Liverpool’s Premier League encounter with Manchester City on Sunday was arguably more anticlimactic than the ending of the first Hunger Games movie, the underlining conclusion on the afternoon saw Liverpool remain unbeaten and Manchester City’s Anfield drought extended for the time being. Although it could have been a very different story had Riyad Mahrez not cleared the back of Stanley Park with his penalty.
Despite the Reds still unbeaten in the league, it appears to be evident that there is a piece missing in Klopp’s heavy metal puzzle which is preventing Liverpool coming together as one harmonious whole. Klopp’s side at the moment are like a typical household boiler, in the sense that last season the water was running nice and hot, all of the components were working nicely to get that boiler working to its maximum capacity. This season, however, the boiler is running just above lukewarm. The engineers have not been out to inspect the problem as something is not functioning as it should, and it needs tinkering by the people who know what they’re doing in order to get the best out of it. Liverpool are exactly the same, Jurgen Klopp is missing something in this team, almost the same team that absolutely obliterated everyone in their path in the last campaign. It’s not quite coming together at this present time and it feels like that it could be just that one player that can make the difference for Liverpool Football Club. So where are the issues in this current side?
The Engine Room
It’s been a difficult period for the Reds, a run of fixtures that has seen Liverpool face Chelsea twice, Napoli away in the Champions League and Manchester City at Anfield in the Premier League. There aren’t many more difficult runs of games in football than that. Liverpool have come out of those games with two draws and two defeats and are without a win in their last four outings. This genuinely would be a concern if this occurred during the months of March or April, but fortunately, the season is still young. Unbelievably, the Reds are actually struggling for goals at the moment against the tougher sides and this is a problem which needs resolving sooner rather than later.
Liverpool’s midfield has seen big changes since Klopp arrived in 2015, his first game away at Spurs saw his side line up with Emre Can, Lucas Leiva, James Milner and Adam Lallana as his preferred quartet. Not a million miles away from the midfielders Liverpool currently have as two out of four are still under the Reds’ books. Having brought in Fabinho and Naby Keita over the summer, it has been presumed by many that Liverpool have spent wisely in their bid to win the Premier League, but did they already have players there that could do the job?
Keita and Fabinho need time to settle, that is evident on the basis of the amount of game time they’ve currently had. James Milner, Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson have done a sterling job to keep the side unbeaten so far in the league, but there is one man that could have made the difference on Sunday had he not been injured, and that was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Sunday’s 0-0 draw against the reigning champions would have been the perfect opportunity for the Arsenal midfielder to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and to get Liverpool going in their typical dominant style that they love to play. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola set his side up brilliantly to counteract the high pressing high tempo football that the Reds are known for and slowed the pace of the game down to suit the visitors, this would not have been the case if Oxlade-Chamberlain was on the pitch and his absence hit home in terms of how much Liverpool will miss him this season.
Liverpool are still unbeaten, however, this cannot be ignored, and it is understood that Klopp’s new signing need time to embed themselves into the team and the pace of the league as a whole. But it was for the first time yesterday that supporters remembered what Oxlade-Chamberlain can bring to the table, and it will be a great shame that we will not see him back in action until next season. We wish you a speedy recovery, Alex.