Liverpool vs Manchester United: How Reds’ defensive crisis is impacting their offensive powers

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The goalless draw was Liverpool’s 43rd home game in the division since then, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knew it was not something to trumpet about.

“With the injuries they’ve had, you think you might be able to come here and get a win. We didn’t.”

And actually, if you scroll back further, the reigning champions have won just six of the last 15 fixtures in all competitions – one of them courtesy of a second-half blitz against Aston Villa’s kids.

The problem is they have been anomalies rather than the norm for Liverpool.

As Klopp analysed: “They played really good football, made our build-up flexible, made it really difficult for United to press – I can’t remember a real pressing situation of United and they are pretty good in that actually.”

Another point to note is that no change of personnel can legislate for Roberto Firmino, for example, only mustering a tame shot or making a poor decision and not picking out Andy Robertson when the left-back was free.

However, to divorce Liverpool’s attacking problems from the loss of Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez would be a misunderstanding of their methodology.

As already explored in these pages, variety in possession at the back has been removed without Van Dijk’s superb long diagonals and the ability of his two partners to step out with the ball. But not having the senior centre-backs available also affects the position of the full-backs, who are not as high, which allows the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to tuck inside.

The level of risks the team takes further up the pitch diminishes as there is a fear of being left exposed. The midfield having to cede its anchor in Fabinho and the tempo-setter in Henderson is counter-productive as well. It is going to be a difficult dilemma for Liverpool to solve because the inaction of clubs in the January window illustrates the influence of the pandemic on transfers right now.

Self-isolation periods and the lack of training time and a chance to settle due to the stacked schedule mean the majority of teams are apprehensive of doing deals, especially if it’s with a short-term view.

Klopp and Henderson have both insisted that the tonic to the drought is to keep creating chances.

“The only possibility you have to score goals is to create situations and to be ready to fail and to do it again,” the Liverpool manager said. “That’s a massive difference between when you are flying and you score with pretty much each chance you have because then you deal with the missed chances better. It is just information. That is the difference and nothing else.

“We will create chances and we will score, but I know, now we face Burnley on Thursday and they are not famous for conceding an awful lot of goals.

“Then a few days later we play again against United and they obviously defend with all they have. It is not that we just decide from now on we want to score again and now we will do it, but I see the boys really in the situation and I will help as much as I can so that we change it as quickly as possible.”

Henderson added: “We’re not getting any luck in the box at the minute. That can happen in football – you have to keep going, keep working hard, and hope it’ll change quickly.”

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