A Rough Start
The start to the 2022-23 Liverpool season has been far from ideal for Jürgen Klopp’s side. The club sits seventh in the Premier League table after a stuttering start involving poor performances against Fulham, Crystal Palace, Manchester United and Everton as well as drawing three of these games while losing to a poor Manchester United side at Old Trafford. In truth, Liverpool could easily have lost each of those matches and was lucky to beat Newcastle in one of their two home wins this season. A 9-0 home demolition of Bournemouth did seem to cover up some of the cracks, but this did not last long. A disastrous performance in Naples saw Klopp’s side utterly dominated by Napoli in a 4-1 defeat.
It isn’t just the results that will be alarming for Klopp, the performances of some individual players have been shocking. Notably, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil Van Dijk have been performing way below the standards the two have set in previous years. Many would say that both have been the best in the world in their respective positions, so to them, both underperforming in an alarming way has been a shock for supporters.
Virgil Van Dijk famously is a player for which almost nobody completes a successful dribble. He has barely given a single penalty away in his career. Anyone who watched Aleksandar Mitrović take on the Dutchman to win a penalty in the first game of the season was certainly shocked to see how laboured he looked.
We have also witnessed James Milner berating Van Dijk on the pitch for not putting in enough effort blocking a shot leading to a goal earlier in the season.
🚨 NEW: Jurgen Klopp loves James Milner because of his commitment. Even when he has not been involved in a matchday squad, he has travelled to away games with his team-mates and had an input in the changing room. #lfc [the athletic] pic.twitter.com/6AMCehyqTx
— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) September 16, 2022
At the same time, Trent Alexander-Arnold has been letting players run past him with little effort and has been making feeble attempts to get the ball back if he’s tried at all.
On top of these very clear issues, star player Sadio Mané was sold in the summer, Mohamed Salah is struggling to find the net, multiple players are seriously out of form, the club are in the midst of an injury crisis and a new star Darwin Núñez received a three-match ban for violent conduct at a time when they needed his services most. On the face of it then it might be clear that Liverpool is in crisis, some have even suggested that Klopp has been let down in the transfer market or that Klopp himself might need to go. Those people have short memories.
The Season 2020-2021
This was almost a season to forget for Liverpool fans and could easily have seen the team finish outside the top four for the first time since Klopp’s first season in charge at Anfield. It was only an outstanding run at the end of the season and a last-minute goal from goalkeeper Alisson against West Brom that saw Liverpool into the Champions League.
It was the middle of this season when the crisis truly took place. First-choice defenders Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez both picked up horror injuries that would keep them out until the following season while Joël Matip was also regularly injured throughout the season. Klopp tried everything to plug the holes in the Liverpool defence. Fabinho and Jordan Henderson were both regularly pulled into the position from midfield, Nathaniel Phillips was pulled in from the youth team and the club made an emergency loan signing of Ozan Kabak from relegation-threatened Schalke 04.
None of these solutions worked and Liverpool went on a horrendous spell of 8 defeats in 12 Premier League games seeing the club drop from first place to seventh in the league. For much of that season, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino were out of form leaving Salah to carry the team.
So much of this is similar to what is happening now at Liverpool. A crisis of form and injuries in the midfield has seen Arthur Melo brought in as an emergency body to play in midfield, Luis Díaz is carrying the team going forward while Salah is out of form and the manager has struggled to replace underperforming defenders with better performers.
Klopp Will Fix The Crisis
The last crisis occurred after a successful season for Liverpool that saw the club win the Premier League title after a gruelling season. The players simply weren’t at their best the following season likely due to a hangover from the previous season, the impact of COVID-19 and injuries caused by bad luck and the intensity of Klopp’s style. It might come then as no surprise that this crisis is unfolding as it is. Last season Liverpool famously played in every game they could have by reaching the final of all cup competitions. They were also blessed with few injuries.
This season started early due to the upcoming winter World Cup in Qatar meaning that many players didn’t get the pre-season break that they needed. Liverpool is known for playing a relentless high energy style of football and the demands of that style on the body of the players is very real. Klopp himself knows this and has stated recently that the team needs to “reinvent” themselves.
There is no need for Liverpool fans to be worried about the demise of Klopp’s legendary team just yet. While injuries will happen and performance levels have dropped it is important to remember that this has happened before. Just like before the form will be temporary and the class will be permanent.