Just over two months into the Football season, and it seems that 2017-18 will be yet another trophy-less season for us at Liverpool (No, the Asia Cup doesn’t count). Liverpool are currently 9th on the table. 9th. And if recent form is any indication, we have a tough mountain to climb.
Not only are we behind the traditional top five clubs in England but, we are also behind a resurgent Watford and Newcastle FC under managers Marco Silva and our very own, Rafa Benitez. That’s a steep fall from the top 4 finish last season and the genuine title contenders we were until New Year’s last year.
What’s going wrong at Anfield?
Wh’re art our defenders?
The back four at Liverpool FC is sh*t. There’s no way around it, and it is something both supporters and opponents agree on.
Just look at our main center-back, Dejan Lovren. Since his arrival from St. Mary’s, whether he is working under Rodgers or Klopp, he has been prone to make many, many defensive mistakes. Here is a man who is supposed to lead the back four, maintain that defensive discipline and yet, it is he who seems most out of it. And that’s a shame because he was pretty good at Southampton under Pocchetino. I’ll always love him for that last-minute header against Dortmund though.
Then there’s our most popular scapegoat, Alberto Moreno. I’ll be honest. Moreno is very good going forward. His overlaps are great, and he gets some pretty good crosses into the box. However, his lapses defensively are too huge to be ignored. His inability to support the defense by covering our flanks has been a flaw that has been taken advantage of by teams big and small. Even James Milner, a midfielder, did a better job than Moreno as left-back, despite being wrong-footed. If anyone thought he had learnt from his mistakes from the Europa League final last year, they’re mistaken.
The rest, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Trent-Alexander Arnold have fared better recently but, you can only do so much with Moreno and Lovren in the team. Nathaniel Clyne cannot return soon enough.
Inability to replace players
If Liverpool FC’s 2016-17 title challenge stuttered after Coutinho’s injury last November, it truly derailed after Sadio Mane left for the African Cup in January. What followed was a series of devastating losses and draws that not only saw LFC fall behind but, also saw us bow out of the FA and EFL cups.
The same can probably be said about our performances right now. Sure, we mauled a hapless Maribor 7-0 but, in the absence of Mane, Liverpool always seems devoid of any ideas as to how to break down the opposition. Salah is good but, wastes too many chances. Coutinho can be great and creative but, his influence on the game flows and wanes. But Mane, with his furious pace, physicality, and skill is what ticks the Liverpool forward line. With Mane, we are the best attack in England. Without him, Liverpool is a team creating and wasting too many chances.
It’s not just Mane, however. Liverpool misses the flair of Adam Lallana as well. After a lukewarm start to his LFC career, Lallana was immense in our title challenge last year and in his absence, Wijnaldum just isn’t doing a great job.
Time to get a pure striker
Three years since his departure, Liverpool are yet to replace Luis Suarez. Suarez, the man who alongside Sterling and Sturridge ignited our closest title shot in recent memory was and remains one of the best strikers in the Premiere League era. If only he played under Klopp.
After Suarez, we turned to Benteke. He turned out to be a bust, oddly having scored more goals against us than for us.
We don’t play with a pure striker anymore. Roberto Firmino heads our dynamic forward line but, he tends to drop deep a lot of times and plays more in line with a false-9, rather than a centre-forward or a striker. Sturridge gets his chances here and there but, even though he still possesses that skill and creativity, he doesn’t fit well into Klopp’s system.
The problem with our forward line is wastefulness. For all our pace and creativity, we waste a lot of chances. Our shots to goal ratio is evidence of that.
Maybe it’s time to get a striker then. We have Dominic Solanke in our ranks but, he seems unable to get any game time any soon. Even when he does get some game time, he gets maybe 10-15 minutes, which are doing no one any good.
The Buck Stops with Jurgen Klopp
The manager cannot be absolved of the team’s failures. Especially when these failures seem chronic and persisting. Since his arrival from Dortmund, Liverpool FC haven’t improved defensively. In fact, some may argue that they have regressed. Regressed or not, the chronic lapses are open evidence. And yet, Klopp seems only happy to shrug it off and lament individual mistakes rather than a problem with defensive temperament.
Klopp’s Bundesliga winning season with Dortmund was built on a foundation of dazzling attacking display and defensive stability. For all of Klopp’s effort to replicate there at Anfield, it would seem that the defense hasn’t got its memo. Dejan Lovren is no Matt Hummels. This stubbornness, this inability to recognize a deeper problem in our backline is a weakness, one that may cost us this season.
And, why isn’t Klopp playing Robertson, a fine defender he signed from Hull this past transfer window? Robertson has had only one start for the season, and he bagged the Man of the Match award. Give the man a start, and gift Moreno the bench. Please.
Another issue I have with Klopp is his persistence with Henderson. A decent player, the England and Liverpool captain with his pondering ball play and diagonal balls just doesn’t seem right at the heart of Liverpool’s fast-paced system. Maybe, it’s time to drop him in favor of Milner or our new, probably unlucky signing, Oxlade-Chamberlain.
We are European loyalty. Winner of five European trophies and the greatest English club alongside Manchester United, Liverpool FC is presently punching far below its abilities and expectations. Klopp has transformed this team to become perhaps the most devastating attacks in the Premier League. Alas, this alone won’t sustain unless he can get defenders who can defend and players who can stand-in for each other. I’ll be glad if we finish in the top 4 again this season.
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