How do you measure the depths Liverpool have sunk?

Champions lost a sixth Premier League game in a row at home on Sunday as Fulham became the latest to pile on a team that looks broken with much in need of repair

Melissa Reddy
Senior Football Correspondent
Monday 08 March 2021 09:17
Liverpool defender Andrew Robertson
Liverpool defender Andrew Robertson

There is a difficulty in measuring the depths to which Liverpool have sunk in a most botched of title defences.

Do you spring for the stats? That they are the first side to lose six in a row on home soil in the Premier League since a god-awful Huddersfield Town in February 2019.

That the winless run at Anfield now stretched to eight games. That the last time they lost six in a row on their own turf - 1953-54 - they finished bottom of the league.

That Fulham are the first newly promoted side to win away at Liverpool in the top-flight since Blackpool beat Roy Hodgson's team in October 2010.

That there have been eight league defeats in the last 12 fixtures - as many as there were in the club’s previous 121.

Or do you summarise the slump by the fact that the league’s form guide over the past six games puts them second from bottom, only being saved from last spot due to a one-goal swing over Sheffield United?

Based on that evidence, do you mark it as the best team in the division currently devolving into its worst?

Or would you go with the sad reality that we’re at the point were planes are flying over Anfield with a “Unity is Strength - Let's Go Reds - YNWA” message?

Is the ultimate measurement tool that Liverpool are in David Moyes at Manchester United territory, where they “must improve in a number of areas, including passing, creating chances and defending?”

Whichever way you slice it, the state of play is unacceptable. Liverpool are broken, quite literally given their injury crisis, but also in terms of their identity both structurally and mentally.

Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita

The club have gone far past the juncture of looking at their list of absentees as a reason for their decline. Jurgen Klopp noted this himself. When asked if the return of those from the treatment table was needed to put a full stop to Liverpool’s slump, he responded: "For winning one football game, no.”

With the personnel the Merseysiders are able to field, performances should be better at the most basic levels: positioning, offensive protection, fluidity in movement and cohesion in the press.

The injuries have an influence over everything and explains the wider context of their campaign. “For being the successful team again, for being the team we can be in the best possible way, of course we have to be complete,” as Klopp summarised.

But what we are witnessing, the status of being the only team Fulham, Brighton and Burnley have all beaten this season, cannot all be pinned on those out of action.

It would be easy to deduce that Liverpool have an attitude problem, and while I don’t doubt there will be some agents looking to absolve their players from the stench of this year and looking to engineer exits, there is less of an unwillingness to do the right thing from the side and more of a mental block in remembering how to.

Everything feels harder in the moment: from chance creation to the ball just landing in your favour.

“We know we can perform a lot better but things aren’t happening for us at the moment,” James Milner said. “I don’t think you can level at the players there’s no effort there – the effort is always there.

“I don’t think you ever see anyone strolling around, that would never happen with this group of players, it’s an honest group of players.

“But when things aren’t going for you everything is a lot harder; you miss a chance and it hits you a lot harder. You need one to go in off someone’s knee or something and at the moment it’s not happening for us.

“It’s a break that you need, a little bit of magic. Shaq [Xherdan Shaqiri] had an effort that has gone the wrong side of the post – when things are going well, it goes in. One from a corner that’s bouncing around – when things are going well it goes in.

“At the moment it’s not for us and it’s down to us to dig ourselves out. The only way is working hard and it’s down to us to do that.”

Liverpool were a team that detested international breaks, but they are now in desperate need of it to reset.

That their next home game is actually in Hungary, rather than the wasteland of Anfield, and in the Champions League will offer a short sense of relief.

“The next game is in a different competition where we didn’t too bad so far, but it will be a tough one, obviously, so we have to make sure we are ready for that,” Klopp said.

“If we can go through, which is not guaranteed, then that could give confidence. Then we have Wolves, which is a tough one and then we have a couple of weeks off because of the Chelsea game and the international break and all these kind of things.

“We have to use that time, we have to hope all the boys who go to their national teams come back healthy, like always. Then I think there are another nine or 10 games to go, sounds like 27 or 30 points, so a lot to go for and we will try.”

To want anyone other than Klopp navigating Liverpool out of this mess and overseeing the next campaign is what one senior official at a Bundesliga club labels “football suicide. Mainz and Dortmund will tell you that you never get another Kloppo. He cannot be replaced.”

Liverpool’s manager has not suddenly become a busted flush and neither have a collection of world-class players.

Klopp and his group have been terrible and merit criticism. They are also in an unfortunate, unprecedented circumstance and are struggling to claw out of it.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

That is the now and long-term decisions should not be made on immediate pain.

When Dortmund were savaged by injuries and had ceded most of their premier players to hit a wall in 2014-15, Klopp decided that after seven years at the Westfalenstadion, he was no longer the right man to lead them.

His voice had become stale and he figured everyone would benefit from something fresh.

The club’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has regretted that decision ever since.

"We did not try to change his mind anymore,” he wrote in ‘REAL LOVE. A life with BVB’. But that was maybe a mistake. Perhaps it would have been better if we had exchanged the entire team – not the coach.

"Because I knew that, we would never get back such a coach. When I said goodbye, real tears came.

"Such a relationship, as I had with Jürgen over seven years at BVB, that did not exist before. And such a relationship will probably never happen again.”

Liverpool would not have become champions of Europe and England without Klopp.

While that shouldn’t shield him from questions over flawed tactics and the abject displays in recent weeks, the process of how they got back on their perch should be remembered.

And he was the golden thread in it.

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