After starting the season with such hope and positivity, the wheels have fallen off the sleek combination of South American and African wizardry that is the Liverpool attack. In fact, things have gotten so bad that they can no longer rely on the ‘we’ll score more than them’ ethos that worked relatively well last season. So, what’s gone wrong? And how can they fix it?
The summer for Liverpool fans was a strange one. They signed Salah, who turned out to deliver good value from his first kick of the ball, but they missed out on Virgil Van Dijk due to a protracted (and ultimately poorly-managed) transfer attempt. They clung onto their talisman Coutinho, but failed to bring Naby Keita into the fold this year. What might have seemed like an acceptable transfer window for many other clubs was an unmitigated disaster for the Anfield faithful.
Failing to have a back-up for your two main transfer targets is nothing short of laughable. And while Klopp may point to the fact that he has faith in his current squad, the glaring mistakes in the back would refute those claims. Liverpool’s back four instill no fear in an attacking team. In fact, they create more fear for the club’s fans, particularly when defending (and we use that term loosely) set pieces. Yes, Virgil Van Dijk would have brought some much-needed stability to the back line, but surely when the club was forced to make that apology, they could have set their sights on another centre back.
The Alberto Moreno experiment is another cause for concern. Having signed the talented Roberston, Klopp still plays the Spaniard, and while he has improved since last season, he’s still inconsistent. Had the club signed a quality centre-back and actually played Robertson in each game for which he was available, they might now find themselves in better positions, both in the league and Europe.
Incredibly, BetStars still have Liverpool as second favorites at 6/5 to win their Champions League group. And while that might seem like pretty positive news, when you consider how they were expected to destroy all in their path this season, you can see why some fans are less than optimistic.
This brings us to the misfiring attack... Since his return to the pitch, Coutinho has been the main threat for Liverpool going forward. But with Salah, Firmino, Mane, and Sturridge as options up front, this shouldn’t be the case. Salah’s misses are the most noticeable, but it seems that each of the front players (other than Coutinho) is having a poor run of form. Unfortunately for Liverpool, it just so happens that they’re all having this poor run at the same time.
But the truth is that it’s really not their fault. Goal scorers get a lot of stick when they fail to score or create chances, but if they could rely on their defence to keep the ball out of Mignolet’s net, then perhaps things wouldn’t look so bad. Consistently winning games 1-0 is enough to win the title — and even the Champions League — but results like that are more about the clean sheet than the goals scored.
There is unquestionable quality in this Liverpool attack, and any team in the league would gladly take at least two of the current squad’s attackers. But would anyone take a defender or goalkeeper? If anyone is to blame for Liverpool’s current form, it’s the manager, not the forwards. His failure to adequately address the problem area of defence has seen his team leak goals that teams at the bottom of the table would be ashamed of. So don’t blame Sturridge or Salah for their misses, and don’t blame Firmino for not taking his chances; blame Klopp for failing to have a plan B in the transfer market. Let’s hope he’s learned his lesson come January.