Fuming Graeme Souness lists four factors behind Liverpool struggles – with star man slaughtered for woeful form
Graeme Souness has hit out at Liverpool for their stuttering start to the season – and has named four reasons behind the side’s poor form.
The Reds came close to winning an unprecedented Quadruple last season, ultimately settling for just two in the Carabao Cup and FA Cup. And despite a summer spend of around £81m – including new club-record signing Darwin Nunez – their form so far this season has been way below expectations.
Indeed, they were thumped 4-1 by Napoli on Wednesday night in a result that could so easily have been worse. After the game, Jurgen Klopp spoke of his need to ‘reinvent’ his struggling side.
That loss to Napoli is already their second of the season – and just two wins in six Premier League games leaves them seventh in the table. Indeed, they already face a difficult task in closing down Manchester City, who are sat five points ahead of them with 14 points.
Assessing where it has all gone wrong, Souness believes there are four factors behind their malaise.
To begin, Souness claims it’s simply a matter of their desire and application.
“The one non-negotiable part of winning football matches is being first to the ball,” he writes in the Daily Mail. “At the moment, Liverpool are not doing that. And that’s why they are a mile off the team we have known them to be in Jurgen Klopp’s time at the club.”
Going into more detail, Souness insists one of Liverpool’s tactics under Klopp – the high press – just does not seem to be there. In that regard, Souness is wondering if the players are suffering something of a burn out.
“Liverpool just don’t seem to have the same energy,” he adds.
Graeme Souness tears into talisman Mohamed Salah
Souness is also unimpressed with the form of Mohamed Salah. The Liverpool talisman signed a new deal worth £350,000 a week over the summer. That makes him their top earner by some distance. But with just two goals to his name he looks a long way off his best.
“I’ve certainly not been seeing the same Salah,” Souness continues. “He has signed the big contract he wanted and I really hope we are not seeing him getting semi into his armchair because of that.”
And finally, Souness feels Liverpool’s injuries in midfield have also been a factor. They went into the Napoli game with Harvey Elliott, Fabinho and veteran James Milner in their side.
But Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita, Thiago Alcantara, Curtis Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have all suffered spells on the sidelines this season.
And while they have signed Arthur Melo on a season’s loan from Juventus, he thinks it’s an issue that still needs fixing in January.
For that reason, Liverpool are again being strongly linked with a raid on Spain for Barcelona star Gavi.
“I do think there is room in that midfield for another high-intensity workaholic who can also deliver a cute pass,” Graeme Souness adds.
“Go back to Liverpool’s best midfield of three or four years ago. You had Gini Wijnaldum. Workaholic. James Milner. Workaholic. Jordan Henderson. Workaholic…
“It’s certainly my view Liverpool need another battle-hardened, experienced midfielder at the core of their team. They need someone to pick the pass and capitalise on the movement of the strikers.”
Only two Liverpool players are performing well this season
Liverpool may have recorded their biggest-ever Premier League win this season – 9-0 against Bournemouth – but that result and performance very much looks a one-off. Time and again, their midfield has looked laboured and second best. The fear factor behind playing them right now has also been removed.
Quite how they kick on and push through their malaise represents one of Klopp’s biggest challengers. Now in his seventh season at Anfield, his Dortmund team also endured a huge drop-off in their seventh season under him. That led to his departure from the club, prompting that future move to Liverpool FC.
That has led to questions that maybe a side’s cycle under Klopp is only seven years.
Of course, Klopp can use the unexpected break this weekend to iron out plenty of those shortfalls.
Truth be told – and this is a point that Graeme Souness missed – their defence is also a mess. It was for that purpose that Jamie Carragher slaughtered three stars for playing like kids against Napoli.
Going through their side so far this season, there are probably only two, maybe three players who escape criticism. Alisson Becker remains a reliable and safe pair of hands in goal. Up front, Luis Diaz’s form has been excellent and he looks a star talent for the Reds.
Elliott, too, has generally been good in midfield. Despite his tender years, he looks a player of real quality.
However, it’s probably the form of Virgil van Dijk that really troubles us. Often regarded as the best defender in the world, he’s looked well below his best this season, making several uncharacteristic mistakes.
It’s for that reason why one pundit tore into him by telling some cold, hard truths.