Liverpool under scrutiny after slow start: 'I'm worried'

Liverpool under scrutiny after slow start: ‘I’m worried’

With their foreheads almost touching, Liverpool team-mates James Milner and Virgil van Dijk exchanged angry words on the pitch. They pointed, pointed, looked absolutely disgusted.

Liverpool had just been relegated for the seventh straight Premier League and amid the bedlam at Old Trafford, the team’s two top players were going at it.

A sign they care? is possible

For many, though, the moment will be used to show that all is not well in Jurgen Klopp’s team.

The results also bear this out.

It’s always dangerous to go into early-season results – only three rounds of play have been played, after all – but it’s been such a good margin in Premier League title races in recent years that every point counts.

And Liverpool, already, have dropped seven of them after a 2-1 loss at Manchester United followed by draws with Fulham and Crystal Palace on Monday.

The Premier League crisis club for the first two weeks was United. Now, much of the scrutiny will shift to Liverpool.

“The team is tough, we’re almost a unit, but things have to be said sometimes,” Liverpool defender Andy Robertson said. “Things will improve. But we are far behind where we want to be.”

In all likelihood, Liverpool will get their first win of the season on Saturday against Bournemouth, an improved team who have conceded a total of seven goals in defeats to Manchester City and Arsenal alone.

And it should not be forgotten that defeat to United was Liverpool’s first in the league in 2022.

Still, the first three games revealed some problems for the Reds.

Wounded

Liverpool’s strength has improved dramatically in recent seasons, but the spate of injuries plaguing the team is a concern.

Klopp said he was down to “14, 15 top players” for the United game with the following injuries: defenders Ibrahima Konat and Joel Matip, midfielders Thiago Alcantara, Naby Keita and Curtis Jones, and forward Diego Jota, respectively. At the time Darwin Nunes, before the new signing, was serving the first game of a three-game suspension.

So, that meant Liverpool were playing their fifth-choice forward (Roberto Firmino), their fourth-choice centre-back (Joe Gomez) and journeyman midfielder (James Milner). Klopp filled his bench with two backup goalkeepers.

“I’m worried about our situation,” Klopp said.

Weak midfield

The midfield may be the biggest area of ​​concern, even if Klopp keeps his options plenty there.

Without Thiago, Liverpool lack a player who can run the game and deliver the killer ball. Fabinho, Brazil’s anchorman, was dropped for starting against United midway through the season. Jordan Henderson is a leader, sure, but rarely plays 90 minutes these days. Keita has been hit and miss, yet the dynamic player’s promotion to Liverpool thinks he gets it. Milner, at 36, has played the last two games despite hitting well past his best.

Liverpool’s failure to sign a midfielder in this transfer window and moving on from others appears to be a misunderstanding, with Klopp perhaps placing too much faith in players who have served him well.

Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham could be the midfielder Liverpool are waiting to land next year. Maybe the red should be all gone this summer.

Van Dijk’s struggle

He was easily replaced by Aleksandar Mitrović and awarded a penalty in the opening weekend draw at Fulham. He stood like a statue when Jadon Sancho prepared his shot to put the United States ahead on Monday.

That’s two more mistakes than Van Dijk usually makes in an entire season.

If the imposing Dutchman – the player who holds the defense together – is off the pace, it will rub off on the rest of the team.

Van Dijk has not been helped by starting with three different centre-back partners already this season, in Matip, Nat Phillips and Gomes.

The Reds have conceded the first goal in all three games and now in nine of their last 10 matches. They should be passed earlier in the game.

lost love

Sadio Mane was a mainstay in Liverpool’s attack for six years, a regular source of goals and a provider of so much energy and pressure that it helped his teammates around him. In the second half of last season, he often started as a center forward and was more useful and important than Mohamed Salah.

He was sorely missed following his move to Bayern Munich, where he was looking for a new challenge. Luis Diaz is a good replacement – Klopp called the Colombian “special” last week – but it’s asking a lot of him to have the same output as Mane.

With Firmino on the wane and Nunez a very different type of striker, Liverpool have a revamped attack that needs a whole new style of play. It may take time and after such a poor start to the season, time is already something Liverpool really don’t have.

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