Henry Jackson, writer for This Is Anfield
It’s been a perfect storm of several issues, making for a decline that few predicted. Last season was relentless, with Liverpool playing all 63 games possible and missing out on the two big trophies. That will have hurt and I think there has been a mental and physical hangover.
Picking themselves up and going again, following such an intense campaign, has proved extremely challenging. Meanwhile, individuals have struggled for form. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s woes are the most high profile, but Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah have also been short of their best. Darwin Núñez has struggled to get going, too, after his £85m arrival from Benfica.
The system as a whole has failed, with the midfield offering the defence nowhere near enough protection, and intensity lacking throughout the team – a top-quality midfielder simply had to be signed – while confidence has also evaporated.
Liverpool will come good, even if that means not winning the title or even finishing in the top two this season. But it will take time for them to return to their swashbuckling best, and fresh legs are required in January and next summer.
David Usher, editor of the Liverpool Way
Liverpool’s early-season problems have been down to several factors. First, a shortened pre-season coming straight off the back of an exhausting campaign. Then you have the likelihood of a number of players suffering an emotional hangover after going so close to winning the Premier League and Champions League but ending up with neither.
There has been a clear legginess and lack of intensity, while a midfield injury crisis hasn’t help matters. Tactical tweaks to the system haven’t worked the way Jürgen Klopp intended either, with Alexander-Arnold often playing too far inside and Salah being too wide. Opponents seem to have figured us out and we have become easy to play against. Trent has been targeted, and while some criticism of him has been justified the bigger issue is the team defending badly and leaving him exposed.
Klopp has recognised this and freshened things up with a system change and adjustments to how the team defend. There were encouraging signs against Rangers, but they were hardly difficult opponents. Bigger tests are to come.
If Liverpool can beat Arsenal and Manchester City in their next two league games and begin to look like their old selves it isn’t impossible for them to get back into the title race. As things stand, that feels like the longest of long shots. For now, getting into the top four is the main goal.
Rob Gutmann, writer and host for the Anfield Wrap
For a team regarded in May as potentially being the greatest in Liverpool’s history to become unrecognisably mediocre inside four months is hard to process.
Unlike when the team declined in 2020-21, after the title win, there are few mitigations, such as a defensive injury crisis or the chaos induced by the pandemic. Supporters are scrambling around for explanations – a need for midfield reinforcements, fatigue, changes in the forward line – but none satisfy. As the reasons for the fall are so hard to fathom, so in turn are the possible solutions.
None of us want to say we know what needs putting right more than our legendary manager. In his talent we are forced to stay trusting. The increasingly desperate hope is that this is a blip – albeit a disconcertingly elongated one – and once it clicks again it will stay clicked.
The question is can any recovery come in time to haul Liverpool back into the title race? You’ll not find a supporter who at the moment feels with any conviction that is possible.
Liverpool supporters are asking lots of questions right now, of the players, the manager and the owners. The most pertinent one is this: the team ran through brick wall after brick wall last season, so why aren’t they doing so now?
Perhaps because running through a brick wall is tiring, demoralising and painful. Much like, I imagine, a 63-game quadruple bid where the two biggest prizes slip away by the slimmest of margins. The Reds have also traditionally suffered a hangover in the season after they finish second in the Premier League. This did not occur in 2019-20, but that was a glorious exception. What’s happening now is, unfortunately, the norm.
Liverpool are not an impoverished club but they cannot compete financially with their primary rivals. They take risks to close the gap, with high defensive lines and right-backs who play in the attacking half spaces. What we’re seeing is what happens when things are a little off. A largely impenetrable system becomes porous if one player doesn’t press at the right time, or is beaten to the ball by a speedy attacker.
There isn’t too much wrong but it may already be too late to fix the issues in time to get back into the title race.
Kevin Sampson, author and screenwriter
There’s a part of me that’s quite entertained by the meltdown from a portion of our fanbase – this glorious, entitled hissy-fit that proclaims: “We must be three goals up by half-time or heads will roll.” Sure, after the dismantling of Manchester City in the Community Shield it was a puzzle that we were so lacklustre in the opening game at Fulham, and it’s mildly concerning that we’ve looked a little low on energy in so many games.
A few things to bear in mind, though: we played in every minute of every game we could have been involved in last season. That’s a lot of hard miles in a lot of legs. Too often over these last few years we’ve made winning look easy; the world has come to expect emphatic victories week in, week out. But the Premier League is much more competitive this year. Manchester City have been shipping goals themselves, to Crystal Palace and Newcastle; they even let in three against a woeful Manchester United.
Liverpool haven’t quite found line and length yet but here’s another thing – Klopp probably knows a bit more about football than we do, and there’s a very high chance he’ll sort things out, starting at Arsenal on Sunday.