Updated: Mar 26
After the Boxing Day fixtures of the Premier League, the Champions were sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League table, 3 points clear of second-placed West Ham and 6 points clear of the current table-toppers Manchester City. Everything has gone downhill from there for Jurgen Klopp's side. Liverpool has played 13 Premier League games since then and has managed to win just 3 of them (as of GW 27), which has left them 28 points behind Manchester City and placed 8th on the table fighting for the Europa League Spot. They have now lost 6 consecutive games at home and have failed to win in eight successive home games for the first time in 63 years. With Klopp’s side once termed as ‘The Mentality Monsters,’ it’s hard to believe that the same team are now fighting for a place in the Europa League next year. It has been a mixture of injuries, packed fixtures, and many other reasons for the fall of this great side. Let’s look at some of the main reasons for the downfall of such a great Liverpool side this season.
1) Absence of Van Dijk
Virgil Van Dijk has been injured since the Merseyside derby in October after a horrendous challenge by Everton keeper Jordan Pickford. With the absence of Van Dijk, the authoritative figure which used to help the Reds control the game from the back is missing and it has had a big impact on how the team operates. After this injury, the importance of Joe Gomez increased; unfortunately, within 3 weeks of Van Dijk’s injury, Liverpool also lost Gomez to a serious injury while he was training with England. Almost all of Liverpool's defensive players except for Andy Robertson have had injury problems this season. There have been 10 different back-four combinations and seven different centre-back pairings since the Van Dijk injury. The midfield duo of Henderson and Fabhino had to fill in the roles of center-backs and academy players Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams were also given a chance to shine during the crisis-hit period. Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies were signed by the Reds in the winter transfer window to give Klopp a few more options. Ben Davies has also had some injury issues since the switch to Liverpool, while Kabak has had a lukewarm start with his new club. The impact of Van Dijk’s injury has been huge as he is someone who can boost his teammate's confidence by just being on the pitch. His distribution aspect has also been missing and it has resulted in the decline of chances for the front three. Liverpool fans would be hoping to see Van Dijk back on the pitch before the season ends so that he can help the Reds finish the season on a high note.
2) Thiago not fitting in well
There was a lot of buzz around where Thiago would land after his successful spell with German giants Bayern Munich. Impressively, Liverpool was able to sign the Spanish international for a relatively cheap fee of £25m with bonuses. There was huge excitement and expectations from the fans following the arrival of the central midfielder to Anfield. But the early days for the Spanish International at his new club have not been easy as he had to face some injury issues himself, and he was thrown into a squad that was facing a major injury crisis. As a result, he has not been able to get going for his new club. There have been a lot of reports concluding that Thiago is one of the reasons why Liverpool are not able to score as many goals and create as many chances as they used to, with such reports blaming the slow distribution skills of the midfielder. Additionally, there have been talks that Thiago is not suited for Liverpool as he is someone who takes his time to complete his inch-perfect passes. Klopp’s playing style has always required his players to make quick decisions, which Thiago has not been able to execute yet. However, it is still very early to judge a player who has just 14 appearances on his name for his new club. Liverpool fans would still be hoping that with time Thiago becomes much more accustomed to how the Liverpool side plays as there are no doubts about his abilities.
3) Inconsistent Front Three
The inability to break the defenses of compact teams in the Premier League has been one of the biggest problems for Liverpool this season. Liverpool has managed to score 47 goals of 28 games in the Premier League while their title rivals City and United have scored 64 and 55 goals respectively. At face value, these attacking stats are not that bad, especially considering that Liverpool is the 4th highest-scoring team in the League. However, the problem with this Liverpool side is that they are not able to break teams who don’t give much space to the front three to work with. Liverpool has just scored 1 goal in the last 6 home games; that solitary goal was a penalty against Manchester City. Of late, creating goals from open play has become a problem. The team is still able to build moves, but the final finish is proving to be elusive. Salah has arguably been up to the mark this season with an impressive goals tally of 17, but Mane and Firmino have scored just 7 and 6 goals respectively which has led to the goals drying up. Diego Jota has had a great start at his new club but his progress was hampered by a knee injury. If Klopp wants his team to finish in the top 4, he has to make sure that his forwards are in-form and firing again.
4) Out of Form Allison
Allison has been one of the best goalkeepers in recent seasons, and very few people would try to question his abilities. That being said, he has been a little out of form lately. His two mistakes in quick succession against Manchester City lost an incredibly important game for Liverpool. In the very next game against Leicester City, Allison made another blunder which resulted in Leicester taking an important lead and winning the match 3-1. No one is blaming Allison for all the things that are going wrong at the club, but his unfortunate mistakes have not helped Liverpool at this crucial point of the season. This issue is not that big of a worry for the management, as every keeper goes through a difficult phase no matter how good they are when in peak form.
5) Personal Issues
Sometimes people forget that football players and coaches are also human beings and they have their bag of personal issues too. People only see them on the pitch and judge them purely on that basis. It has been a hard time for Jurgen Klopp off the pitch, as he lost his mother last month and could not even attend the funeral due to the travel restrictions in place because of Covid-19. Klopp insisted that he does not need a break and is focused to continue the job at hand with Liverpool. Liverpool goalkeeper Allison also lost his father last month which would have undoubtedly have had an impact on his mental strength, focus, and performance.
The season’s not over for Liverpool as they still have a lot to fight for. They have already reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League after beating RB Leipzig in the Round of 16. As the title hopes are almost over, all attention must now turn to finishing in the Top 4 of the Premier League to qualify for the Champions League next year. With injured players now recuperating and the core squad slowly returning to full strength, Liverpool fans would be hoping for a strong finish in both the Premier League and Champions League.