Of all the issues that could have arisen for Liverpool, mentality problems are one of the last things I would ever have expected to come up.
There are plenty of reasonable, completely understandable reasons as to why the Reds Premier League title defence has fallen apart this season.
Not one single club in the league, for example, could have coped with the sheer number of injuries to key players and first-team regulars that Liverpool have had to deal with. Especially long-term layoffs to each of their three senior central defenders.
The lack of fans also hasn’t helped. Yes, this is something that has affected every other side, but we all know the special relationship shared between Liverpool FC and its legion of die-hard supporters. It’s a major part of the reason why Anfield was impregnable for so long.
But one thing that neither I nor any other fan could stand for is arrogance among the players – but Trent Alexander-Arnold has revealed in an interview that this, essentially, has been the case.
Speaking to Sky Sports in the build-up to the clash with Manchester City at the weekend, the full-back was asked if the sheer amount of success this group of players has enjoyed over the last couple of years has in anyway affected their focus.
The only acceptable answer to that was no. Absolutely not. A bad run of form is excusable, natural – but lack of application cannot be tolerated.
But Alexander-Arnold’s reply gave no reassurance on that front. Instead, he all but revealed that the players have fallen into a mindset that they are good enough to get results no matter how they play. And I can’t help but wonder if this is a major reason behind some of the results we’ve seen this season.
In the interview, he said: “Once you get accustomed and used to winning, and you start to just kind of expect it, that’s the trap we probably fell into a little bit this season. We’ve kind of just expected to win games because we’re good enough, something will happen and we have the quality to find that goal from somewhere.Embed from Getty Images
“It happened naturally last season and the season before but, breaking it down, that didn’t just happen because we were lucky, it happened because we were still working hard and we were still doing the basics and the fundamentals right.
“Maybe this season we’ve forgotten a few of those fundamentals, and we’ve kind of just expected to do that, because it became so natural for us.”
To me, this is far more worrying than anything else I’ve seen about Liverpool’s wretched run of late. As said, a poor run of form can be forgiven if the effort is obviously there, but to hear that there has been such a counter-productive mentality shift among some of the players is deeply concerning.
If that is the case, then we can only hope that embarrassing home defeats against the likes of Burnley and Brighton, and a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s City, will serve as a bit of a reset for the players mentally.
Such poor results are evidence that they cannot simply do the bare minimum and wait for the results to come – but, as Alexander-Arnold says, they have to make sure they are at least doing the basics.
And change needs to happen very quickly. After that defeat to City, any hopes of retaining the Premier League title have probably disappeared.Embed from Getty Images
But, in order to make sure that Liverpool can attract a much-needed injection of fresh talent in the summer, it is absolutely imperative that Champions League qualification is secured.
As it stands, there is no reason why Europe’s best players wouldn’t consider joining Liverpool. The Reds have proven in recent times that this is a team that is capable of winning silverware and competing at the highest level both domestically and in Europe.
But those players want and need to be playing at the highest level possible. There is always talk about the likes of Kylian Mbappé and Jadon Sancho, but they aren’t realistically going to make the switch to Merseyside if all the club can offer them is Europa League football.
So there is more at stake than just the outcome of this unique, bizarre season. Too much hard work has gone into restoring Liverpool to their rightful seat at Europe’s top table, for the club to once again fade into obscurity.
If this group puts every single drop of blood, sweat and tears they have into their work, but still fall short, then we can live with that – even if the outcome is heartbreaking.
But to allow arrogance to affect performances and results is unforgivable. It cannot continue.
Don’t miss a thing
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox. It’s free!