Liverpool’s first Premier League defeat of the season was a bolt from the blue but Jurgen Klopp’s verdict that the loss has been coming had an element of truth to it. The Reds have not been functioning at their brilliant best and a large part of that is down to their faltering midfield.
It’s a problem that Klopp needs to address face on – he has the resources to fix it but the clock is ticking until the Champions League last 16 second-leg with Atletico Madrid in ten days’ time.
There are two contributing factors to the issue, which has materialised in alarming fashion.
First of all, Liverpool learnt to cope without Fabinho sooner than expected after he damaged ankle ligaments against Napoli.
He is the club’s only recognised defensive midfielder, but Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson stepped up impeccably in his absence to plug the gap.
JUST IN: Gerard Deulofeu horror injury prompts classy gesture from Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk
Liverpool seemed to hit their stride around that time, just ahead of the Club World Cup, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also making his mark.
It was the start of a breathtaking run which would see them win 14 straight matches in all competitions – if you exclude the 5-0 Carabao Cup defeat to Aston Villa where an academy side took to the field.
Since Fabinho has come back, Liverpool have had a problem adjusting back to their previous style.
It’s remarkable to think that would be the case, given just how solid they have been since he was instated into the side just over a year ago following a patient induction process.
Liverpool expecting duo to leave as transfer details of possible replacement emerge
Fresh Liverpool transfer strategy emerges with Jurgen Klopp belief bad news for Man City
Virgil van Dijk reveals how Liverpool dressing room feel as Watford end Invincibles charge
He is arguably the best of his ilk in the Premier League following the positional reinvention of Fernandinho and N’Golo Kante.
Yet Liverpool’s bald-headed bandit doesn’t quite look himself without Henderson’s hard yards alongside him.
Against West Ham he was sloppy and against Watford he was ineffective, but that doesn’t mean he will be dropped.
The second unexpected detail from Liverpool’s problem in midfield is just how largely dependent on Henderson they have become.
There was a time when he was the spare part and was the victim of a lack of appreciation, but now the skipper is adored at Anfield.
His absence was laid bare in the 3-2 win over West Ham, while his bite and leadership was sorely missed at Vicarage Road.
Wijnaldum remains the immovable object in Liverpool’s midfield and is Klopp’s go-to guy when it comes to controlling matches.
Fabinho is unlikely to be dropped either and with Henderson set to miss a further two weeks of action (at least), the third place is still up for contention.
Oxlade-Chamberlain looks best-placed for the job with Klopp growing tired of Naby Keita’s inconsistency and fitness problems.
When everybody is fit, there is no question about the three names on the team sheet.
It’s the trio that led Liverpool to their sixth European Cup with Wijnaldum and Henderson ahead of Fabinho, who plays as the single pivot.
For now Klopp has to find a solution in with Henderson and James Milner sidelined, there is no need for the panic button but it’s a glaring problem that needs addressing in the next two matches before the visit of Atletico.
Source: Read Full Article