Liverpool won’t challenge for the title this season after three factors prompted a poor start, while Jurgen Klopp has been told why he shouldn’t expect too much from Luis Diaz, according to one pundit.
The Reds have already dropped nine points from a possible 18 from their opening six matches this season. While the 14-point deficit they erased last season proved Klopp’s team can never be discounted, it is not a situation Liverpool can afford to find themselves in too often.
Indeed, Erling Haaland is blazing a scarcely believable goalscoring trail through Premier League defences.
The Norwegian has 10 goals in six and Pep Guardiola now has a focal point for the first time since the Sergio Aguero days.
Theories have been put forward from all corners of the media as to why Liverpool are struggling. But for a 98th minute winner against Newcastle, they might have just one win in six.
Speaking on talkSPORT, pundit Jamie O’Hara detailed three reasons behind their slow start after declaring Liverpool to not be title contenders this season.
O’Hara pinpointed Liverpool’s well documented midfield injury crisis as one reason and namechecked Thiago Alcantara specifically.
However, he also claimed the rest of Liverpool’s midfield have lost their edge and insisted that Luis Diaz simply isn’t an adequate replacement for Sadio Mane.
Liverpool have “lost their best player”
“Everyone is chasing Man City… I don’t think Liverpool are title challengers this year,” said O’Hara.
“The injuries have obviously hurt them. Thiago is a big loss for them and I don’t think they’ve got the same edge in midfield that they’ve had in the past.
“Everyone’s saying it and it’s clear to see – they’re missing Mane.
“You can say whatever you want about Diaz being his replacement, but he’s never going to get the numbers that Mane got.
“Mane was probably Liverpool’s best player. Salah would be the goalscorer, he’d do something out of the ordinary, but over 90 minutes you watch Mane’s contribution to the team on and off the ball… he was just amazing.
“He brought a lot out of the other players around him. I think he’s a huge loss for them, they’ve lost their best player.”
Is O’Hara right about Luis Diaz?
The Colombian has arguably been Liverpool’s best player so far this season. Only Harvey Elliott can realistically challenge him for that honour after their opening six fixtures.
Diaz has looked a greater threat than Salah and has three goals to his name. He’s also rattled the woodwork on numerous occasions.
Diaz and Mane did often play in the same eleven at the back end of last season. Mane moved centrally to allow Diaz to play in his customary left wing role. However, the belief was always that Diaz was Mane’s long-term replacement.
The Senegalese has made a flying start to life in Bavaria, notching five goals in seven to kick his Bayern Munich career off in style.
While it’s true to say Mane brought so much more to Liverpool than just numbers, Diaz is about as far from being an issue at Anfield as could be.
Of greater significance is clearly the injuries. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita haven’t been included in Liverpool’s Champions League squad, indicating their absences are long-term.
Jordan Henderson has suffered a hamstring injury, but it is losing Thiago that has hit Liverpool hardest.
Furthermore, a collective loss of form from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson has hampered the Reds. The pair are crucial to Klopp’s system and neither have hit their straps so far this year.
Robertson’s struggles have been particularly noticeable. Indeed, he’s been subbed off in four of his five league starts so far and was dropped for Kostas Tsimikas in the Merseyside derby.
Another elephant in the room is Darwin Nunez. The difference in quality between he and Haaland has been painfully evident in the season’s early going.
While it would be unfair to make any concrete judgements after such a short time, it cannot be argued he has done little to help Liverpool out of their predicament so far and has the look of a player who is far from the finished article.