Liverpool suffered a 2-0 defeat against Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday night after a pathetic showing from all involved. The loss not only severely hampered Liverpool’s chances of progressing from their Champions League group, but it also vindicated those fans who felt the ominous feeling of Jurgen Klopp’s team’s offensive prowess fading from last season. In Liverpool’s last nine games, only three victories have been recorded. This is a stark contrast from their opening seven games – which all resulted in maximum points.
The Merseyside club has been lacking a creative outlet from midfield all season, with Philippe Coutinho having been sold to Barcelona last January, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ruled out for the season, and new signing Naby Keïta struggling for fitness at the start of his Liverpool career.
Jurgen Klopp’s and Liverpool’s decision to pull out of the Nabil Fekir deal was a very frustrating chapter of the summer transfer window for everyone involved with the club. There was the hope that the club would dip into the transfer market again for another attacking midfielder. However, Klopp decided to push on with the players he had, with Xherdan Shaqiri being the only offensive signing brought in to help try and relieve the pressure on the Reds’ fabulous front three.
The fact that Klopp wanted Fekir tells you that he knew that he needed a player that he could use to link Liverpool’s midfield and attack. And he was right. In Liverpool’s last seven fixtures, they have failed to score a goal in three of those games, namely against Napoli, Manchester City, and Red Star Belgrade.
It has been nothing short of frustrating to watch Liverpool in recent weeks. It feels as if the Merseyside club has struggled to match the form of last season going forward, with disjointed performance after disjointed performance.
Has Klopp Known All Along?
As ever, there is speculation going around that Liverpool are interested in bringing in an attacking midfielder in January, it is clear that Klopp has come up with a temporary solution for the role. Roberto Firmino has been deployed in a far deeper position at stages this season, almost as that attacking midfielder that Klopp so desperately sought.
He occasionally operates behind Salah in the 4-2-3-1 formation, with Mane and normally Shaqiri being deployed out wide. Firmino was involved in 40 goals last season in all competitions. So far this campaign, he has been involved in just six goals in sixteen games.
So, this raises the question: Why has Klopp decided to sacrifice his trusted false nine in Bobby Firmino to try and enable his team transition better up the pitch?
The only reason can be is that Klopp has realised that his current crop of midfielders aren’t capable of providing that link between midfield and attack as effectively as last season. He no longer has Coutinho or Oxlade-Chamberlain to drive his players forward. He has the likes of James Milner, Gini Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana.
However, in doing this, Klopp has relinquished much of Liverpool’s fluidity in attack, with slow phases of play in midfield leading to mere half-chances.
Klopp may think he has a solution. However, it is a solution on borrowed time. As seen against Red Star Belgrade, this Liverpool team will start to struggle if Klopp prioritises his reluctance to buy the players he needs over his team’s once functioning system.
Let’s just hope he realises in time to keep this title challenge alive.