Liverpool’s defeat at home to Burnley had been coming. This was the club’s worst defeat of the season, and it plunges arguably the first major crisis of the Jurgen Klopp era.
Five league matches without a win, four league matches without a goal and 22 points worse off than at the same stage last season. These statistics just aren’t good enough for a team with Liverpool’s aspirations.
Previous defeats away at Southampton and Aston Villa could be excused for a number of underlying reasons. A defeat like this on home turf was a shock to the system, even though it was hardly surprising.
Gone is Liverpool’s unbeaten league run at Anfield that had stood since April 2017. 68 matches and 1369 days later, the likes of Sadio Mane, Andy Robertson, Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alisson Becker, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri were beaten in the league at home for the first time.
Liverpool came into the New Year with hope. But our season appears at risk of falling apart.
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Liverpool are in a crisis
With Liverpool’s toughest run of fixtures approaching, the Reds risk more than just surrendering their Premier League crown.
Klopp and his players could be seventh in the table by the time they take on Tottenham Hotspur next Thursday.
At the weekend, Liverpool await Manchester United in the FA Cup in what is suddenly looking to bare much more significance to our season than originally anticipated.
In the league, we remain six points off top spot. A modest deficit considering Liverpool have picked up just three points from their last 15 on offer. Luckily, teams at the top are from perfect and have been culpable of dropping points.
Still, the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City are building momentum. Liverpool have to get their act together fast or risk falling drastically off the pace.
Squad at breaking point
Liverpool’s squad is at breaking point, too. Key players such as Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Diogo Jota are all dealing with long-term injuries.
Meanwhile, the players who are fit, look exhausted. The likes of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Trent Alexander-Arnold have all looked a shadow of their former selves in recent weeks.
Liverpool’s attack, in particular, has looked so sub-standard it’s crazy. Since putting Crystal Palace to the sword last month, the Reds have conjured up just one goal in five matches. With the array of attacking talents at Klopp’s disposal, this just isn’t acceptable.
Most importantly, the team is lacking ideas and the decision making has been poor. It’s really worrying.
Changes are needed
The big changes are needed in key personnel rather than tactical tweaks. Liverpool need to find consistency in their selection process to rediscover rhythm.
You can’t help but feel sorry for Thiago Alcantara, too. The Spanish international has been surrounded by mediocrity ever since he returned from injury at St James’ Park on December 27.
Thiago, 29, is still yet to play alongside Jordan Henderson in midfield since the Merseyside derby on October 17.
Fabinho’s absence, too, has complicated matters with Thiago forced to occupy the deep-lying midfield role. Not signing a centre-back could really look to hurt Liverpool this season.
Liverpool can still change this. Nine days remain in the transfer window before it closes. The difficulty is that the need and availability have yet to match up for Klopp. Even a loan deal at this point could be considered beneficial.
The Burnley defeat highlights that doing nothing is totally unacceptable and a club of Liverpool’s standards cannot accept inaction.
The Athletic previously reported that action wouldn’t be taken unless results were to deteriorate. Well, such has happened and it could force Liverpool to finally react to the noise.
Doing nothing will only mean more poor results, more injuries and stronger unrest from supporters.
Relying on either Van Dijk or Gomez to return ahead of schedule is far fetched and more tellingly, highly irresponsible given the severity of both contrasting injuries.
This embarrassing defeat at Burnley could be a turning point, then. If it enforces action from Liverpool’s behalf then we could look back at this result as one of the significant moments of the season.
Liverpool have to respond fast
There is no need to make too many big changes. Klopp could easily turn things around, after all, and pull together a string of results against Liverpool’s title rivals and top-four competitors.
The next run of fixtures are gargantuan, then. It certainly represents Klopp’s greatest challenge since his took charge five-and-a-half years ago. Sunday’s FA Cup clash against Manchester United is followed by difficult league visits to Tottenham and West Ham. February begins with Brighton at Anfield before high-stakes games against Manchester City (home), Leicester City (away), RB Leipzig (away) and Everton (home) all follow.
Unless Liverpool react quickly, they could find themselves playing catch-up for a top-four finish. Miss out on a Champions League spot and it could have drastic consequences on the club’s summer plans.
Still, the fixture list could work in the team’s favour. Klopp and his players need to wake up and fast. Playing three of your title rivals as well as Everton and Leipzig should certainly do the trick.
It really is make-or-break for Liverpool at this testing period. Let’s hope that Klopp’s ‘mentality monsters’ have the stomach to match their diminishing status as champions.