The most worrying thing for Liverpool was how predictable their recent home loss to Chelsea was. It was another game at Anfield where Jürgen Klopp’s side totally failed to produce any creative spark, and couldn’t test Edouard Mendy in the Chelsea goal. The defeat leaves Liverpool languishing in seventh place, while Thomas Tuchel’s unbeaten start as Chelsea boss continues, leaving the Blues a much better pick in the bet exchange than the defending Premier League champions.
Most would have laughed if they’d been told that Liverpool’s 68-game unbeaten run at home would be followed by five successive Anfield defeats, but that is the reality facing Klopp in a season that has completely capitulated over the last few months. Various points where it looked like Liverpool had turned the corner again were quickly quashed by further losses, just as the victory over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane was followed by the limp display against Chelsea.
Liverpool’s injury crisis is undoubtedly having a major impact. The absence of key players at various stages of the season, including the lengthy spells on the sideline for both Virgin van Dijk and Joe Gomez, has left Liverpool missing a lot of the solidity that helped them to the title last year. Meanwhile, the misfiring front three have been a shadow of their former selves, and as a result the goals have dried up.
The malaise at Anfield seems to be a simple consequence of the relentless success Liverpool have enjoyed over the last few years. It was only ever a matter of time before the players that have brought the club Champions League and Premier League glory became burned out, and now that results have begun to go against Liverpool, the players don’t have the energy to mount a revival. Football is cyclical, and it may well be that this current Liverpool squad have reached the peak of their powers and are now experiencing a decline.
For Klopp, this season now is about damage limitation. There is plenty of time left for Liverpool to regain a foothold in the race for Champions League qualification, but they’ll need to turn things around fast. Their lack of creativity and endeavour in home matches has been baffling, and it’s clear that Klopp has plenty of work to do on the training ground.
The return of Diogo Jota against Chelsea will certainly be a welcome boost for the Reds. The Portuguese forward was in fine form at the beginning of the season before a lengthy injury absence, and Klopp will be hoping that Jota can be the solution to his front three’s stuttering form. Fabinho’s recovery from injury is also hugely important, especially given the most recent injury setback for captain Jordan Henderson.
The simple truth is that Liverpool haven’t had a lot of luck this season. Things have gone against them, and the exertions of the last two or three seasons have caught up with what is an ageing squad on the whole. Perhaps this summer will see something like a rebuilding project take place at the club, to rid the team of the fading stars and inject new youth and vigour.
Anfield was a fortress for so long, and now teams come and simply soak up Liverpool’s meaningless possession before hitting them with a suckerpunch. It’s happened five times in a row, and the Premier League champions have been powerless to stop it. Klopp needs solutions, and fast.