Tony Cascarino has pinpointed Liverpool’s recent struggles to a number of problems in Jurgen Klopp’s midfield, notably the over-reliance on the ‘exhausted’ Gini Wijnaldum.
The former Chelsea midfielder, now turned pundit and columnist for The Times, said that the root of Liverpool’s issues have stemmed from an imbalance in the middle of the park.
Liverpool lost their fourth consecutive Premier League match on Saturday, with Klopp’s Reds now trailing league leaders Manchester City by a gargantuan 19 points.
A catastrophic run of injuries – with Jordan Henderson’s groin issue the latest setback – has ripped the spine out of the reigning English champions.
This has directly correlated with a lack of rhythm and fluidity in midfield. The Reds have, of course, been forced to field 18 different centre-back partnerships since September, meaning a number of Klopp’s midfield lieutenants have been sacrificed as cover – most notably, Fabinho and Henderson.
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Both players, alongside Wijnaldum, were the bedrock of Liverpool’s procession to the title last term. It’s no wonder, then, that momentum has been lost through so many forced changes.
Cascarino on Wijnaldum
And following the latest Anfield setback, Cascarino couldn’t help but notice that Wijnaldum is beginning to cut an exhausted figure, having featured in every league math for Liverpool this season.
He told the Times: “I think Liverpool’s midfield is as much of a problem for them at the moment as their defence.
“The best trio is Gino Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho but because two of those have spent big parts of the season playing at the back or injured, Wijnamdum looks exhausted.
“Thiago is clearly a class player on the ball but he gives away a lot of fouls and I’m not sure Liverpool are a better team with him there.”
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Indeed, Liverpool have lost a considerable amount of fixtures this season, but Klopp has been forced to juggle the club’s injury woes as best he can.
It doesn’t take a genius, either, to pinpoint why Liverpool have fallen so drastically off the mark this term. Liverpool won the Premier League and Champions League with Joe Gomez or Joel Matip alongside Virgil van Dijk at the back, and Henderson and Fabinho in midfield. All are sidelined. This is an unprecedented injury crisis.
It’s difficult, then, for Klopp to abandon the systematic approach that has brought the club so much success in recent years.
Changing Liverpool’s identity because of mitigating circumstances doesn’t sit well with the German coach, after all.
And because of this, such a loyalist approach is clearly hampering Liverpool’s results. So, how does Klopp alter this?
As Jamie Carragher eluded to on Monday Night Football, something needs to change if Liverpool are going to secure a top-four finish.
Yes, a drop-off is expected given the injury crisis, but Liverpool have to become more adept in individual fixtures. Six matches at home without a win simply isn’t good enough for the reigning champions.
With Fabinho and Naby Keita back in the midfield picture, Klopp could get his team ticking again with two welcomed changes in midfield.
This, in effect, would hand Wijnaldum the rest that Cascarino believes the Dutchman would so desperately benefit from.