What Has Gone Wrong This Season For Liverpool FC?
Back at the start of the Premier League season, bet365 Sport listed Manchester City as the favourites to win the title this year, followed very closely by Liverpool and then there was a large gap to the rest of the teams such as Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, chasing that elusive top spot in the table.
Now while Arsenal, Manchester City and to a lesser extent, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United have made relatively decent starts to the first third of their Premier League campaign, one team is notable from its absence in the top six.
Liverpool lie in 9th place in the Premier League table having lost their last two games to two teams that occupied spots in the relegation zone in recent times, Nottingham Forest and Leeds United.
Jurgen Klopp’s team, who were just two matches away from winning the Carabao Cup, FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League last season, have not only struggled at home, picking up just a handful of wins, but they are yet to win an away game in the Premier League.
So, we have to ask the question; what has gone wrong for Liverpool FC this season? How can the Reds put it right and do they have a realistic chance of any silverware this season at all?
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How Bad Are Liverpool Compared To Last Season?
So, what has happened to Liverpool this season that has seen such a drop off in performance?
Strangely enough, this wasn’t in evidence in the opening game of the season in the Community Shield, when the Reds defeated Manchester City 3-1 at the King Power Stadium. Back then, the odds on a Liverpool Premier League title win shortened slightly as they put the current Champions to the sword.
But after a lacklustre 2-2 draw with Fulham on the opening day of the season, the reds have gone on to win just four of their 12 games this season, drawing four and losing four, more than double the amount of games that they lost in the entire campaign last season.
In fact, if you take the freakish 9-0 win over Bournemouth out of consideration the Reds would have a -1 goal difference this season across the other 11 games.
They have lost three of their last five games losing to Arsenal, Forest and Leeds, with two narrow home wins over Manchester City and West Ham their sole positives in that run.
It is also worth remembering that they were outplayed by Napoli in their opening Champions League game, going down to a 4-1 defeat in Naples, before finding some form to win their next four games in that competition to progress from their group.
Indeed, their Champions League form has been the only bright spot for Liverpool in recent weeks with excellent wins away to Rangers (7-1) and Ajax (3-0) mixed in with battling home wins over both opponents.
But their drop off in form in the Premier League is best exemplified by comparing their performances this season with last:
Liverpool EPL Performance After 12 Games Over Past Few Years
Jurgen Klopp took over Liverpool in October 2015 with the Reds having played a good proportion of their first 12 games that season under Brendan Rodgers, however we will include that season in the section below which details how the Reds have done over their opening 12 games in the EPL since Klopp took over as manager (his first full season being the 2016/2017 season).
- 2015/16 – Played 12, Won 4, Drawn 5, Lost 3, Scored 20, Conceded 16 (+4) – 17pts (10th in table)
- 2016/17 – Played 12, Won 8, Drawn 3, Lost 1, Scored 30, Conceded 14 (+16) – 27pts (2nd in table)
- 2017/18 – Played 12, Won 6, Drawn 4, Lost 2, Scored 24, Conceded 17 (+7) – 22pts (5th in table)
- 2018/19 – Played 12, Won 9, Drawn 3, Lost 0, Scored 23, Conceded 5 (+18) – 30pts (2nd in table)
- 2019/20 – Played 12, Won 11, Drawn 1, Lost 0, Scored 28, Conceded 10 (+18) – 34pts (1st in table)
- 2020/21 – Played 12, Won 7, Drawn 4, Lost 1, Scored 27, Conceded 18 (+9), 25pts (2nd in table)
- 2021/22 – Played 12, Won 7, Drawn 4, Lost 1, Scored 35, Conceded 11 (+24), 25pts (3rd in table)
- 2022/23 – Played 12, Won 4, Drawn 4, Lost 4, Scored 23, Conceded 15 (+8), 16pts (9th in table)
So what we can see here is that discounting that 2015/16 season, when Klopp was not manager for the vast majority of the opening 12 games, Liverpool’s performance this season is by far the worst that they have had under Klopp and by a considerable margin.
Their total goals scored is the joint lowest (and again, if you remove the freakish 9-0 win over Bournemouth, those stats are even worse), the points total is 6 worse than any other Klopp season, their league position is four worse than any other and they have lost just one fewer game this season at this point than in all of Klopp’s other full season’s combined (where the Reds have lost a total of five matches over their first 12 games in total over the previous six years).
The statistics show a clear drop off in performance, so what is causing it?
What Is Causing Liverpool’s Poor Performance?
There is no single answer to this but there are instead a number of factors to be considered.
- Injuries – Once again Klopp’s team have been hit hard by injuries this season. In fact since the start of the season Liverpool have had almost all of their first team squad out injured at one time or another, with only the likes of Alisson, Virgil van Dijk and Mo Salah being available for all the games so far.
- Recruitment & Investment – Liverpool have invested in players in recent years, but these have mainly been in forward areas with the likes of Thiago, Diogo Jota, Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz brought in while Ibrahima Konate was also signed as a defender. However, they have not moved to make changes in midfield and therein lies another issue (which we look at below). The reds loyalty to many players can be viewed as a positive, but their opponents like Man City and Arsenal have allowed players to move on and brought in fresh, exciting talent to keep the team fresh and it has paid dividends for them both.
- Ageing Midfield – Klopp’s famous 4-3-3 gegenpress system is built upon a midfield that is quick, combative, energetic and able to get up and down the field. However, Liverpool’s midfield as well as being beset by injury, is also now an ageing one. Main stars are all either over 30 (in the case of Thiago, Henderson and Milner) or close to 30 (as in the case of Fabinho and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain) lacking form and fitness (Arthur, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita, Curtis Jones) or still very young and learning the game (Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho). Compare the Reds midfield to that of Manchester City, Tottenham or many of their contemporaries and it is clear that they are deficient in this area of the team. This has an impact on the effectiveness of both the attack and the defence and as such is also partly to blame for both those units underperforming this season too.
- Lack Of Form – There are not too many Liverpool players in good form at the moment. Defensively the Reds have looked poor with van Dijk and Alexander-Arnold coming in for criticism of late. Similarly, Darwin Nunez is taking his time to find his feet, Mo Salah;s goal output is down and while Roberto Firmino’s form has improved, he is still only on the fringes of the first team. Too many players are not in the form they need to be to help the Reds improve.
Combine these factors together and you have a recipe for a team that is struggling to win games, keep clean sheets and score goals, at least in the Premier League.
How Can The Issues Be Fixed?
Jurgen Klopp has already dismissed Liverpool’s chances of being relevant in the EPL this season and with the World Cup on the horizon, the German may feel that this break may be beneficial for his ailing team.
However, there does need to be some changes made at the club to try and fix the issues above.
- January Investment – It is abundantly clear that Liverpool are lacking in midfield and that has been the case compared to other top teams for some time. The Reds need at least one, if not two, major signings in January (if they can) or if not in the summer to bolster their midfield. Jude Bellingham has been cited as one potential signing and I’d suggest another is needed such as Declan Rice. The money for that needs to be forthcoming from owners FSG.
- Summer Investment – On top of the January investment, the Reds need to invest in the summer too. So many of their key players are now pushing 30 or older (Fabinho, van Dijk, Thiago, Milner, Firmino, Salah, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Matip and Alisson) that this is a squad that some difficult decisions have to be made. While the likes of Salah, Alisson, Thiago and van Dijk will be fine for another couple of years, some important decisions need to be taken on other players and replacements found and brought in. That process did start with the signings of Jota, Diaz, Nunez, Konate, Elliott and Carvalho but more is needed especially in midfield and in replacing some of the older, under-performing squad members.
However, therein lies the problem for Liverpool, without the unlimited spending power of some of their main rivals, the Reds have to be careful with their finances to make signings and in the modern game of Super Powers in football, some of whom are funded by entire states, buying the players you need to make that impact is always going to be very, very expensive.
The Reds are now 33/1 to win the Premier League title with bet365 Sport and I think those odds are still a little too generous to Liverpool at the moment.