The International break is never a fun time for those of us that don’t care a jot for England; or any other international side for that matter. The entire time is spent hoping that none of our players pick up an injury, which seems to be especially prevalent this time around. It is fair to say that this season has been one of the oddest that I can remember, largely thanks to the disruption presented by a winter World Cup. That is probably a big part of the reason why there are so many teams in and around the relegation zone, with any side from Crystal Palace in 12th onwards still able to go down. From Liverpool’s point of view, it perhaps helps to explain the injuries but not why we’ve had such an appalling season in relation to what we’ve grown to expect under Jürgen Klopp. I think that it is difficult to argue against the idea that the cycle has come to an end for the German. That doesn’t mean that he can’t enjoy another cycle, however. There is definitely room for an improvement to the squad and there is no one that I would rather oversee it than him.
— Kevin Palmer (@RealKevinPalmer) March 26, 2023
There are plenty of people far better placed than I am to figure out who the players are that we should be signing if we are to challenge for the title once again. I wrote last week about the continued confusion around Jude Bellingham, who is a player that is nailed on as being as key a signing as it’s possible to get. That doesn’t mean that we’re definitely going to bring him in, but if we’re to have any real hope of winning another Premier League then we absolutely cannot afford for him to end up at one of our rivals. Whilst I still think that the Borussia Dortmund player would sign for us even if we don’t end up getting Champions League football, there is no doubt that being in Europe’s elite competition would be a massive help in terms of winning his signature. It would also allow us to sign a better calibre of player overall, so it really is important that we hit the ground running when we head to the Etihad at the weekend. The chance of us getting that top four spot is becoming increasingly unlikely, but one big push is a necessity for the rest of the campaign.
There Are Some Daunting Games Ahead
If Jürgen Klopp were to be able to hand-pick the remaining games of the season, I’m not sure he’d have Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal anywhere near his selection. One thing he definitely wouldn’t do is put the games back-to-back and there is absolutely no chance that he’d put them successively straight after an international break. We have been notoriously slow to start after a break under the German manager and have also been really poor in early kick-offs, so I can’t say I’m all that excited about having to play at the Etihad at 12.30pm on Saturday. That we’re then off to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night is also not great news. If all of that wasn’t enough, title-chasing Arsenal then head to Anfield a week on Sunday. Whilst none of that looks all that good when you write it down, there are some reasons to be cheerful. City have already lost four times this season, which is one more than in the entirety of the 2021-2022 campaign. They have also drawn four times, having seen six draws notched up by them in the previous season.
— Anything Liverpool (@AnythingLFC_) March 27, 2023
In other words, they’re a lot less consistent than they have been during the previous campaigns that we’ve been up against them in and will definitely be without Phil Foden, whilst Erling Haaland is a doubt. Chelsea, meanwhile, looked ordinary against Everton in their last match before the international break. That matches how they have been all season long, which is indicative of a Graham Potter who has struggled to find his feet at the West London club. Unfortunately, Potter’s Brighton side always seemed to have the measure of Klopp’s team, with Chelsea’s players also always pulling performances out of the bag against us; just as we saw in the two cup finals last season. Then there’s Arsenal, who haven’t won in the league at Anfield since September 2012. This is the first time since then that they’ve arrived as serious challengers for the title, of course, but it will be interesting to see if their hoodoo continues. If it doesn’t then I’ll be the first to admit that the league is all but theirs. In all three cases, though, there are reasons to be optimistic.
The Lower Sides Are The Ones We Might Struggle Against
On paper, Liverpool have one of the easiest run-ins when it comes to the top four battle. Yes, we’ve got to face City, Chelsea and Arsenal back-to-back, but once those games are out of the way things ease up considerably. There is only really Tottenham in our remaining games that you would say will be genuinely tough. As the old cliché goes, though, football isn’t played on paper and the Reds have under-performed all season long when it comes to the ‘lesser’ teams. Having already lost to Leeds United at Anfield, for example, I can’t say that I’m all that excited about heading to Elland Road. Similarly, Nottingham Forest did what they needed to do to stop our creativity at the Forest Ground and will be even more determined to shut us down when they turn up at Anfield. Wherever you look, there are matches that I’m not convinced that Liverpool can win. There are still 12 games left of the season, which is 36 points, but does anyone have any confidence that we’ll get even close to that, given how we’ve played at times?
It is arguably one of the most competitive Premier League seasons there has been for some time, given the manner in which all clubs keep taking points from one another. That might make it exciting for the neutral and there is certainly a feeling that it is one of the best relegation battles that we’ve seen, but the number of relegation candidates that Liverpool have to play I’m not totally sure that that’s a good thing. I can absolutely talk myself into a situation whereby the Reds don’t win another point this season if I’ve got my negative hat on, but I can also see a world in which we win 30 and finish in third. That lack of consistency and reliability is something that we haven’t really seen from the Reds under Jürgen Klopp, with the exception of the Covid season. Back then, there was a big push for a fourth-place finish that got us over the line and we’ll need to see something similar this time around if we’re to have Champions League football back at Anfield next year. Can it be done? Absolutely. Will it be done? That is the million pound question.