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Liverpool - Slip Sliding Away...

What’s going on at Anfield?

Liverpool v Chelsea - Premier League
Mo Salah dejectedly trundles off the Anfield pitch after being replaced during the most recent 0-1 defeat by Chelsea
Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images

I never thought I’d ever live to see the day when Liverpool FC would lose five home league games on the trot. That they would do so after a season in which they dominated the competition, winning their first championship for 30 years with a mammoth tally of 99 points, simply defies logic.

Even through some relatively dark seasons over the past three decades, the club that tortured my youth with their relentless consistency and collection of silverware, never looked like going on such a poor run of form at fortress Anfield.

Perhaps it’s less of a fortress without fans these days but in losing sequentially to Burnley, Brighton, Manchester City, Everton and now Chelsea, you have to wonder what’s behind the slide. They’ve not won any of the last seven at Anfield.

Prior to the nosedive, Liverpool had won 39 and drawn 2 of the previous 41 league fixtures at home, where now they haven’t managed a goal from open play for over ten hours. The Burnley defeat was their first at Anfield in 69 league games.

This season has become a nightmare title defence. Yet after defeating Crystal Palace 7-0 six days before Christmas, they led the table by 5 points and were 8 ahead of Manchester City. In 2021 however, Liverpool have collected only ten points from eleven games. It’s relegation form, better only than West Brom (9 pts), Newcastle (7) and Southampton (4).

They’ve given away cheap goals and at the other end, just don’t look like scoring. Yes of course people will point to injury problems, particularly those affecting central defence, but is a squad which so recently and spectacularly captured the title, so flimsy?

They still have Salah, Mane and Firmino, but have opponents now worked the trio out? Certainly the low block utilized recently by both Burnley and Brighton rendered Liverpool’s attack ineffective, while a year ago, they were scoring for fun.

Liverpool v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League
Friends or foes? Not sure we even have to ask any more. Mane and Salah in happier mood celebrating a goal against Wolves.
Photo by Peter Powell - Pool/Getty Images

There seems to be an issue between Salah and Mane. Perhaps it’s not just chemistry. The pair don’t seem to like each other at all, but in the interests of the team and being professional, you’d think the Egyptian and the Senegalese would get over what divides them.

A similar situation existed years previously at Manchester United between Ronaldo and van Nistelrooy, but it didn’t prevent either man from plundering goals aplenty and burying the hatchet for the sake of the collective.

It resides with Klopp to sort that out, as it is to address sulky Salah, who wrestled disgustedly with a bench-coat upon his removal against Chelsea. The decision itself to remove the team’s top scorer, may have been one of muddled thinking on Klopp’s part, but the reaction of one of his star players wasn’t encouraging.

Perhaps they are missing the passionate Anfield crowd, any team would, but it didn’t hinder them last season on their title run-in.

Or do we point the finger in management’s direction for failing to act quicker in securing a top class central defender given the problems in that area. This is probably less a failing of Klopp’s than the hierarchy, which perhaps wasn’t prepared to release funds even if the right target was identified in the January window.

Or are they fatigued? It certainly looks like it, but fatigued? Things have changed under covid, results at times have been more unpredictable than normal, but are these top-class footballers not performing because they are simply tired? Really?

Liverpool Training Session
Klopp - The smile has gone. Liverpool’s German coach needs to get his side back to basics and into a few of his players’ minds.
Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

It’s plain to see that Liverpool need to get back to basics. The mindset needs a jolt. They look lethargic, uncreative and devoid of confidence in league play at Anfield. Has the bread and butter domestic fixtures become so mundane to a squad that needs the highlight of Europe to really perform as they did last week against Leipzig.

Fulham could be on the wrong end of a backlash tomorrow at Anfield, especially if Klopp removes his empathetic arm from around the collective shoulder of ‘the boys’, instead going man to men in a straight forward talking to, directed sharply and with forked tongue, at his underperforming team.

If not, Liverpool could finally get to celebrate last season’s title triumph in front of their fans against the backdrop of no European football next season, let alone the Champions’ League!

Check out the latest The Ball Is Round Podcast (Episode 18). Recorded Wednesday evening the TBIR team discuss the general state of CF Montreal in the wake of Thierry Henry’s departure and recent Re-branding/Renaming...

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