For the first time since February 2017, the loss to Southampton meant that Jürgen Klopp’s side went to three Premier League matches without a victory, having previously drawn against West Brom and Newcastle.
By the time of their next league match, at Manchester United’s home on Sunday in one week’s time, their arch-rivals look poised to overtake Liverpool. PA news agency looks at why things for Klopp’s side have suddenly become harder. What’s the problem? The away form of Liverpool is troubling coach Jurgen Klopp (Phil Noble/PA)Liverpool won just two of their nine away matches in the league, earning a total of 16 points, with five draws and two losses. The away draws were especially unfortunate against Brighton, Fulham and Newcastle – all teams currently in the bottom six – By contrast, on the road to winning the title last season, just 13 points were conceded away from home. Home teams have found a better way to battle the Klopp eleven, and they have been frustrating their opponents with more success. Why is that? While being the highest scorers of the league, over the holidays the goals were lower. Liverpool have scored more than one goal in a game just once in their last five league games, aside from the 7-0 victory over Crystal Palace, which is looking more and more like an aberration, when they beat Tottenham 2-1 in the 90th minute. Klopp’s side failed to score in two consecutive league games for the first time since May 2018 in Southampton, which is an indicator of their previous consistency. Who is to blame? Sadio Mane has scored just two goals in his last 12 league games (Peter Byrne/PA) In 17 league games, Roberto Firmino has scored just five goals, three of them in back-to-back games just before Christmas. Sadio Mane has two in his last 12 games, despite being the biggest threat going forward, both in back-to-back games last month. The only player demonstrating consistency is Mohamed Salah (13 in 16 games), who has come up empty in his last three games. Diogo Jota, who is the only other player this season to score more than one league goal with five goals, will not return from injury until late January…. Why are the targets no longer coming in? There is a vacuum of talent in midfield as Klopp has been without Thiago Alcantara, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri due to injury for most of the season. The coach had to rely heavily on midfield captain Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and 19-year-old Curtis Jones, a trio that had just two goals between them, with Jones being the most attacking of the three…. So the midfield is at fault… For the last two seasons, Trent Alexander-Arnold has failed to recreate his form (Adam Davy/PA). Not exactly. Most of last season’s Liverpool success came from their full-backs, and although Andy Robertson was this season’s most consistent player, Trent Alexander-Arnold struggled. After giving the ball away 38 times against Southampton, the England right-back set an unwanted new Premier League record this season. Unfortunately, with Kostas Tsimikas out injured and teenager Neco Williams unreliable, Klopp’s choices at full-back are limited. Are there underlying problems that could lead as well? The Southampton Henderson-Fabinho pairing was the 10th distinct starting central defense formation in this season’s 17 league games (Peter Powell/NMC Pool/PA) The central defense concerns – Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez are likely to be out for much, if not all, of the season and Joel Matip is banged up frequently – mean it’s a bit of a mess. In central defense, Fabinho played most of the games, meaning Klopp missed a main midfielder, and teenager Rhys Williams and the relatively inexperienced Nat Phillips came in and out of the side. In 17 league games, the Henderson-Fabinho partnership at Southampton was the 10th distinct center-back pairing, which only contributed to the confusion.