Liverpool’s dream inception hit a stumbling block recently when they were knocked out by Chelsea from EFL Cup, grabbed a last-gasp draw against the Blues at Stamford Bridge in a Premier League tie and also exhibited a shambolic show against Napoli, their European counterparts, which ended in a 1-0 defeat at Stadio San Paolo. Jurgen Klopp, the Reds boss, is certainly having an uncomfortable run amid preparations of an electrifying Anfield encounter against Manchester City – the reigning Champions who are leading Premier League table on goal difference.
However, a few things have not yet worked out in Klopp’s favour even though his boys managed to script consecutive victories in early weeks. The Merseysiders, labelled as one of the prime title contenders, are not yet convincing enough to contest for the silverware and the gaffer, in spite of his sheer excellence to uplift the spirit of a dejected fanbase, must address these concerns before it gets too late to stay in the title hunt.
Lack of Artistry in Midfield
Did they miss a trick by not going for Nabil Fekir after a failed medical prior to World Cup? Questions are being asked, and quite rightly so, particularly due to a lack of inventiveness in the middle of the park. James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson – Klopp’s preferred midfield trio is hard-working, chases the game, wins the ball back through ‘gegenpressing’ but is yet to create an impression against a side who offers better technicality all-around. Chelsea, in particular, exposed it badly followed by a shocking display in Naples where the midfield was standstill due to fatigue and tiredness.
The season-long injury heartbreak of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain reduced their versatility in the centre of the pitch. Adam Lallana, in his 30s, is still struggling with his fitness. Naby Keita, the summer inclusion from RB Leipzig has not yet settled in new surroundings.
The urgency of a more creative midfield individual is justified as a moment of magic would have made differences in many close contests. The gaffer, therefore, needs to integrate Keita more who has the ability to run the show with unanticipated movements. But he should also seek reinforcement in January, possibly Fekir who is known for his trickery as a prolific playmaker.
Dip In Form Upfront
The lethal front trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane scored a staggering 91 goals last season in all competitions. The expectations are understandably high this term but neither of the three has justified the hype yet. They are known for exhibiting a synchronized display. However, the collective success is not being reflected even though they scored a few in early encounters.
Salah won numerous prestigious awards since joining the Reds last summer including the Premier League Golden Boot reward for netting record number of goals (32) in a 38-game season. The Egyptian is creating chances but failing to finish those under immense pressure whereas Mane, though troubling the opponents with mazy runs and tricky skills, has let down the fans with his decision making. Firmino is working his socks off as always but is lacking the clinical approach and intelligence he usually brings to his game. These three complement each other and must rework on their chemistry over self-glory to be back to their earlier self.
Bench Strength With No Plan B
Klopp finally increased depth in the squad with quality inclusions but did not bank on his bench strength in recent games despite a congestion of strenuous fixtures. He could have handed Daniel Sturridge and Xherdan Shaqiri a start upfront who were fresh and firing but opted to go for his exhausted first-choice options versus Napoli that resulted in a catastrophe.
The manager is yet to figure out on rotating his options but must embrace it at the earliest to avoid an annihilation. He needs to be flexible with his formation to bring out more from his players who have underperformed so far and should be prompter while switching tactics to drag his team out of trouble on decisive occasions.