5 Reasons Liverpool Have Faltered This Season
By BET Contributor
The Anfield aura is gone, Liverpool fell to their fourth consecutive loss at Anfield in the Merseyside derby against their old enemy Everton, if their title defence wasn’t already doomed to failure, then Everton made sure it was.
The loss also meant it was the first time in 98 years that they had lost 4 home games on the trot in the league. Rewriting history for all the wrong reasons. The team that has been the toast of European football in the past two seasons are in a rut and it might be a while before they worm themselves out of it.
So, what has gone wrong for the 2018/2019 Champions League winners? Bet Central explores reasons for the Reds’ unravelling this season
Virgil van Dijk Absence
The penultimate piece of the puzzle (Alisson Becker being the final piece) for Jurgen Klopp’s all-conquering Liverpool side was Dutch centre back Virgil van Dyk. The former Celtic and Southampton man came in and absolutely solidified a very leaky Liverpool defence.
It was not only through his performances that he inspired Liverpool, it was also how Joe Gomez and Joel Matip grew in stature, because of van Dijk’s commanding presence and the confidence he gave those around him.
His injury-enforced absence has cost Liverpool dearly this season, as one of Jordan Henderson’s trusted lieutenants, his leadership and calming influence has been greatly missed.
Front Three Blues
Seldom has the attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah failed to fire since Klopp assembled the unit. The output of the combination has always been considerable because it never happens that less than two parts of the three are off song.
This season however all three have been off the boil – a rarity. But Mane, Firmino and Salah have not had the same influence in games that needed goals. At some point in the season, Liverpool had failed to find the back of the net in three games, something that is an anomaly under Klopp.
Salah remains top of the goal scorers in the Premier League, but the numbers cannot mask over what has been an all-round awful return for the front three. Early season signing Diogo Jota was to be Liverpool’s saving grace before he was also added to a growing list of injuries at the club.
The effects of the Reds centre back injury crisis have gone far beyond affecting their defence, after both Gomez and van Dijk sustained long-term injuries early in the season, Fabinho had to shift into a defensive role and he has done so successfully, but that affected the team’s entire rhythm.
The Brazilian is not everyone’s cup of tea, he is not your typical hard-tackling midfield destroyer, but for Klopp’s way he is gold and he provides the balance. His ability to paper over Trent Alexander-Arnold and to a degree Andy Robertson’s defensive frailties allows Liverpool’s marauding fullbacks a bit more freedom, but he can only do that from midfield.
Fabinho’s absence in midfield has also meant Thiago Alcantara, Liverpool’s marquee signing this season, has had to play a little deeper. In part that is why the Spanish international has not found his best form. At Bayern Munich Thiago had Leon Goretzka next to him, but with Fabinho in defence, it is difficult to have the same effect from so deep in midfield.
fter years of employing the high press method, fatigue seems to have set in for Klopp’s charges. The press is highly effective when executed properly, but it demands a lot of the players who employ it and Liverpool have been near-perfect when it comes to this aspect. With fatigue setting in, Liverpool have suffered a number of serious injuries and that has affected their performances.
It is not only physical fatigue that has overwhelmed the Reds, mental fatigue is also affecting the players. Uncharacteristic errors from the likes of Alisson suggest there is now also a mental hurdle to clear for Liverpool.
It is hard to see how they would not be mentally exhausting when one reflects on the past three years starting from the 2018 Champions League final loss to Real Madrid and how they were consistently Europe’s best team thereafter, carrying that mantle is no easy task.
No 12th Man
This is a challenge that almost every sports team in the world is dealing with, the absence of fans at the stadium. Some teams deal with it better than others, Liverpool are one of those teams that are buoyed by a vocal and loud crowd, particularly at home.
The absence of Liverpool’s 12th man at Anfield has affected them. When their fans belt out “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, it not only inspires the Merseysiders, it intimidates the opposition. When you are used to that kind of atmosphere, it is bound to affect the team.
There is no quick fix for Liverpool to find their form again, but Klopp needs find ways to adjust to his present difficulties and try finish the season in a respectable position, then he can start from scratch again next season.