How Do Liverpool Get Their Season Back On Track?

Last night felt like an alien experience to me. It’s been so long since I’ve been actively angry about a Liverpool performance, so I really wasn’t sure what to do with myself. In the wake of the full-time whistle I became somewhat self-destructive, eating all of the Christmas chocolates, being short-tempered with my wife and spending £20 on National Lottery instant win games. Obviously I should have more self-control, but it’s been such a while since things went so poorly for Jürgen Klopp’s side that it took me by surprise. Perhaps that’s something that we’re all forgetting: that normally teams don’t rack up ninety-seven and ninety-nine points in consecutive seasons. During the last campaign, I spent time saying that I wasn’t surprised that Manchester City had dropped off a little bit, given how difficult it is to stay at that level for two seasons, let alone three.

Manchester United won three titles back-to-back twice during Alex Ferguson’s tenure, but they never had to go at the rate that City and the Reds have been. What we’re currently experiencing is more like a normal title race, with random losses and disappointing draws thrown into the mix. One thing that Ferguson’s United never had to put up with was atrocious refereeing, but Liverpool have certainly suffered from it this time out. Whilst the Reds were poor last night, it’s still ok to point out that Andre Marriner’s performance was utterly scandalous. The big issue that most supporters have with the Video Assistant Referee system is that it’s not consistent and you can bet Manchester United would have had two penalties last night. It doesn’t excuse our performance to say as much. We can’t change that, though, so what can we do?

Buy A Defender

There has been a lot of criticism on Liverpool front three over the past few matches and I can absolutely understand why. Southampton were having to play their second-choice goalkeeper who hadn’t played a Premier League match since May 2019, yet it took us until the seventy-fourth minute to have a shot on target against him. Yet I do think that too many people are being quick in their dismissal of the problems at the back in explaining why the lads at the front are struggling. Last night we had to play our two of our best midfielders in defence, whilst the player we all thought would help unlock opposition back lines was playing as the defensive midfielder. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gini Wijnaldum are both brilliant players in their own way, even if the former is still looking rusty, but they don’t support the forward line in the same way as Jordan Henderson would.

By not going all-out for a defender in this transfer window, we’re causing issues all over the pitch. Yes, we all hope that both Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez will come back looking as good as ever but there’s no guarantee of that. Joel Matip is known to have massive fitness issues and neither Rhys Williams nor Nat Phillips are of the required standard for this team, though we’re hoping Williams will become so over time. There is, in my view, no excuse not to pay whatever is needed to buy a centre-back over the coming weeks, given that there is a league and European Cup double to be won. Taking midfielders out of defence and allowing them to play where they’re supposed to would be a step in the right direction to fixing the problems that we’ve witnessed for several games in a row. Strengthening our defence was important in the summer but it’s a must do now.

The Manager Needs To Reflect On His Own Decision Making

Jürgen Klopp is one of if not the best managers in the world. He is a genius and, in winning the European Cup and Premier League in consecutive seasons, has earned his place in the pantheon of great Liverpool managers. All of that goes without saying and, just as you’re allowed to point out that referees have been poor in the wake of a Liverpool loss without it changing the fact the team was poor, it’s ok to criticise the manager every now and then. For my money, he got the starting line-up wrong yesterday and arguably didn’t show Southampton enough respect. Asking both Thiago Alcantara and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to get their fitness up in the match was the wrong thing to do, but he had no choice once he made the decision to play Jordan Henderson at centre-back. If Rhys Williams is good enough to play Champions League games he’s good enough for Southampton away, so play him.

The manager’s changes also didn’t work. It was clear that we were crying out for the captain’s running and leadership in the middle of the park, but none of the changes got him there. Equally, it’s bizarre that Takumi Minamino had the best game of his Liverpool career against Crystal Palace and yet hasn’t been able to get a look-in since. The manager has to use the break we’ve got coming up to reflect on his own decision making and ask if he’s making the right choices at the moment. Is putting thirty-five-year-old James Milner on at right-back absolutely the best choice in the circumstances of last night? Why on earth did the team take another short corner in the dying moments of the match, given how stupid a decision it was at the same point against West Bromwich Albion? Everyone’s tired, seemingly including Jürgen Klopp. It’s time for him to get back to making winning decisions.

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