Liverpool beat Arsenal 3-1 at Anfield on Saturday evening, lifting them into the top four and revitalising their chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League but the attitude of Jürgen Klopp’s players has been called into question.
Going from a supposedly morale-boosting 2-0 win over Spurs to losing 3-1 to Leicester City to outclassing Arsenal suggest a genuine mental issue. Whether or not Liverpool’s players don’t view relegation candidates as worthy opponents is doubtful but there is definitely something awry.
Last season, Liverpool struggled with the same issue. The Reds would go from beating Chelsea to drawing or losing to a midtable or relegation-threatened side.
I don’t think it has anything to do with mental capacity or arrogant stars. The underlying issue is a tactical one.
You have to applaud Klopp for setting Liverpool up in way which has seen the Reds remain unbeaten against all top six opposition this season. Klopp has constructed a superb counter-attacking unit, similar to what he had at Borussia Dortmund. However, dissimilar to his time in Germany, his midfielders are seemingly incapable of breaking down deep-lying defences.
Liverpool’s next Premier League game is a home fixture against Burnley, a side which inflicted defeat on the Reds in the second game of the season. Funnily enough, Burnley played Liverpool after Liverpool beat Arsenal earlier in the season. This time round, however, Klopp will hope his side can build on a win over the Gunners with three points against the Clarets.
“I don’t want to make it too philosophical – it is obviously the case we are inconsistent,” he said.
“I know we don’t have to doubt the attitude, and the kind of attitude we usually are looking for was here against Arsenal; they were really motivated and you cannot play like this if you have any issues.
“But we struggled in other games. So, OK, you [the media] say it is about quality and sometimes probably, yes, we don’t have the quality.
“But with quality, you have potential, and you make quality with work and all that stuff.”
Klopp continued, “If we judge the players after the best game of the season, then we sign a contract for another six seasons; if we do it after Leicester then you change the whole squad.
“But the truth is always in between. That is what we are working on, really working on. There will be moments when we play like this [against Arsenal] and win again – and it is what we did this season already, in fact – and it will be against a team not in the top six.
“But we have to work on it, first of all we have to feel like it is possible.”
Liverpool are fourth in the league after Manchester City beat Sunderland on Sunday and Klopp explained that, with 11 games left to play, he and his coaching staff will be training the players hard every week until the season ends.
“Especially in this moment, the club is completely together,” said the German.
“Everybody expects we already should be somewhere else [in the table]. I understand this, it is our aim, it is where we want to be.
“We are completely fine, the owners are fine, they are completely with us, the players – we have a wonderful relationship.
“But that doesn’t mean we say every day what they want to hear. It means we work on the things we are not as good as [we should be].”