Liverpool welcome Arsenal to Anfield on Saturday evening after a poor display against the Champions Leicester City on Monday, in what has been a torrid 2017 so far.
Despite this, nobody would be surprised if Jürgen Klopp’s men beat the Gunners this weekend, the visitors are after all a top side.
Liverpool have shown they have no problem disposing of the bigger teams. Last time out at Anfield they took care of an inform Tottenham Hotspur, their first win since New Year’s Eve in the league when they beat Manchester City.
Since then, they have drawn with Sunderland, lost to Swansea City and Hull City, got knocked out of the FA Cup by Wolves, after needing a replay to get past Plymouth, and lost the EFL Cup semi-final to Southampton failing to score a single goal.
His side are either incredibly brilliant or incredibly awful. Would-be champions learn to win ugly, or if you cannot win, make sure you do not lose, so far Liverpool either win or fall apart more often than not when faced with lesser opposition.
During this horrid spell that has destroyed their early promising start to the season, Liverpool did manage to draw with both Manchester United and Chelsea (unsurprisingly) on the big occasion.
It is clear Jurgen Klopp has no problem motivating his players for the so-called bigger sides but his team fail to recreate his passion when faced with inferior opposition.
This will concern Klopp who will face Manchester City later this month and then Everton, who are quickly gaining ground on their rivals, after the International break. The remainder of the season will see them face teams below them, some fighting for their Premier League lives and teams Liverpool should be putting away but time after time they fail to do so.
Speaking on Sky Sports Monday Night Football, after their latest defeat to Leicester, former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher was critical of his former side and manager Klopp.
“Liverpool were shocking tonight, I was at the games at Hull and Burnley and they were the exact same games,”
“They’re on course to concede 50 goals again this season and Klopp hasn’t rectified that.”
Carragher has criticised the tactics of Klopp and has highlighted his failure to adapt to the teams he faces wanting to play the same way all the time and failing to introduce substitutes earlier in the game.
Jose Mourinho received much criticism for using Marouane Fellaini and changing the style of play when needed to get a result while the refusal of Klopp to do something similar to change his style has received little press when it is clear Klopp needs to expand on his ideas.
Klopp’s Plan A is clear for all to see while there appears to be no plan B.
Liverpool possess the weakest squad in the top six and Monday nights game at Leicester highlighted this. Among the subs were experienced defender Ragnar Klavan, misfit Alberto Moreno and the promising Diviock Origi with youngsters Stewart, Woodburn and Alexander- Arnold making up the numbers on the bench.
Klopp has failed in the transfer market and if he has sole charge of who comes into the club he is to blame for this.
Their squad is over-reliant on Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane, whose absence from the squad while representing his country at the African Cup of Nations which coincided with their dramatic collapse in form.
Liverpool need to sort out their striking options with Daniel Sturridge unreliable and is more often than not missing from action when needed.
Manchester City have Sergio Aguero, Chelsea, Diego Costa, Manchester United, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez and Tottenham, Harry Kane. Liverpool will struggle to find a striker capable of playing the way Klopp demands, and Daniel Sturridge clearly cannot live up to these demands when he does take to the field.
Klopp’s decision to play James Milner at left back this season is baffling when you could argue he is their best midfielder. The decision to play Lucas at centre back up against Jamie Vardy on Monday night was questionable.
The defence has been a long term problem for Liverpool and you could argue they have yet to replace the inspirational Sami Hyypia who departed in 2009. The club possess two poor goalkeepers in Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet and with the experienced Joe Hart seemingly available it would be a no-brainer to move for the England No.1.
Only West Ham and Stoke City have conceded more goals than Liverpool in the top ten.
Any top side who won the Premier League did so with a quality keeper, Schmeichel, Seaman, Cech, Van der Sar, Hart to name but a few, the names Karius and Mignolet will never appear on that list. Klopp must make this his priority this summer and finally address his back four and goalkeeper.
A season that started so brightly was burnt out by January. How was this possible with only the League and EFL Cup to play for before Christmas? Chelsea, who were in the same position, looked to gain energy as the season went on while Liverpool have nose dived.
Klopp suggested Chelsea were lucky they had been knocked out of the EFL Cup and could focus just on the Premier League while Liverpool were forced to play at two-legged semi-final.
Had this been said by a certain Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger it would have been outcry, Klopp’s words barely got a mention. How can a manager who is struggling to get the best out of his side, despite signing another long-term contract at the club when only a year and a half in charge, not want to win a cup? 2012 was the last time the club won anything.
Champions League qualification is now a bigger prize than a trophy in the cabinet. Klopp lost two finals last season. This year winning a cup, any cup, could have been a major stepping stone for his squad, most of whom have won nothing, while easing the pressure on himself.
Winners will tell you, winning makes you want more. Klopp deserved to get knocked out of both cups for the weakened lineups he put out and he got his wish. Should Liverpool miss out on Champions League qualification it will all be for nothing. A trophy in the cabinet could have been something to build on.
This will make it harder to tempt the big stars which Klopp need at Anfield while winning a cup may have been a sign that major things are happening at the club as will be the feeling down the road in Manchester, the new home of the EFL Cup.
Klopp should take notice that both Claudio Ranieri and Jose Mourinho lost their jobs just months after guiding their sides to title success. No manager is immune from the sack no matter how lovable he is.
Having replaced Brendan Rodgers in October 2015, little has changed and Klopp is under big pressure in this summer transfer window to rectify his problem areas of which he has many.
Klopp no doubt has the majority of Liverpool fans behind him and with the right backing he is the right man for the job. He now must bring in players that match his passion and attitude and get those who are part of his plans round to his way of thinking and not just when the big boys come to town.
The honeymoon period is well and truly over and the pressure is on.
Damien McEvoy Pundit Arena