This is the worse Liverpool have looked in years. After going 68 games unbeaten at Anfield, they are yet to win at home in 2021 and a devastating 4-1 loss to Manchester City put their title hopes in tatters. The Reds have won just two games in 2021 and find themselves clinging onto a Champions League place despite being top at the turn of the year. We assess why Liverpool need to start again.
Liverpool Need to Go Back to the Drawing Board
Problems and Targets Assessed
Perhaps an obvious problem but one Liverpool seemed to be handling well until the turn of the year is injuries. All of their centre-backs have suffered long-term injuries meaning Jordan Henderson and Fabinho have had to fill in. This has had a domino effect on the whole squad. Trent Alexander-Arnold has had less cover without Henderson and Fabinho in midfield and as a result, has been limited offensively.
Thiago Alcantara has had to play in a defensive midfield role by himself; something he is not accustomed to. So many of the players are being played out of position that it was bound to affect performance eventually.
Diogo Jota‘s lengthy injury has also hurt Liverpool. His goals supported the front three and covered for them when they weren’t firing. Other backup options Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Curtis Jones are all still searching for a league goal this season. An injury to Allison was also partly responsible for their humiliating 7-2 loss to Aston Villa.
Lack of Depth
Partly caused by injuries, Liverpool’s lack of depth has come under the limelight this season. Summer signing Kostas Tsimkas was meant to provide competition to Andy Robertson at left-back but he’s been scarcely involved.
Even during Alexander-Arnold’s poor run of form, Jurgen Klopp didn’t have enough faith in Neco Williams to give him a run in the side. James Milner‘s age looks like it’s finally taking its toll as he struggles to complete 90 minutes at any kind of quality, while Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury issues have clearly taken some of his quickness away and Naby Keita is just not available enough.
Attacking depth is also a massive problem. Xherdan Shaqiri is a quality squad player but seems better of in midfield leaving Liverpool with just four players who they can rely on for goals. Divock Origi is a cult hero, but clearly not of the quality to play regularly in a side with title ambitions and Takumi Minamino struggled to adapt to the system so was loaned to Southampton.
Having so few options to turn to was always going to tire the first-choice attack out and lead to a bad run of form. Roberto Firmino hasn’t been at his best for around a year now and Mane’s recent performances have lacked energy, leaving Mohamed Salah to carry the scoring load himself.
An Unexpected Issue
Liverpool has let their frustrations show at Anfield. When unable to break down an opponent they often resort to aimlessly crossing the ball in the hope it will fall to someone. This was a problem they looked to have solved in away wins over Tottenham and West Ham United but it was back on display in the loss to Brighton & Hove Albion.
Although they haven’t had this problem before, it could have something to do with the size of the Anfield pitch. The pitch at Anfield is 5m shorter than the recommended length of 115×74 yards which both Spurs and the Hammers use. This smaller pitch usually helps suffocate opposing teams with the help of the ground’s famous atmosphere however without the atmosphere it could be having a reverse effect. The amount of space Liverpool had in the away games clearly helped and the lack of it in home games is having an adverse effect.
Liverpool Need to Start Again
Get The New Signing in the Team
The signings of Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak were met with relief by Liverpool fans on Deadline Day but both are yet to play. Kabak is understandable as he has only trained once with the team but Davies didn’t even make the squad for the Manchester City game. Getting even just one of them accustomed to the system and playing helps Liverpool greatly. Henderson can go back into midfield and it creates a positive domino effect all the way through the side. Getting Kabak playing would also help them decide whether to splash £18 million on him in the summer.
Try Something Fresh
Liverpool’s 4-3-3 formation has become stale. Opponents have figured out how to nullify the full-backs and the front three are being easily contained by a low block. A new tactic would cause confusion in opponents and may help re-motivate role players who look short of energy. Oxlade-Chamberlain thrived as a wing-back in his latter days at Arsenal, whilst Firmino’s natural position is as a number ten. For Scotland, Robertson plays in a back three to accompany Kieran Tierney in the team and another option for Klopp to use.
Get Thiago on Form
The signing of Thiago was celebrated throughout the Liverpool fanbase and rightly so. Thiago was one of Bayern Munich‘s best players last season as they won the treble. While the Spaniard hasn’t been poor for Liverpool, he certainly hasn’t hit the heights of last season.
Part of this is down to this system Liverpool play where he has been asked to play as a sole number six which he is not used to. At Bayern, Thiago played with Leon Goretzka in a double pivot behind Thomas Muller so maybe playing the 29-year-old playmaker with Henderson in a pivot behind someone like Curtis Jones or Xherdan Shaqiri could help him produce his best.
It is important for Liverpool fans to remain realistic. With all the issues they face, the Liverpool squad in its current form should just be aiming for the top four this season. When key players are back and the lack of depth has been addressed, Liverpool can look to go again for the title.
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