Every club’s cycle of dominance must eventually come to an end. That’s the harsh reality Liverpool have faced this season.
The strongest attributes of Jurgen Klopp’s side over the last few years have been largely absent throughout this campaign. In three of the previous four seasons the Reds held the Premier League’s strongest defensive record, but their backline has proven an easy target for opponents since August. The midfield’s failure to win the ball back swiftly and distribute effectively has seen us struggle to establish any authority during the majority of our matches and this has then deprived Liverpool’s forwards of the service it requires to trouble opposing defenses.
When players underperform to this extent, it’s either a result of their own decline or the manager’s system and Klopp’s immense success at Anfield strongly refutes the idea that the latter is primarily to blame. The reality is that performances of individual players have dropped several notches throughout the course of this season.
At the back, Virgil Van Djik has failed to provide the level of security from which Liverpool have benefited so immensely since his arrival at the club. Whether the Dutchman’s difficulties are symptomatic of a larger decline or simply a poor run of form is unclear, but the need to upgrade Liverpool’s midfield bears greater urgency. Jordan Henderson turns 33 in June and the past seven months have offered little indication that he’s remained at the physical level required for Klopp’s demanding, high-tempo approach. Likewise, Fabhino’s inconsistent performances date back even to the final few months of last season.
However, while this season has seen the Reds decline sharply, it has also demonstrated strong promise for what lies ahead as Klopp looks to rebuild his side. Despite Liverpool’s concerns in the defensive third, Ibrahima Konate continues to prove himself immensely reliable and at just 23 years of age, he looks capable of anchoring this backline for years to come.
Up front, the Reds have retained much of their quality as Mohamed Salah continues to deliver, Diogo Jota has rediscovered his ruthlessness in front of goal, and Luis Diaz has already impressed once again after a lengthy injury. Between those three and newcomers Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo, who have both enjoyed respectable debut seasons at Anfield, Klopp boasts an enviable selection of attacking players.
Though Liverpool’s insufficiencies have been clear this season, their strengths have been considerably visible of late as Liverpool’s win over Fulham marks a 5th consecutive victory and their longest winning run in the league this season. Following with a 6-1 blitz against Leeds, the Reds claimed a somewhat less convincing 3 points against Nottingham Forest thanks in large part to Jota’s second brace in two matches before fighting back to beat West Ham 2-1.
They then overwhelmed Spurs in the opening 20 minutes at Anfield as they raced into a rapid three-goal lead. While the hosts somehow still required a stoppage time goal to win the match, the scintillating play in front of goal resembled much of what they’ve produced at their breathtaking best under Jurgen Klopp.
Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Fulham was considerably less eventful, but yet again, the Reds’ tempo and solidity at the back offers more encouragement. Another home match against Brentford on Saturday presents a strong opportunity to extend their winning run as they look to keep their slim hopes of a top-four finish alive.
Wherever Liverpool end up on the table after the next five matches, if they get their recruitment right over the summer, then the club will be well on its way back to challenging for top honors once more.