Despite possessing a new fantastic four, Liverpool are still short of the players required to push the side forward to being a top class side
With four points dropped at Anfield in the space of three days against bottom half Premier League opponents Everton and West Bromwich Albion, fans of Liverpool have been very active on social media. Some blame refereeing decisions, some blame the Liverpool owners and some blame Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp.
It’s fair to say two incidents that involved the referee have changed the outcome of Liverpool’s last two games. In the Merseyside derby, the Reds were on top all game and got their deserved opening goal through some magical play by Mohamed Salah. After that, Liverpool had their chances to kill off the game but failed to take them.
Then, late on in the game, Everton was awarded a soft penalty after minimal contact with Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren saw Dominic Calvert-Lewin go down. Rooney converted from 12 yards and secured a point for the Toffees.
Jurgen Klopp was not happy after Liverpool let points slip vs. Everton.
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 10, 2017
All the talk was about the penalty but what the topic of discussion really should’ve been is Klopp resting players like Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino for one of the biggest games of the season for Liverpool. Three days later, they both started instead but couldn’t break down an atrocious West Brom side, resulting in a goalless draw.
It was a result that Liverpool fans have seen far too many times in recent years and highlights a weakness. With the front three Liverpool possess, space behind the opposing backline will nine times out of ten be utilized. The frightening pace and clinical nature of both Salah and Mané flourish in the counter-attacking style of play.
However, when Liverpool come up against the lesser sides they frequently struggle. The opponents know how to set up against Liverpool, playing a highly structured formation in order to get a point or even to grab a win by catching Liverpool’s vulnerable defense on the break.
The only way to break down a deep block like that is either a piece of magic by the attacking players – which you can’t always rely on – or creativity in your midfield to split open a defense. Someone who can provide that is Brazil international Philippe Coutinho, who is more and more being played in midfield this year.
But while Coutinho is capable of breaking down a deep block, his injury record isn’t great and strong rumors have been circulating about a move away from Anfield. If Coutinho leaves, Klopp will be back to only Henderson, Wijnaldum and Can in midfield who provide no solution to playing against a defensive-minded rival.
To solve this issue, Liverpool will have to reinforce with a creative midfielder sooner rather than later. The defensive issues are also quite apparent but with the emergence of Joe Gomez, Liverpool might have their dream central defender who can pair up with Joel Matip. Local lad Trent Alexander-Arnold seems to be the long-term solution for the right-back spot while the much-improved Alberto Moreno can do a job at left-back.
Liverpool are a few positions away from really challenging but the frustrating thing is that it has been like that for some time now under Klopp. Despite all of that, the German manager hasn’t acted on it in the last two transfer windows.
This season, Liverpool will push for a top-four spot and will try to cause an upset in the Champions League. If they fail to do either, it would expose their weaknesses furthermore and increases the urgency for some activity on the transfer market.