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John Barnes warns of 'psychological effects' hurting Liverpool players

John Barnes believes Liverpool players are feeling ‘psychological effects’ and it’s hurting key players. The Reds have little way around it.

John Barnes can’t understate one psychological effect on the Liverpool players. The Liverpool legend was talking to TalkSPORT on Monday after the Reds went a fourth consecutive game without a win.

“When you’re so used to playing a particular style with a particular way with three hard-working midfield players, you’ve got [Virgil] Van Dijk at the back who gives you that assurance, which allows the full-backs to go forward with conviction and be creative,” said Barnes.

“All of a sudden, the psychological effects of Van Dijk not being there affects the whole team. So it doesn’t necessarily physically affect the team in terms of what they do.

“But if you look at Trent Alexander-Arnold, for example, or even Andy Robertson, when Van Dijk is there they know they can go forward with conviction knowing that they’re safe at the back.

“I don’t think they’re being as creative.”

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Hard to disagree with any of this and it’s something Michael Owen mentioned a few weeks ago. Van Dijk is far more than just an influence on the defence.

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And really, if you take any star player out of a team, it’ll have a knock-on effect. The team is worse, you’re less likely to win, and that’ll hit you.

At the same time, it’s not an excuse for what we’re seeing. Liverpool are still good enough to win games and score goals.

In fact, Van Dijk went down in October and Liverpool still topped the league as recently as a week ago. Clearly, they have enough about them to compete.

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Arguably, the bigger problem is that they still haven’t got anything like a settled defence, months after Van Dijk and Joe Gomez’s injuries.

Joel Matip can’t stay fit and there’s no senior centre-half behind him. Jurgen Klopp has to try different things to make things work.

That eliminates any possibility of consistency and rhythm – something Liverpool rode to the title last season. Find that and the psychological effects of Van Dijk’s injury won’t be so pronounced.

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