What has gone wrong for Liverpool?
Last season, Jurgen Klopp drove Liverpool to win their first title in 30 years. With standout performances from captain Jordan Henderson, defensive rock Virgil Van Dijk and the formidable front three, the Reds looked unstoppable with many expecting them to do the same this campaign.
However, this season has sprung many surprises, due to the unconventional nature of the coronavirus pandemic. Liverpool’s drop-in form has been one of them, with the champions 27 points worse off than at this stage last season.
There are many factors that have contributed to this; with a congested fixture list, injuries mounting up and Alisson’s ‘cold feet’ all playing a part to Liverpool being ‘bad champions’, a phrase Manchester United legend Roy Keane used to describe Liverpool’s disappointing title defence.
The season actually started fairly smoothly for the defending champions, barring one freak result in a 7-2 drubbing from Aston Villa.
At the time the result was obviously a concern for Liverpool fans, but this was quickly put to bed after good form sent them back to the top of the pile.
The Merseyside derby is always a huge battle for two of England’s most successful clubs, Everton and Liverpool. However, this season’s match at Goodison Park was more impactful than most for Jurgen Klopp’s side, with record signing and arguably their best player, Virgil Van Dijk receiving a season ending injury.
Despite being disappointing, one centre back missing is manageable for a Premier League squad. However, disaster struck when Joe Gomez also received a similar fate.
This has meant that Jurgen Klopp has been forced to field 16 different centre back pairings this season, including playing players out of position and including some of the youth members of the squad at the back.
Therefore, Klopp has been forced to do some last-minute business in the January transfer window, purchasing Ben Davies from Preston North End and loaning in Ozan Kabak from Schalke.
Over recent years, Liverpool’s home record has been ground-breaking, with Anfield being made a fortress.
However, on the 21st January, their 68-game home unbeaten run came to an end when Ashley Barnes’ 83rd minute penalty fired Burnley to victory. Since then, Liverpool have lost three consecutive home games, with Brighton and Manchester City being the other successors.
Throughout the season, Klopp has been very vocal in his dismay towards the velocity of which the fixtures are coming at his side.
As much as the games are coming thick and fast, with the domestic and European calendar relentless in this unparalleled season. The case is the same for clubs across the league, it just so happens that Liverpool have been extremely unlucky when it comes to injuries.
Liverpool’s most recent game against league leaders Manchester City, capped off the Reds’ underwhelming season, after they were convincingly pushed aside by a 4-1 score line at Anfield.
Mistakes from usually reliable goalkeeper Alisson, played a big part in the champions defeat, with it seeming like nothing is going right for the 19-time champions of England.
This result has left Jurgen Klopp and his team in fourth position in the league table, 10 points behind league leaders Manchester City, who have a game in hand.
Klopp almost seems resigned to the fact that their title defence has been unsuccessful and has admitted that a top four finish, to achieve Champions League qualification, is the priority.
The games don’t get any easier for Liverpool, with their next fixture coming in the lunchtime game on Saturday afternoon, travelling to the King Power stadium to face third placed Leicester City.
This could be a real opportunity for the current champions to swing the momentum back in their favour, before their European trip to face RB Leipzig in Budapest and the home leg of the Merseyside derby.
Written by Matt Johns