Liverpool simply cannot turn to their Premier League title-winning tactic this season. Injuries robbed Jurgen Klopp of the luxury.
Yes, we’re blaming injuries. But you can’t help but see the effect as Liverpool struggle at the moment.
The Reds have two points from their last possible nine – a terrible run. It looks even worse when you consider they faced West Brom, Newcastle United and Southampton.
That should be nine points. It certainly would have been last season.
But there is a huge difference and you can see it on the teamsheet. Liverpool had XI fantastic players out there but, unmistakably, it was not a Liverpool team.
Let’s roll back to August 2019. It does seem like an awfully long time ago, yes, but it was actually only 18 months.
Liverpool made a crucial decision around then. They decided that after winning the Champions League the previous season, they’d head into 19/20 without any senior arrivals.
Instead, they hoped that a consistent team and squad would carry them to the league title. Klopp effectively played the same way every single week, with the same players.
We can put that into perspective. Liverpool had 12 players last season with over 1,000 minutes. Manchester City, in contrast, had 18.
Of Liverpool’s 12, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was 12th. You can almost certainly name the top 11 – it’s simply the Reds’ first XI.
Because Liverpool had an undoubted first XI that played every week. Divock Origi, for instance, played only 703 minutes but he was their first-choice backup in attack.
That’s because the front-three played alongside one another every week. Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah all managed at least 2750 minutes.
They were three of seven Liverpool players to do so, all of whom played outfield. Kevin De Bruyne was the only City player to reach that mark.
Liverpool had an unmistakable tactic last season, then. They went with consistency and played the same team every week. They ground out their results, playing games almost on automatic – that was the benefit of playing with the same team.
But this year, nearly everyone has been out at some stage. The centre-halves are out for the season.
The Southampton game showed the difference perfectly. The midfield three had never played together before, two of whom started their first games in months.
The centre-half pairing were both midfielders who, again, had never partnered each other in defence before.
This is the opposite of consistency. Liverpool lacked their flow, lacked their confidence, and struggled to break Southampton down.
Liverpool do not have their Premier League title-winning tactic, then. It almost certainly won’t come back this season.
Jurgen Klopp must find a way for everyone to click in a different sense. The consistency and familiarity of last season just won’t work.