How much trouble is Liverpool in?
There was a moment last night when it seemed the tide might turn for Liverpool. Right after Zielinski scored Napoli’s fourth, Luis Diaz pulled one back for the Reds two minutes later with a now-trademark curler into the net and it seemed that a fightback was on the cards.
As the Liverpool players grimly ran back to place the ball on the centre circle and take their positions ahead of the restart, everyone watching must have thought; ‘Are they somehow about to come back?’.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, it was not to be. The game ended 4-1 and the Liverpool players trudged off the Diego Armando Maradona stadium to begin the long trip back to Anfield.
Liverpool currently look a shadow of their usual selves, it’s obvious that it will be an uphill task to challenge Manchester City this season. How has this happened and how have they so quickly unraveled like a badly wrapped shawarma?
With seven first-team players currently out injured, Liverpool is missing a lot of contributors at a critical period. Players like the still-injured Jordan Henderson are crucial to the way Jurgen Klopp likes to play because of his willingness to fill in for the overlapping full backs as well as his knowledge of exactly how Klopp likes to play. For the Liverpool coach, his captain has been a huge miss.
The likes of Thiago Alcantara, Diogo Jota and Joel Matip have all rejoined the first team squad but if the injuries continue to pile up at this rate, the Reds will not be able to build any team chemistry and momentum needed to challenge for the biggest titles this season.
One of the most important qualities a manager can have is the ability to improve his players and make the team greater than the sum of its parts. For the past five years, Jurgen Klopp has done that excellently, fusing the strengths of players like Jordan Henderson (defensively attentive but creatively lacking) with those of players like Alexander-Arnold (defensively lax but a creative genius).
Speaking of players the manager relies on, Jordan Henderson, in particular, has never been the most creative player and was thought to be on his way out of Liverpool when Klopp first joined. However, his work rate, willingness to learn and Klopp’s system have helped to mask his deficiencies, while playing up his best attributes.
That isn’t the case anymore. Players like Henderson and Milner no longer do enough to justify their place in the team and players like Alexander-Arnold are having their attacking contributions overshadowed by their defensive weaknesses because the players supposed to cover for them have declined badly. Something must give, and soon.
Has Salah eased off?
Mo Salah’s form since he signed his new contract must seem very familiar to football fans, especially to Arsenal fans who keenly remember how badly the Ozil and Aubameyang contract extensions went.
Since Salah signed the new contract, he has scored just 2 goals and laid on 2 assists in seven competitive games. In a vacuum, that would not be worrying, but the Egyptian forward has set such high standards since he joined the Reds from Roma that this has to be worrying for Liverpool fans.
Against Napoli, he labored in vain to make something happen and the enduring image of the Liverpool #10 from the game was one of him with his arms raised in frustration.
The form of their best player has rescued them even when they weren’t this dysfunctional. If his level has dropped now that they look this vulnerable, Liverpool could be in big trouble come the end of this season.
A huge Sadio Mane-shaped hole in the squad
For so long, Sadio Mane’s talent and dependability meant that on the rare occasion Mo Salah had an off day, the impact was rarely felt because of the talent of his partner-in-crime on the other wing.
However, the most talented footballers are extremely competitive, and for good reason (it got them to where they are) and Liverpool’s obvious favoritism to the Egyptian must have started to rankle. The fans also made it clear on social media who they preferred. Which is why, when Mane chose to join Bayern Munich in the last transfer window, it wasn’t a big surprise.
Liverpool was willing to let him go, and why not? His planned replacement, Luis Diaz, had been playing well and to them, new signing, Darwin Nunez was a present and future star-in-waiting. Except… things have not quite turned out the way Liverpool must have hoped. Diaz has been a bright spark, but Nunez has looked clumsy and ungainly when he has played while Salah has misfired.
Without Mane’s blend of industry, goals and creativity, the Liverpool squad suddenly seems less than the sum of its individual parts, not more.
A familiar pattern?
For many cultures, seven is a significant number. In Israeli culture, it symbolizes completeness and perfection. In Westeros, the world of ongoing hit HBO series, ‘House of the Dragon’, the number also carries a huge significance, referring to the many facets of their faith.
For Liverpool fans, ‘seven’ just might be a Jurgen Klopp jinx that is about to befall their beloved Liverpool. Why, you may ask?
In 2001, he joined Mainz and promptly got them promoted to the Bundesliga. By 2007, they were relegated again, he eventually left in 2008. (7 years).
He left Mainz for Dortmund where he stunned Germany and the rest of Europe by implementing his famed ‘Gegenpressing’ style, going on to win two Bundesliga titles and famously reaching a Champions League final. When results eventually went south, the Dortmund fans roundly booed him and soon after, he left Dortmund and joined Liverpool in 2015.
7 years later, his Liverpool side has started to underwhelm? Coincidence? We think not!*
So… the long of it explained above.
The short of it? Liverpool are in big trouble and it could get worse fast.
* We’re obviously joking about Klopp being jinxed. Orrrr aren’t we? 😏😏