Europe is making progress, but there are significant issues at home.
Since 2014–15, Liverpool has had the poorest Premier League start. They are currently in mid-table, eight points off the top four as they get ready for Sunday’s crucial trip to Tottenham with just 16 points out of a possible 36.
A club that last season had a chance to complete an unprecedented clean sweep has lost its mystique due to frustrating inconsistency. How can you go from defeating league leaders Manchester City to losing consecutive league games to struggling Leeds United and Nottingham Forest?
After 400 games at Anfield, manager Jurgen Klopp has been up at night worrying about the problem.
After a game when you lose and you still haven’t sorted everything, you think about it and it’s real torture,” he admitted this week. “But that’s part of the job. I had another look at my payslip. That’s what I am paid for, and it is pretty good as well. You can criticise, absolutely right. We have to work.”
Liverpool is nine points worse off than they were at this point last season and has already lost twice as many league games as they did the entire 2021–22 season. Last weekend saw the end of their league-best 19-month streak of home victories without a loss, and while traveling, they have only collected two of a possible 15 points.
Why have quality dropped so much so quickly? It becomes more and more clear that there isn’t one single, obvious cause. One senior member of Klopp’s staff called it “the perfect storm.”
‘Trampoline’ from the preseason had no bounce.
Preseason is crucial for Klopp and Pep Lijnders to “build a base” for the challenges that lie ahead. They compare it to “a trampoline” that enables gamers to continue bouncing throughout the campaign.
Due to the pandemic, Klopp had the luxury of a four-week training camp in Austria and France in the summer of 2021, which would have otherwise been financially rewarding. No long distance travel, no business obligations, and no interruptions. Everyone could sense the importance of that period since Liverpool continued to pose a threat on all fronts.
It was a different story this summer. It was the third-shortest tight season in Liverpool’s history, with just 63 days passing between the team’s Champions League final loss to Real Madrid and the Community Shield matchup with Manchester City. That affected both getting the players ready for the next term and getting them enough relaxation after such a demanding 2021–2022.
Add to that a trip to the Far East, which will be made for the first time since 2017, where the team will play lucrative friendly games against Manchester United and Crystal Palace. Due to the exhausting 14,000-mile journey, Klopp only had one week to spend at his preferred headquarters in Austria. Prior to the Community Shield, players who competed in the international matches in June only had a three-week preseason.
Without a doubt, fatigue has contributed to Liverpool’s loss of their signature intensity. Additionally, it has caused a multitude of injury setbacks.
They still have the ability to increase their levels, like they did versus City, but they don’t appear to have the stamina to continue producing and build any genuine momentum. The declining form of Fabinho is a prime illustration of that.
Liverpool just did not get the foundation they required in the preseason. Klopp is holding out hope that their “second pre-season” in Dubai in December will go better.
Diogo Jota and Alex Oxlade-major Chamberlain’s hamstring injuries during the Asian tour served as the catalyst for the issues, which have continued without interruption ever since. Ten members of Liverpool’s first-team squad were in the treatment room at one point in August.
Following surgery to repair a ruptured thigh muscle in October, Arthur Melo was given a four-month absence recommendation, and Klopp then had the devastating loss of strikers Luis Diaz (knee) and Jota (calf).
Since the Community Shield, Naby Keita hasn’t played, and Oxlade-Chamberlain has only appeared briefly as a substitute. After missing three months, Calvin Ramsay, who was acquired from Aberdeen to serve as Trent Alexander-backup, Arnold’s finally made his debut this week against Napoli.
Thiago, Jordan Henderson, Joel Matip, Ibrahima Konate, Andy Robertson, Curtis Jones, and Ibrahima Konate have all missed substantial amounts of time due to injury.
There are times when annoyances appear to reach a boiling point. Klopp is told before every game who should not play longer than a predetermined amount of minutes and why, but the frequency of muscle problems indicates the method is far from perfect.
For the management, having so many players absent has resulted in some players being overplayed and others being pushed back from injuries, which increases the likelihood of further setbacks on both fronts.
Liverpool has taken more shots than any other Premier League team this season at the other end of the field (212). However, with only 10.9% of their shots converting, this campaign marks the lowest shot conversion rate since 2015–16. (10 per cent).