After twenty-five matchdays in the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons, Jurgen Klopp had led Liverpool to 62 and 73 points respectively. They had been unbeaten at Anfield since April 2017, had only lost one league game in total (away at Manchester City) and were well on their way to romping to a sixth Champions League triumph and their first ever elusive Premier League title.
Fast forward to 2020/21, and the Reds are stuck on 40 points, are sixth place in the table and have lost both their last four league games and their last four home games. The Reds have gone from one of the Premier League’s greatest ever sides, to a team embarking on one of the limpest title defences in the history of the competition.
From an overreliance on established players from years gone by, to the structural issues and subsequent confidence woes that simply arise from a seemingly cursed injury list, here’s a complete lowdown on where things have gone wrong for Liverpool, and how they can begin to turn their fortunes around.
The Obvious Injury Issue
The signing of Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton in January 2018 perhaps marked the moment when Liverpool grew from exciting challengers to a total behemoth within English football again. Losing a player of his magnitude would be a tough blow for any side to take, Manchester City certainly learned the impact injuries can have during their 2019/20 defence with injuries to the likes of Sergio Aguero and Aymeric Laporte, and Van Dijk’s injury in the 2-2 draw with Everton in October has certainly been credited as being a big factor behind the Reds’ recent slump.
However, what began as a simple loss to one player during a stacked season has quickly turned into a full on curse for Klopp to contend with. The likes of Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson has seen Liverpool forced to employ a scarcely believable eighteen different pairings at centre-back.
For an area of the pitch that is at the cornerstone of a team’s stability, having an injury record like the one Liverpool have endured is simply asking for trouble.
Klopp’s Favouritism Not Paying Off
Jurgen Klopp is regarded as one of, if not the definitive, best managers in the world. A huge reason behind his success is his modern approach to man management, ensuring that all of his players feel valued and ready to run through brick walls for him, even if they aren’t in the side every single week. Klopp notoriously forms exceptionally strong bonds with the players he manages, turning to them rather than shelling out millions upon millions of transfer fees on imports.
However, over five years on from his initial appointment, these shows of loyalty might just be one of the biggest things contributing to Liverpool plummeting down the fixed football odds.
The likes of Georginio Wijnaldum, Divock Origi, James Milner and Xherdan Shaqiri have all been at Anfield for a number of years now, but all have struggled to match the heights and expectations this season, especially when these are the players Klopp has found himself turning to when the going has gotten tough.
On top of that, the loyalty shown to the likes of Roberto Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold especially, is seriously starting to hinder Liverpool’s progression. Two of the most important cogs in the Reds’ success over the last four years, their huge drops in form have been some of the biggest contributors to the team’s struggles on the pitch in 2021.
What’s The Solution?
Jurgen Klopp has his very own distinct style of play that he has brought, with huge success, to the red side of Merseyside. The high pressing and stretching of the pitch through overloading full backs made Liverpool a side few teams could match for a time, however there has been a gradual decline in how much pressing the Reds have done over the last couple of seasons.
Trying to install this style of play during a time when confidence is through the floor and injuries are running rampant is questionable, and there’s a growing appetite around the footballing world to see Klopp attempt to introduce something different to his side in order to wrestle back this current slump.
The most obvious solution to this issue would surely be a change in formation, with Liverpool’s current 4-3-3 leaving the inconsistency of the Reds’ painfully exposed. A shift to a 4-2-3-1 formation would give Liverpool extra cover to their backline through two different defensive midfielders, as well as allowing them an extra attacking player to help out the underperforming front three.