Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool future, Mohamed Salah “fight”, dire form, Champions League peril

Read more at www.mirror.co.uk

Even in these lockdown times, the speed at which the days have passed and the drama has unfolded has been relentless and dizzying.

It’s not that Liverpool won the Premier League in June and lifted the trophy in July, it is that they were top of the table almost halfway through January. Then the juddering halt.

When the reigning champions lost at Southampton in their first match of 2021 there was a fairly deep concern given that it had come off the back of draws with West Brom and Newcastle, but the coming weeks offered enough hope of a recovery.

The fact that it was Manchester United who overtook them at the top of the table was almost dismissed in some quarters. Liverpool were playing them in their very next game and so with it came the perfect chance of redemption.

But with a couple of exceptions, it has been almost exclusively ruin ever since.

Why? How? As with most things there are numerous explanations and different examples of how two or more things can be true at once, even though some may find that hard to fathom.

Liverpool were left all at sea as Jamie Vardy scored Leicester’s second on Saturday

Liverpool have been crippled by injuries this season at almost every turn, and most obviously in the centre-back position where the only four players who would have been considered for a first-team start there at the beginning of the season were all missing at Leicester.

The injury to Virgil van Dijk is the sort of horrendous blow that can happen in football, even if it is hard to think of such a serious problem for such a key player – the best in the world in his position and one of the best full stop – in recent times.

Pick any Barcelona season from about 2008 onwards and remove Lionel Messi and there would be issues, but Liverpool might have been able to muddle through if only they hadn’t started suffering the other heavy blows.

We know this because they were doing so, managing to sustain a strong title challenge in the immediate aftermath of the Van Dijk injury.

Joe Gomez’s brutal November blow was then particularly cruel for club and player, and you can probably trace everything back to the stresses and strains experienced since then.

Gomez and Van Dijk were Liverpool's first-choice centre-back pairing last season
Gomez and Van Dijk were Liverpool’s first-choice centre-back pairing last season

There is a world where Liverpool have managed to keep their key players fit this season but still don’t win the league. Remember the 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa happened with the first-choice back four.

But in that world it is hard to imagine the team looking as brittle and short on confidence as they do now.

Manchester City might still have waltzed away with the title as they have shown just how to play pandemic football and they are, quite clearly, a brilliant team. There was no way they were going to come miles away from winning the title for two seasons in a row.

But without the injuries then Liverpool would quite clearly be putting up a better fight.

Dismissing them as a reason for the failures is just a convenient trope from those who want to revel in the dismay after two seasons of near perfection and another that ended in a Champions League final.

The injuries are a reason, they can be used as mitigating evidence, but they are far from the only explanation for what is going on.

Klopp has seen his side's form collapse in recent weeks
Klopp has seen his side’s form collapse in recent weeks

Jurgen Klopp’s future might be being called into question and speculated about on Whatsapp groups around the world – he’s not resigning, by the way – but what is clear is that the Liverpool manager is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Tragic personal news has come at a time when his team are leaving supporters dumbfounded by failing to do what came so naturally before, and because this is the Liverpool job then the German’s every move and utterance is speculated upon. This means more, indeed.

Klopp is contracted until 2024, and it would still be an enormous shock if he left Liverpool before then.

A failure to qualify for the Champions League might need to lead to some tough questions, but you’re in serious baby with the bathwater territory if you want to cut the ties between the manager and a club set up in his image.

He could eventually decide to walk away, but that seems incredibly unlikely too. If anything he’ll be waiting for a return to a more ‘normal’ football in order to get his teeth stuck into the challenge again.

That’s another thing of course, the lack of fans. You’ll have seen that wheeled out as both a reason for Liverpool’s struggles and derided as a possible excuse for the “bad champions”, depending on your allegiances.

Liverpool supporters have left a message of support for Klopp at Anfield
Liverpool supporters have left a message of support for Klopp at Anfield

The truth is again somewhere in the middle.

There is little doubt that a club whose tactics are largely based on intensity have struggled when teams can wilfully not engage in the ebb and flow of a usual match, instead stationing players on the edge of their own box and refusing to put much pressure on the ball or press.

But it should be up to Klopp and his coaches to find a way around that, and to adjust to pandemic football in the impressive way that Pep Guardiola’s City have.

Thiago Alcantara would, you’d think, be key to this possession style of football, but the former Bayern Munich man looks taken aback by the ongoing issues in his new team, of which his own injury has been another.

Sights have already been readjusted to qualifying for next season’s Champions League and, in Budapest in Tuesday, advancing in this season’s. It is still entirely plausible that Liverpool go far in this competition.

You get the feeling that the spirit and the will is still there, as evidenced by Mohamed Salah’s impassioned social media cry in which words like “champions”, “fight” and “promise” were used.

Mohamed Salah has made a vow that Liverpool will keep fighting
Mohamed Salah has made a vow that Liverpool will keep fighting

He is still performing well and will probably end up as the Premier League’s Golden Boot winner again despite all this.

It could be that Liverpool’s progress and feelgood factor over the past couple of seasons now currently rests at the Egyptian’s talented feet. Muddle through and finish top four and they probably just about ride this out.

If things get any worse though, those serious questions are going to have produced fairly unwelcome answers that will be impossible to ignore.

You’d think Liverpool’s season couldn’t get much worse, but right now you wouldn’t confidently predict that.

Read more at www.mirror.co.uk

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button