After Liverpool’s defeat against Leicester City on Monday evening, Jurgen Klopp’s side have come under immense pressure as they look to secure a Champions League spot for next season.
Liverpool have picked up just two victories in 2017 despite an impressive start to the campaign. Under Klopp, they have enjoyed some highs in 2016 but also some extreme lows in the new year and their disastrous form threatens to undermine the bright start they made this season.
Here are just five factors which have contributed to Liverpool’s fall in 2017.
While Liverpool continued to ship in goals at their will, the attacking trio of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane provided some scintillating football up front. They scored 19 goals in the opening five months between them and helped by Adam Lallana and Divock Origi, Liverpool were the highest scoring team in the Premier League going into the new year.
In 2017, the Reds have netted just twelve goals in the Premier League and they have failed to break down Plymouth and Southampton at Anfield. Firmino’s last two goals, before the Arsenal game, came in the 3-2 defeat against Swansea in January, though prior to that it was a month ago when he last hit the back of the net. Coutinho has scored just two goals since returning from injury at the end of November and Liverpool’s only recognised centre-forwards, Origi and Daniel Sturridge have scored just once in the league between them in 2017.
2) Selection consistency
Klopp has always played around with the starting XI. Partly down to injury and partly down to inconsistency in performance. However, at the start of the season, most fans could have predicted the strongest starting XI each week. Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren were partnered in defence, while Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum formed a strong partnership as holding midfielders. Coutinho, Mane and Firmino were the three up front.
However, in 2017 Klopp rotated his squad much more in cup competitions and that was largely to blame for the two cup exits the team suffered in January. Injury has prevented a stable back four, meaning Lucas, Ragnar Klavan and Joe Gomez have all played at centre-back in 2017 while covering for Lovren and Matip. Emre Can’s introduction to midfield has also chopped and changed things slightly in that department.
It’s not something Klopp can necessarily control but Liverpool have certainly lacked confidence in the second half of the season. They were running wild before Christmas and had lost just twice in the league prior to their 1-0 defeat in the EFL Cup against Southampton in January.
However, a draw against relegation-battling Sunderland in the first fixture of 2017 put a dent in Liverpool’s title challenge and they struggled to bounce back with similarly unenthusiastic performances against Plymouth, Southampton and Manchester United – having to wait until the 18th of January for their first victory of the new year. They picked up just three points from three league draws in January and only managed to equal that figure in February with just the one victory against Tottenham – albeit an important one.
Liverpool have forgotten what it feels like to have a winning mentality and they need to get out of the habit of losing quickly.
4) Home advantage
Anfield has it’s history of being one of the most feared home ground in England. It has witnessed some of the greatest nights in European history and the faithful Kop support are always sure to put their rivals to shame on the big occasions. In 2016, Liverpool went 26 games without a defeat at home prior to their 3-2 loss against Swansea at the end of January. They also picked up 23 points from a possible 27 in their home games from the start of the 2016-17 season to Christmas.
The atmosphere in the ground has become flat and uninspired in 2017 though and it seems to have transferred onto the pitch as players have produced similarly poor performances. In their games at Anfield, Liverpool have won just two in 2017 and they have suffered three defeats in total, including four successive games in January without a win at home. (3 losses, 1 draw.)
5) Stubbornness to change
Liverpool’s system was deadly at the start of the season. The midfield were solid and the attack were running wild and opposition just didn’t know how to deal with it. As soon as teams tried to press and play football, Liverpool punished them by squeezing out their space and time on the ball. The fluidity of Liverpool’s counter-attacking football put other teams to shame and Liverpool were always on the front foot, even if it meant they left themselves exposed at the back.
However, when Manchester United shut up shop at Anfield to keep the score down to an unflattering 0-0 draw, heads turned as Liverpool were unable to break down a well-organised defence. Southampton achieved similar results in 2017 and Plymouth were able to employ the same tactics in the FA Cup to keep a clean sheet. Klopp’s been stubborn with his formation and tactics and is unwilling to switch things up meaning teams have now figured out the answer to keep Liverpool’s attacking talent at bay. Firmino, Coutinho and Lallana have been invisible in the majority of games in 2017, unless it’s a Top 6 side, and it may be time for Klopp to come up with a ‘Plan B.’