We have barely completed a month into 2017 and English Football has already provided us with some memorable (and ridiculous moments). Arsene Wenger, of all the managers in the Premier League, gets a 4 match ban for “pushing” the 4th official. Costa seems to have pulled off a transfer U-turn although Antonio Conte insists it was just a minor back problem. For a change, Bravo wasn’t the worst keeper on the field as Lloris assisted both of City’s goals against Spurs. Manchester United’s unbeaten run came to an end with a 2-1 defeat against Hull, but Jose Mourinho is still in denial, claiming that the game ended as a draw. But nothing can beat Liverpool’s dreadful form that sees them eliminated from two cup competitions and stranded 10 points behind Chelsea in the race to the Premier League title.
Since the turn of year, Liverpool have won just one game out of eight, with the solitary victory coming against lowly Plymouth in the FA Cup Replay game. In the same period, they have scored just 7 goals and have conceded 10. They are finding it hard to break down tight defences and are caught too high trying to do so and get punished on the break. It’s hard to imagine that the highest scoring team in the league currently is struggling to score. The drop in form coincided with Mane’s departure to the AFCON 2017 tournament. The Senegalese has been sensational this season, but to say his absence is the only reason for the slump is foolish.
This dip in form was bound to happen at some point because of the high intensity style of play. Players are bound to tire out and in a league without a winter break, the chances of that happening are much higher. While Liverpool do have a young and talented squad, they do not have the depth that the title rivals possess. Considering that, it is surprising that Liverpool have not made a move for any top player in the January Window. Klopp himself admitted that he is a little frustrated with the club’s transfer policy. Countinho’s injury robbed the team of the creative spark, something that didn’t affect them that much. But Mane’s departure means that the team’s biggest goal threat is removed and they are toothless up front. Despite his quality, it is inexcusable for a team with players like Sturridge, Origi and Firminho to struggle to score so often. In midfield, Lallana and Henderson have shined brightly and Wijnaldum has impressed too, but their attacking play leaves too much space in front of the defence, something that Can cannot cover on his own. At the back, Milner is the first choice Left Back. He is not bad, but you really can’t keep that as a reason to play him there. Matip has played well but Klavan and Lovren have been far too inconsistent. Liverpool seemed to have solved the Goalie crisis when they signed Karius in the summer, but his form has been so bad that Mignolet has been promoted to first choice. Not great news if you are a Liverpool fan.
Fans know that Liverpool aren’t as strong as they were 10 years back, but the strong showing at the back end of last season under Jurgen Klopp showed lots of promise. Liverpool started off very strongly but, like every single time in the recent past, have begun to choke. They have the best record against top 6 teams so far this season and are still 10 points off the top. For every 4-3 victory away against Arsenal, there is a 4-3 loss to Bournemouth and it is no surprise that Liverpool are dubbed the ‘Robin Hood’ of the Premier League. A team that is filled with collective talent and flair is reeling from a lack of individual excellence. Klopp’s Liverpool project is not a short term one. The contract extension of Coutinho and youth player Gomez highlights their targets and ambition for the future. The German is building a young side playing some vibrant football, and with proper management they will become one of the very best. For this season though, after falling out of both domestic competitions and the title race, they would do really well to secure Champions League Qualification in a tight 6 horse race. It is the minimum requirement to save the season which promised so much more for them.
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