Liverpool’s season went from wonderful to woeful in the span of four weeks, and things look shaky for the Merseysiders. They face Tottenham next and are desperately in need of a win which may turn things around for them.
A significant improvement under Klopp this season pointed to the team’s performances not being reliant on individual performances. Under Brendan Rodgers, the successful 2013/14 season was mainly down to the incredible performance of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, with great contribution from the likes of Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling among others. Of course, the entire team chipped in, and it would be unfair to take anything away from the performance as a unit, but it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Liverpool played so wonderfully without relying on Suarez or Sturridge. The performances and struggles of the club after Suarez’s departure in the subsequent summer window, and Sturridge’s prolonged injury illustrated this well.
Since his arrival, Klopp has made Liverpool less reliant on Sturridge, who is prone to lengthy spells on the treatment table. Klopp has laid emphasis on creating a system that allows a unit to thrive. Some players were pitching in with goals with Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana all sharing the spoils. The playing style and technique of Liverpool were the real stars. The club was the star.
Simultaneously, the recent performances and results have shown that this analysis may be a little superficial. In Sadio Mané’s absence, everything went into a whirlwind. So is Liverpool still reliant on individuals?
This too may be a farcical and headline grabbing statement. It is evident that any club needs its top performances to contribute and cannot deal with a dip in form from all the goalscorers. This is only made worse when the defence is not up to the mark. With the defence being an issue, Liverpool needs to outscore the opponents. Winning ugly is almost impossible because the side is prone to making defensive mistakes and giving away silly goals. If Diego Costa or Eden Hazard stop performing for Chelsea, Conte’s men may still come out with a win or a draw because the defence is more reliable and there are players who can keep the tempo of the team ticking in the midfield. Liverpool cannot say the same. If Dele Alli or Harry Kane stop performing, Spurs have a solid defence and can still get draws and have someone else chip in with a shoddy goal and potentially steal all three points. Not to mention, they have some threat from the flanks as well, something Liverpool desperately lack.
The Reds turn up against big names and hence, Liverpool aren’t underdogs for the match against Tottenham this Saturday. But how do they compare against their next opponents in the “grinding results out” department? If Dele Alli or Harry Kane stop performing, Spurs have a solid defence and can still get draws. Not to mention, they also have other goalscorers in the squad who can frequently chip in and threat from the flanks to help them potentially steal all three points.
It’s not that the team is not making an effort. Liverpool players are still covering a lot of distance in every match, as shown by the post-match statistics. But teams have figured out how to deal with their threat and have all decided to sit back and hit on the counter, a tactic that has worked for the longest time. Opponents just need to frustrate the team and patiently wait for an opportunity to score, something they usually give away cheaply, usually from a set-piece or a counter-attack.
Liverpool are completely devoid of confidence at the moment, which shows every time they show up (or don’t) these days. When Klopp’s men are playing with confidence they look unplayable, but they need wins to gain back that confidence, and going by the current stretch of run, they need to dig deep to get that.
It’s not that Liverpool are still dependent on individuals, but they are desperately reliant on the attack to be confident as a team. With every other facet of the team being supremely average, Klopp must address a lot of pressing issues that have arisen in this crisis even if Liverpool overturn this form and go gung ho post the Tottenham match.