Jürgen Klopp’s appointment as Liverpool manager single handedly changed the club. Along with a talented set of players, they formed a team that ruled Europe. Now, it seems like it’s finally time to pick up the tab and realize the night is over.
Liverpool’s return to the top of English football is a remarkable story of player and manager alike creating a winning culture. However nothing can last forever, as Liverpool’s dominance seems to be fading.
The start of this season couldn’t have been worse for a club that seemed to be contenders in all competitions. Having won only 4 games in the Prem, the window for contention seems to be closing more and more every week. Despite possessing some elite statistics, the club still find themselves behind the likes of Fulham and Newcastle.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what has condemned Liverpool to this poor start. An inability to see out games mixed with a tactical burnout from Klopp could be responsible. At the same time, injuries coupled with transfers have zapped a lot of stability.
At this point, it would likely take a miracle for Liverpool to find themselves back in the title race. A variety of issues all coalesced to tank their season from the start.
Tying their first two games should have given fans more concern, as these results became the start of a terrible season. It’s still remarkable to see Liverpool post great stats despite their struggles and may suggest that these numbers are deceiving.
So far this season, Liverpool has only had two impressive wins. A great win against Manchester City and a 9-0 drubbing of Bournemouth. However, losses against the likes of Nottingham Forest and early season Manchester City have shocked fans.
Due to their four draws and three losses, they find themselves solidly midtable. With their season still being tough through December, it may be a while before Liverpool sees any stability. Which is of concern to fans, as the team will have to race against time to reach the top four.
Returning back to that demolition of Bournemouth, one can see how that massive win has inflated their stats. This win has also clouded the way the team has collapsed against weaker opponents.
Currently outperforming their expected goals by three, it’s easy to see how the 9-0 win hides an offense that isn’t quite the most elite. Klopp’s side still remains second in the league in terms of possession, but they are yet to find a way to turn that dominance into a sustained elite offense.. To be fair to Liverpool, their defense still remains great and should give the team a great foundation.
In 5 of their 7 draws and losses, Liverpool has seen their opponents grab an early lead, forcing the team to fight their way back into the game. These early deficits force the side out of their game plan and rush them to play at the pace of their opponent. Which in turn disrupts the flow of Liverpool and makes the team resort to a certain type of hero ball.
Liverpool’s early season struggles have dug them a deep hole that they may never recover from in the Prem. Despite some flashy numbers, the team’s offense still remains a work in progress.
Whenever a contender has early struggles, every fan feels like Sherlock Holmes, combing through articles and clips to piece together the mystery. Like every great mystery, there are so many pieces that come together to confuse those on the outside.
During Klopp’s final seasons at Dortmund, the electric side failed to dominate as it had in years past. This was largely due to other sides being able to figure out Klopp’s tactics. Perhaps this could be partly to blame for their early season depression.
When looking at their tendency to give their opponents early leads, this also throws Klopp’s tactics in the air. While they still are able to maintain possession, the side must be more proactive in the attack rather than carve their opponents apart. Since Klopp’s side tends to be more effective on the counter, they lose that when teams give them possession and force them to break sides down.
Perhaps just as significant to Liverpool’s early season troubles have been their issues with injuries and transfers. Sadio Mané’s departure seems to have dramatically affected the team and the stress of so many competitive years has contributed to the increase in injuries.
For years, Mané terrorized Prem defenders, so it was always going to be difficult to replace him. Darwin Núñez was supposed to be that replacement, but he is not the same player as Mané, thus struggling to find a place in Liverpool’s offense. Perhaps a forward morer similar to Firmino would have helped like a Richarlison.
Going deep in the Champions and league cup tournaments combined with the grueling nature of the league will naturally lead to more strain on the body and injuries. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson have both struggled with injuries so far this season. Liverpool currently sit top of the Perm with injuries and it seems to correlate with their impressive five year run.
A mixture of injuries and tactical issues have contributed to Liverpool’s early season flop. While they may bounce back to some extent, it feels like this season was lost when it began.
There inevitably will be a team when any great side must pay their debts and face their decline. Time will tell whether this is Liverpool’s decline, but with Mané’s departure it seems like it’s their time. With City getting stronger and Arsenal on the rise, Liverpool’s days at the top are numbered.
Feature image: Getty