.
Klopp needs to recognize that Salah is one of his best assets and he needs to be moved more centrally so that he can extract the best out of him.
Salah, on the whole, has been instrumental over the past few years. Of course, his confidence seems to have ebbed away, but if he can get back on the goalscoring trail, he will be vital to the cause.
Top four minimum remit
At this point in time, a title challenge is a very remote prospect. Klopp even conceded that his side were out of the title race after the defeat to Arsenal, and there has been a lot of soul searching over the past few weeks.
Naturally, every great team goes through peaks and troughs, but Liverpool have to remember where they have come from. If they can do so, they can certainly arrest their terrible EPL form isoon. There are tough tests to come, including the visit of Manchester City on Sunday, and thwarting the irrepressible Erling Haaland.
Nevertheless, Liverpool can’t let fizzle things out and the top four will remain the minimum remit for Klopp. Currently, the Merseysiders are trading at -160 with FanDuel to finish in the top four, and given where they find themselves at the moment, all those connected to the club would surely take that.