Liverpool is living in very unfamiliar times. Barely eight months ago, they were chasing an unprecedented quadruple.
They ended up with two domestic trophies, took Manchester City to within a point of the Premier League title and narrowly lost the Champions League title to a Thibaut Courtois-inspired Real Madrid.
Fast forward, things are looking bleak in the red side of Merseyside. Not that the blue side has better fortunes anyway. Sunday’s loss to Brighton saw Liverpool exit the FA Cup.
They were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Manchester City immediately after the World Cup break and are currently 9th on the EPL table. Their only realistic chance at a trophy and redemption this season remains in the Champions League. But first, they will have to dispatch the defending champions in the round of 16.
So poor were Liverpool against Brighton that the Seagulls skipper Lewis Dunk admitted that his side didn’t have to be at their absolute best to beat them.
1. Injuries to key players
This is the go-to logical and straightforward reason. Virgil Van Dijk, Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz and Roberto Firmino are some of the key players who Liverpool have terribly missed this season. There is no telling the kind of impact any of the aforementioned players would have on the team if fit.
2. Sadio Mane’s exit
By Klopp’s own admission, Liverpool didn’t realise how big of a loss it would be to sell the Senegalese talisman to Bayern Munich.
Mane’s lung-bursting runs, quick feet and a keen eye for goal have been missed in the Premier League this season. And Liverpool have borne the full brunt.
3. New signings struggles
The FSG ownership, despite their modest approach to the transfer market, responded to Manchester City’s acquisition of Erling Haaland by signing Darwin Nunez.
In all fairness, Nunez’s 10 goals so far in all competitions isn’t a bad return but it is the big chances that he has missed that have been his major undoing.
FSG dug deep once again and bought one of Qatar World Cup 2022 brightest prospects Cody Gakpo. The Dutch forward was having a blistering season with PSV Eindhoven but so far, the Kop is yet to see what he is made of.
4. Mohamed Salah’s loss of form
The Egyptian King has always dug out Klopp during his stickiest times. But this season, Salah has struggled to turn in even the simplest of chances.
Perhaps he has joined the list of the big players who lost their form after being handed a new bumper contract. His clear lack of understanding with his new strike partners has been a major issue for Klopp.
The reigning Golden Boot winner will be counting the days to when he can have either Firmino, Jota or Diaz back by his side; now that Mane is gone forever.
5. Lethargic midfield
We might not be professional scouts or managers, but no way FSG and Klopp saw the deep underlying issues in Liverpool’s midfield but still decided that Gakpo was the answer to their problems.
Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita have all struggled this season. Thiago Alcantara has had his good days and has been forced to anchor the midfield alongside the young Harvey Elliot.
Arthur, who wasn’t a regular starter at Juventus, was supposed to be the saviour, but a knee injury has kept him out of the squad. Talks of Jude Bellingham and Moises Caicedo have been rife but as it stands, Klopp will finish the season with the same crop of midfield he has.
Apart from the midfield, Trent Alexander-Arnold hasn’t shown his creative side this season. That, compounded with his known defensive frailties, has really exposed Liverpool’s creativity, or lack thereof.
6. Klopp’s tactics
In football jargon, Klopp plays heavy metal football called the gegenpressing. What if his energy-sapping tactics have finally gotten to his players?
In a busy football schedule, running all over the pitch might have an effect on your players. In contrast with Manchester City who keep passing the ball around, Liverpool relies heavily on pressing down the opponent. And with the hectic programs come the rampant injuries the side has witnessed this season. Or maybe, it’s Jurgen Klopp’s seventh-season curse.
It doesn’t bode well for you when your best player is your goalkeeper. Klopp needs answers and he needs them soon. Otherwise even the Europa Conference League will be a tall order.