Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says his side have to “go back to basics” if they are to improve, highlighting his side’s similar resurgence two seasons ago.
The Reds looked somewhere back to their best in their final game before the international break. While they conceded again against Ajax in the Champions League, their intensity was clear to see as they ground out a 2-1 win.
In that game, Liverpool also broke a recent trend of conceding first, instead turning the tables on their opponents.
However, their problems returned on Saturday when Brighton stormed into a 2-0 lead at Anfield. Liverpool responded to make it 3-2, but Leandro Trossard’s hat-trick snatched a well-deserved point for the visitors.
As a result, Liverpool’s defending has come sharply back under the microscope. Trent Alexander-Arnold has faced criticism for a while, but the heat is also turning up on Virgil van Dijk.
Klopp, though, watched his side recover from an injury-induced slump of form in the 2020/21 campaign. The Reds eventually sealed a top-four Premier League finish with a 10-match unbeaten streak.
Klopp said on Monday: “I think one of the conversations we had was after the Napoli game, when we said, ‘Wow, that’s a low point’.
“It’s only two years ago we had a very similar situation for different reasons. We lost our centre-halves and had to find solutions and lost our game completely.
“Nobody could recognise it, we only wore the same shirts. We didn’t react as quick as people would wish, but we found a way out because we worked on it and that’s what we will do this time.
“Our general situation is important, but not so much for tomorrow. When you prepare for a game, you prepare for a game independent of your situation.”
Klopp namechecks Ronaldo in ‘confidence’ claim
Liverpool face Rangers on Tuesday in the Champions League. The Scottish side will be full of confidence following their 4-0 win away at Hearts on Saturday.
Asked if confidence will be low in the Anfield camp with Liverpool struggling to shake off their problems, Klopp used Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo – who stayed on the bench for Sunday’s 6-3 loss to Manchester City – as an example of how situations can turn on their heads.
“Do you think Cristiano Ronaldo in this moment is on top of his confidence level?” Klopp added. For ages he was the best player in the world, but now it’s not going his way and it’s not exactly the same.
“That happens to all of us. Lionel Messi played last year a season where it was not exactly the same because we have to work for it, take the little things and take a step in the right direction.
“It’s not that we’re without confidence, but being 2-0 down is not good for confidence. Being 3-2 up is, but you could see the first [Brighton] attack after that, that it’s still an open game, especially collectively.”
Liverpool need to get back to basics
Klopp admitted that teams are putting goals past Liverpool by going “through the same gaps”.
He said his side’s high-line defending is an “art” – and that nobody noticed its inherent risk before because “we closed the gaps with intensity”.
“It worked for us really well for really long, but when it’s not working out anymore we realise step by step how much we have to go back to basics,” Klopp concluded.
Liverpool have only won three of nine games this season ahead of their clash with Rangers.
Same problems, but worrying new stance
Klopp is right to mention how Liverpool recovered from their 2020/21 struggles to finish third in the Premier League.
They have done it before, so surely they can do it again.
The difference this time, though, is that there is no injury crisis – at least not the one that engulfed them two years ago – causing the problem.
Indeed, Netherlands captain Van Dijk is front and centre of the team in their current struggles.
Joel Matip has only just returned and the pair are lacking minutes and rhythm, but there is still a weakness between the pair.
That is where Ibrahima Konate could come in handy. The Frenchman, who has also been injured – proved a fantastic alternative to Matip last season – and a real challenger to the Cameroonian at that.
If he can add his best form, Liverpool may well start to turn the screw in defence.