Henry Jackson, writer for This Is Anfield
It has been a perfect storm of several issues, resulting in a decline that few had anticipated. Last season was relentless, with Liverpool playing all 63 games possible and missing out on the two big trophies. It will have hurt and I think there was a mental and physical hangover.
Getting up and going again after such an intense campaign has proven to be extremely difficult. During this time, individuals struggled for form. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s misfortunes are the most publicized, but Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah have also missed their best. Darwin Núñez also struggled to get off to a good start after his £85m arrival from Benfica.
The system as a whole failed, with the midfield offering the defense far from sufficient protection and the intensity lacking throughout the team – a high-quality midfielder simply had to be signed – while the confidence also evaporated.
Liverpool will come well, even if it means not winning the title or even finishing in the top two this season. But it will take time for them to regain their swashbuckling best, and fresh legs are needed in January and next summer.
David Usher, editor of the way to liverpool
Liverpool’s problems at the start of the season are due to several factors. First, a shortened pre-season straight out of a grueling campaign. Then you have the likelihood of a number of players suffering from emotional hangovers after coming so close to winning the Premier League and Champions League but ending up with none.
There was a clear levity and lack of intensity, while an injury crisis in midfield didn’t help matters. The tactical tweaks to the system also didn’t work as Jürgen Klopp expected, with Alexander-Arnold often playing too far inside and Salah being too wide. The opponents seem to have understood us and we have become easy to face. Trent has been targeted, and while some of the criticism against him has been justified, the bigger problem is that the team is defending poorly and leaving him exposed.
Klopp has recognized this and freshened things up with a system change and tweaks to the way the team defends. There were encouraging signs against Rangers, but they were hardly difficult opponents. Bigger tests are coming.
If Liverpool can beat Arsenal and Manchester City in their next two league matches and start looking like themselves, it’s not impossible for them to get back in the title hunt. As it stands, this seems to be the longest of the long shots. For now, getting into the top four is the main objective.
Rob Gutmann, writer and host of the Anfield envelope
For a team seen in May as potentially the greatest in Liverpool’s history, going unrecognizable in four months is hard to handle.
Unlike when the team declined in 2020-21, after the title win there are few alleviations, such as a defensive injury crisis or pandemic-induced chaos. Supporters are scrambling for explanations – need for reinforcements in midfield, fatigue, changes in the forward line – but none are satisfactory. As the reasons for the fall are so difficult to understand, so are the possible solutions.
None of us want to say we know what to fix better than our legendary manager. In his talent we are obliged to remain confident. The increasingly desperate hope is that it’s a blip – albeit disconcertingly lengthened – and once it clicks again, it will stay clicked.
The question is, can a recovery come in time to bring Liverpool back into title contention? You will not find a supporter who, for the moment, feels with the slightest possible conviction.
Liverpool supporters are asking a lot of questions at the moment, of the players, the manager and the owners. The most relevant is this: the team broke through brick wall after brick wall last season, so why aren’t they now?
Maybe because running through a brick wall is tiring, demoralizing and painful. Kind of like, I imagine, a quadruple 63-game offer where the two biggest prizes slip away by the thinnest of margins. The Reds have also traditionally suffered from hangovers during the season after finishing runners-up in the Premier League. That didn’t happen in 2019-20, but it was a glorious exception. What is happening now is, unfortunately, the norm.
Liverpool are not a poor club but they cannot compete financially with their main rivals. They take risks to close the gap, with tall defensive lines and right-backs playing in the attacking half-spaces. What we see is what happens when things go a little bad. A largely impenetrable system becomes porous if a player doesn’t press at the right time or is beaten to the ball by a fast attacker.
There’s not too much wrong, but it may already be too late to fix the issues in time to get back into title contention.
Kevin Sampson, author and screenwriter
There’s a part of me that’s quite amused by the collapse of part of our fan base – that glorious headline whistle that proclaims: ‘We must be three goals up at half-time or the heads will roll.” Of course, after Manchester City were dismantled in the Community Shield, it was a headache that we were so lackluster in the opener at Fulham, and it’s slightly concerning that we seemed a little short of energy in so many matches.
A few things to keep in mind though: we played every minute of every game we could have been in last season. It’s a lot of difficult kilometers in a lot of stages. Too often over the past few years, we’ve made winning look easy; the world has come to expect emphatic victories week after week. But the Premier League is much more competitive this year. Manchester City themselves sent goals to Crystal Palace and Newcastle; they even left three against a dismal Manchester United.
Liverpool haven’t quite found the line and the length yet, but here’s another thing – Klopp probably knows a bit more about football than we do, and there’s a very good chance he’ll sort things out, starting at Arsenal on Sunday.