Following the emphatic 7-0 drubbing of a hopeless Crystal Palace, Liverpool have only found the net once in their last four Premier League games.
After the goalless draw against Manchester United on Sunday, the Reds looked bereft of confidence and completely goal shy.
Outside the league the story looks a bit brighter, as the Reds did fire four goals past Aston Villa, although this was against a weakened Villa u23 side due to a massive Covid-19 outbreak in the senior side. Even then, Jürgen Klopp needed the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Thiago to break down the Villans.
Scoring seven goals on the road should surely inspire confidence in a Reds side looking to win a second title on the bounce. Instead, it seems that was the peak and form has swiftly gone in the other direction since then.
So, what’s going wrong?
The only real notable changes from the game against Crystal Palace have been the absence of Takumi Minamino, Joël Matip and Naby Keïta. The Japanese international has since been dropped despite scoring against the Eagles, with Klopp preferring his regular front three, whilst Matip and Keïta have both been out with injuries.Embed from Getty Images
With the latter two having a consistent injury history during their time at Anfield, Klopp knows he cannot be overly reliant on either player. This is especially worrying regarding Matip, as his consistent minor injuries have meant that an already desperate centre back situation has become a full-on crisis.
These issues have affected the Reds rhythm somewhat but everything cannot be contributed to this so, we look further up the pitch.
Against Crystal Palace, Liverpool scored seven goals from there eight shots on target, despite racking up just 2.77 xG. This impressive conversion rate was clearly a one off and fans cannot and do not expect this to be the norm in the long term.
Since that fixture, the Reds have mustered only 10 shots on target in four league games, at an average of just 2.5 shots on target per game, which simply is not good enough. With an expected goal return of 6.43 over these fixtures, according to xG, the team have clearly underperformed, despite creating a plethora of quality chances in these games.Embed from Getty Images
As a fan, it is frustrating watching Liverpool at the moment. Everyone looks to be afraid of shooting, always looking for the pass instead of letting off a shot in a decent position.
It’s hard to see why the front line would shy away from shooting, though. The feared front three of Salah, Mané and Firmino have scored 24 league goals between them this season, making them one of the most effective attacking trios in the league.
The side is clearly not lacking creativity either, as Thiago Alcântara has returned in recent weeks and looked amazing every time he has stepped on the pitch, with fans drooling when he receives the ball. The Spaniard has laid on six passes which have led to shots this season, but is yet to record an assist.
Something that could change the Reds’ fortunes is on the horizon, though, with Diogo Jota expected to make his long-awaited return from injury in the next few weeks.
The Portuguese international scored five league goals before being sidelined back in December, which has ruled him out until the start of February. His sparkling performances have caught the eye every time he has stepped onto the pitch since joining Liverpool.
The 24-year-old, who was signed from Wolves in the summer, looks like the only player in the side who is willing to try to something outside the box in a hope that would provide a spark when the side is struggling.
The best example of this is was in the game against Brighton back in November. After receiving the ball, Jota cut in from the wing, beating four Brighton players in the process, to manufacture an opening before driving his shot into the bottom corner. This was something Klopp’s side desperately needed at the time as they struggled for creativity at the Amex Stadium.Embed from Getty Images
Whilst this is a major part of the Reds lack of cutting edge on the front line, Liverpool lack the previously reliable creativity of Trent Alexander-Arnold, whose form has severely dropped off since his return from injury.
This season the England international has lacked energy, with his services depleted on the back of this leading to an inability to contribute offensively like he has in seasons gone by. During this campaign he has just the two assists, an average of one every 608 minutes played. In comparison, the right back was averaging an assist every 244 minutes, which is nearly three times more often than this term.
He’s also completing fewer touches in the final third, as well as fewer carries and pressures than last season. Trent looks scared to go forward in a way we have never seen before – so much so that he has completed half the dribbles of backup right-back Neco Williams.
This could be down to his lasting effects of Covid-19, after Klopp confirmed that Trent had contracted the virus during pre-season in a press conference. We have seen the virus take its toll on top players like Paul Pogba, Tanguy Ndombele and most severely Allan Saint-Maximin, who has been out for nearly two months with Long Covid symptoms.Embed from Getty Images
Where Trent has struggled, Andy Robertson has continued to thrive in his role on the left side of the defence, almost making up for the lack of output from the right-hand side. However, everything cannot be placed upon the Scotsman as there will be a point that he will have the odd bad game, so others need to stand up and contribute.
Last season so many records were broken across the squad that there was obvious some drop off would occur as the numbers were unsustainable over a long period, but no-one saw the sharp decline of this nature coming our way.
Unfortunately, we currently look like the side in 2017/18 – great in most games but sometimes just unable to find that cutting edge, which in recent seasons has propelled Liverpool to the top of England, Europe and the world.
We can hope that this clinical nature will return for our forwards, whilst a resolution to the troubles at the back can be found sooner rather than later.
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