In his weekly Liverpool blog, Dave Tindall says the honeymoon period is over for Jurgen Klopp and ponders what fans can expect from the team this season and in the January transfer window.
Good grief. How quickly things change.
With the fixture list and incompetence of others seemingly offering Liverpool an obvious route into the top four, we’ve blown it big-style.
Wins over Newcastle, West Brom and Watford would have had us sitting in third place on Sunday night. The reality of two defeats and a draw (secured by a deflected injury-time strike), has left the Reds labouring in ninth with a negative goal difference.
So where has it all gone wrong?
In truth, it hasn’t. Quite simply, players who had found an extra 20% after the arrival of Jurgen Klopp have either reverted to their true level or dipped below it. And when good, even very good, players have their weaknesses exposed by hard-working, organised, motivated rivals, they’re vulnerable. Especially when they do it en masse.
Throw in the individual mistakes that usually go hand-in-hand with a loss of form and Liverpool look distinctly average again. It’s hard to swallow but we’ve actually managed more points per game in the Premier League this season under Brendan Rodgers (1.5) than we have during Klopp’s brief reign (1.33).
If we didn’t know earlier, Klopp’s honeymoon period is well and truly over.
The various player ratings that did the rounds after the miserable 3-0 defeat at Vicarage Road made for depressing reading and they weren’t just knee-jerk responses to a bad day at the office.
These were the thoughts in my head on Sunday as I turned the TV off at full-time to head to ASDA to buy a box of ease-the-pain Cadbury’s Heroes.
Starting at the back, Adam Bogdan is even worse at dealing with corners than Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne’s end-product in the final third remains extremely poor, Martin Skrtel has a crime-sheet a mile long and is never going to get better while Mamadou Sakho can sometimes be that clumsy, gangly-legged oaf that some fans and lazy pundits think he always is. They’re wrong but, boy, did he give them some ammunition at Watford. Alberto Moreno looks better as a wing-back.
In midfield, Lucas has surely had his day (too slow and not athletic enough) while Emre Can is still error-prone and ponderous.
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Up front, the trio of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana which ripped apart Man City at the Etihad are a good idea in theory. But on less-than-perfect pitches against well-drilled, physical and hard-working teams, who won’t put up with any of this frilly five-a-side nonsense, they can be anaemic. Firmino looks increasingly confused and lethargic, Lallana’s tricks and flicks grate when we’re losing and Coutinho often can’t find a spark.
I suppose Jordan Henderson had something approaching a reasonable game.
Obviously, there’s no point in dwelling on the past but I expect it won’t have gone unnoticed by many Liverpool fans that, overnight, Luis Suarez had scored twice in the 4-0 victory that saw Barcelona win the Club World Cup. Sigh.
And, to have us reminiscing further, I later switched channels and saw ex-Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez walking down the tunnel after his Real Madrid side had won 10-2.
Klopp has a big rebuilding job and, after a display like this, every Liverpool fan will want him to get to work with some new bricks sooner rather than later.
January additions for Liverpool
Having signed Suarez, Sturridge and Coutinho in previous transfer windows, the idea that it’s hard to do good business in January simply doesn’t wash with Reds supporters. Okay, Lewandowski and Hummels probably won’t be coming our way but surely there must be some gettable targets out there. Please!
But what if, forever reason, Klopp doesn’t add significantly to the squad? What should we expect if he has to make do with the current lot?
It’s a hard question to answer because what exactly is the level of this Liverpool team?
You don’t just go and smash Man City 4-1 and Southampton 6-1 away without having something; then again, if you can’t do the business when teams fluster you, mid-table beckons.
The bookies still see top four as a realistic possibility (it’s priced at 7/4) and with Chelsea so far back (then again, only eight points behind us!) and Man Utd wobbling, it remains a realistic goal despite suddenly seeming a long way off after the last few results.
At least we’re still in every Cup competition, with a two-legged semi-final against Stoke in the Capital One Cup coming up next month, an away trip to Exeter (12th in League Two) in the FA Cup and a last 32 clash with Augsburg (12th in the Bundesliga) in the Europa League.
Given our Jekyll and Hyde results, a Cup win looks a more likely outcome than a top four but would you settle for a trophy in the cabinet and a sixth place finish in the Premier League (behind Man City, Arsenal, Man Utd, Spurs and Leicester)?
We haven’t won any silverware since 2011 so something tangible to polish with Mr Sheen would be a positive first step for Klopp. After all, the German is hopefully with us for the long haul so, until he gets his own players in, anything we can win right now must surely be a bonus.
I certainly don’t apologise for moving the goalposts with regard to my season-long expectations each week. I’m not the only one doing it and I do feel genuinely confused by where we are right now. Top four contenders or only just good enough for top eight? Often in these cases, the truth lies somewhere inbetween.
In the very short-term, make sure you enjoy Christmas Day as our Boxing Day rivals are league leaders Leicester City.
They’re set up to excel on the road (six wins, three draws, no defeats, 21 goals scored) while we’re still ropey at Anfield.
How on earth can we be odds-on favourites to win the match while Leicester are 3/1?
The Foxes turned over Everton 3-2 at Goodison on Saturday so, having conceded seven goals in our last three games, I fear the worst unless Vardy, Mahrez and Kante get injured during the warm-up or Sakho and Toure somehow play out of their skins in central defence.
Then again, maybe it’s our turn to blow logic a raspberry.