After securing a spot in the Champions League, Liverpool‘s 2017/18 season started with rather mixed results. They drew their first two games in Europe, and currently sit seventh in the Premier League table. Meanwhile they’ve suffered humiliation at the hands of Manchester City, and failed to beat Burnley at Anfield, as well as Newcastle away. The home mauling of Arsenal and the win away to Leicester now seem lost in the tide of disappointment.
Facing a hard task
Though many players are playing for their countries during this international break, Jürgen Klopp and his men will do well to use this time to reflect on the recent few weeks. The defence has long been the most under-fire part of the team. Many players have come and gone, but the woes at the back remain the greatest concern. Dejan Lovren, Ragnar Klavan and Alberto Moreno have been the most recent subjects of heavy criticism.
It is very unfair to slam the defenders alone at this point. Apart from the Etihad debacle, the Reds created quite enough chances to win all of their games comfortably, but Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge, Sadio Mané and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain kept failing to find the back of the net from favourable positions. Even Mohamed Salah, who had started the campaign well, has squandered a few very good opportunities to get on the score sheet. Danny Ings has only just returned to the fold after a long injury lay-off, and young Dominic Solanke has spent too little time on the pitch in competitive games to make any significant impact.
Philippe Coutinho has finally regained full fitness and is ready to take the midfield strings into his hands, but he still seems a level below the range of his quality. Even though he has been very good for Liverpool since he came back into the team, the fact that they achieved better results while he was out sticks out like a finger in the eye. It seems the rest of the engine room have taken their efforts down a notch, expecting the “Magician” to weave his magic and deal with opposition on his own. Georginio Wijnaldum perhaps the most, but Emre Can and Jordan Henderson as well, need to be giving more than they are at the moment.
The absence of Adam Lallana might go some way in explaining the lack of urgency and fluidity in the middle of the park, but other players should be looking to impose themselves and impress the manager as much as possible in order to keep a spot, and not shy away from the task. On the other hand, those expecting the return of the England international to be a swift solution to the midfield problem are likely to be disappointed.
In the midst of all this come several off-field issues. The club still haven’t reached an agreement with Emre Can on extending his contract, which expires next summer. The German international has reportedly insisted on a release clause. The events involving Coutinho two months ago have perhaps made him think about his own potential desire to leave in the near future, but the people running the club in that aspect have also learned from the same experience that player contracts without such a clause are a far better option from their perspective.
Liverpool need to find solutions for their problems quickly, before the pace of the Premier League leaves them far behind in the race for a successful season.