Surprising as it may be, Liverpool’s loss to West Ham is not cause for overreaction. He ended a 25-game unbeaten streak dating back to April, a gigantic achievement in itself for a group of players who have won the biggest awards in club football in the last three years.
Having said that, it had been arriving.
Last week’s dramatic loss of a two-goal home lead to Brighton was a warning. They too could have lost. On Sunday, there was no escape despite a late revival. And despite all the protests that followed, the Reds just weren’t quite on it as they recorded their first Premier League loss of the season.
Liverpool’s unbeaten streak dating back to April came to an end against West Ham on Sunday
Jurgen Klopp had a chance at VAR, but the Reds boss has problems of his own to tackle
However, this is not an in-depth crisis dissection. Jurgen Klopp’s team is still only four points off the top of the table, is in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup and has reached the knockout stages of the Champions League from an unquestionably difficult group.
However, there have been signs in the first three months that Liverpool are not at the level of their two seasons of more than 95 points. Perhaps that is natural, they were in themselves astonishingly impressive achievements.
But despite a positive start to this season, the most obvious sign of a slight decline has been on defense.
Virgil van Dijk’s return to full fitness has definitely been a boost. Indeed, amid fluctuations in the form of teammates around him, the Dutchman has regained his commanding sense of control almost immediately.
Virgil van Dijk’s return has been a boost, but Liverpool have nonetheless been shipping targets.
LIVERPOOL LETTING THE LEADS SLIDE …
September 15: 1-0 vs AC Milan> 2-1 down. Final result: 3-2 W
September 25th: Up to twice against Brentford. Final result: 3-3 D
October 3: Up to twice against Man City. Final result: 2-2 D
October 19: 2-0 vs Atlético de Madrid> 2-2. Final result: 3-2 W
30th of October: 2-0 against Brighton. Final result: 2-2 D
Yet despite their omnipresence, Liverpool are losing goals. The first hair-raising display was against Brentford in September, when two instances of taking the lead were wasted in a 3-3 draw.
Then the same thing happened at home to Manchester City, in a game where they were possibly lucky enough to come out with a point against the defending champions.
Klopp’s team also conceded two away goals at Atlético de Madrid, having been two goals in favor from the start. They got away with it in the Spanish capital. It was not so against Brighton, which accounted for two cheap points dropped at Anfield.
Compared to their main title contenders, Liverpool are in a clear third place defensively in the Premier League. While Chelsea and City have conceded just four and six goals respectively, Liverpool have yielded 11 goals, five of which have come in the last two games.
So, particularly given the return of Van Dijk, why is this the case?
There is no surprisingly serious issue at stake here. For example, Sunday’s series of calamities can be traced back to Alisson, a world-class goalkeeper who simply had a day to forget at the London Stadium.
Reds No. 1 Alisson had a day to forget at London Stadium in a 3-2 loss to West Ham
He made a hash of the first West Ham game and could have done better with the other two goals
However, the Brazilian’s mistakes do not mask Liverpool’s ineptitude in set pieces at the weekend. In addition to two of the three goals, Craig Dawson had a header that hit the crossbar, rising higher alongside white-shirtless Declan Rice in opposition.
Last week also saw Joel Matip return to the team, ahead of Ibrahima Konate, who was so impressive in his first league start at Old Trafford.
Despite the founding of Matip and Van Dijk over the years, a regular change in the association of central defenders cannot be a good thing. It’s also food for thought for Joe Gomez, who can’t take a look at this point.
However, more than on the baseline, Klopp has a problem to solve in midfield.
Liverpool is currently too open in the center of the park. Pablo Fornals’ goal on Sunday came as a result of an alarming hole in the middle, as well as acres behind the back-four, courtesy of an ineptly high defensive line.
Liverpool opened wide for West Ham’s second on Sunday, scored by Pablo Fornals
Thiago and Fabinho have been absent due to injury, Klopp needs these two in shape and shooting
Fabinho, who just returned from injury, looked unusually long-legged in his No. 6 spot. In addition to the Brazilian international, Klopp has also had to deal with injuries to season pioneer Harvey Elliott, last summer’s star signing Thiago. and Naby Keita, whose reverse career at Liverpool has continued to be similar this season.
The additional responsibility, therefore, has fallen on skipper Jordan Henderson, who has started the season supreme, but along with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came out second best against Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice on Sunday.
Against Brighton, too, Leonardo Trossard’s draw came too easily, due to too much space in front of Liverpool’s defense. That 2019-20 solidity just isn’t there right now.
We must not forget another possible cause for this. Always present in the team since 2016, Gini Wijnaldum’s departure to PSG in the summer is painful. A reliable and consistently injury-free starter in midfield, the Dutch international broke the game and kept things going in a way that is absent right now.
Leonardo Trossard’s draw was due to Liverpool giving Brighton too much space
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, along with Jordan Henderson, lost the battle in midfield to Declan Rice (pictured) and Tomas Soucek.
That sense of control is gone, for the moment. That ability to keep the upper hand and watch games – a skill every Premier League champion needs to acquire – has been misled.
However, there is still no need to be overly alarmed. Liverpool’s six-game losing streak at home last season was a full-blown crisis, but it isn’t.
However, an irritable Klopp must look beyond the umpires and the VAR decisions that went against him. The German should look at his own home first and not react infuriatingly to journalists.
A two-week international break, before hosting Arsenal on November 20, has come at the right time.
Gini Wijnaldum was always present for Klopp, but moved to PSG in the summer window