With Chelsea and Tottenham seemingly comfortable at the top of the Premier League table, the race for the final two Champions League spots is heating up nicely with very little separating Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal in terms of points, so when Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool slipped up once again – this time to Southampton – should the Reds’ fanbase be worried heading into the final games of the campaign?
If somebody had told the average Liverpool fan in pre-season that this year, their side would be sitting tidily in third place with just two games left to play, most level-headed Reds would have been relatively pleased – with that being said however, this season has been a strange one, they’ve performed like Champions against the top sides in the division but seemingly fallen apart when facing the sides below them. Most are confused at the goings-on behind the scenes and many are wondering whether or not the pressure of the Premier League is getting too much to handle for Jurgen Klopp, who’s team could end up slipping out of the top four come the final day of the season.
Southampton on Sunday were the latest side to come to Anfield and take points away from Klopp’s side, with Fraser Forster saving a James Milner penalty to further compound their misery. It’s worth noting that the Saints have done extremely well this campaign against Liverpool, beating them well in the League Cup over two legs and holding them to a draw in November at St Mary’s. As of late, it seems Liverpool’s struggles have been coming at home – in their last 12 ties at Anfield, staggeringly, the Reds have only won four of those games, thus drawing four and losing four in the process. This poor record has been illustrated primarily because of their most recent trip ups against Bournemouth and Crystal Palace, when most fans were expecting Liverpool to kick on into 5th gear and secure the 3rd or 4th spot by wrapping up all three points.
This indifferent form has made a select portion of the Liverpool fanbase question Jurgen Klopp’s decision making. Much of the frustration stems from the German’s lack of spending during the January transfer window. Many fans felt that key positions within the squad needed strengthening but Klopp opted to trust his squad rather than draft in new talent.
It’s not only the lack of spending that is worrying the Liverpool fans, it’s also the apparent reliance on one or two individually talented players, with Sadio Mane instantly springing to mind. Liverpool without him, don’t seem to have much of a threat going forward in the 4-3-3 Klopp deploys and score a significant lower number of goals. The pace, power, energy and agility of Mane is a fright for most defenders and it seems that without the African starlet, the goals dry up for the Reds, who’s Plan A seems to falter.
Another issue that some highlight as a concern is Klopp’s apparent dislike toward certain players in certain positions within the team. James Milner for example has been playing out of position for the majority of the campaign, while a more naturally gifted left back in the form of Alberto Moreno, is patiently sitting fit and ready on the substitutes bench. The apparent attitude of Moreno has also been called into question this weekend after the Spanish defender was seen flipping water bottles while watching his side struggle at home to the Saints. Another key figure out of the side currently is Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge, who’s been in but primarily out of the side this campaign, seems to be featuring less and less under Klopp and will more than likely be shown the exit door come July, despite many fans urging the German to select the English forward in the hope of goals – something distinctly lacking from the Belgian, Divock Origi, who’s getting the nod at the moment.
It’s safe to say that Klopp doesn’t regard the likes of Moreno and Sturridge as game changing players, with many of Liverpool’s substitutions coming extremely late on in games. Against Southampton on Sunday, it took the former Dortmund coach until the 70th minute to try and change the game and before that, it took until the 79th minute in the defeat to Crystal Palace.
All in all, the lack of European competition this season should have seen Liverpool battling it out for the Premier League title, but that wasn’t to be. Instead, they’ll happily take second prize of a top four finish but that’s currently in some serious danger. For what it’s worth, the race for the final two Champions League spots isn’t an easy one but I still expect Liverpool claim 4th spot. You simply cannot ignore the fact that both Manchester United and Arsenal have both partaken in European Football this season while Liverpool haven’t, thus playing considerably fewer games than both United and Arsenal.