Premier League • England

Liverpool told to ditch two starters with one branded ‘dreadful’, as Man Utd turn the screw on Klopp

Liverpool midfielders Fabio Carvalho and Harvey Elliott

Jurgen Klopp must ditch two starters if he’s to turn the Reds’ ship around, with one observer also claiming Man Utd’s revival is ramping up the pressure and a major Liverpool signing is only marginally better than the man he replaced.

After showing signs they’d re-discovered their groove against Rangers and Man City, Liverpool have provided a reminder of exactly how far they’ve fallen over the last eight days.

The Reds have lost successive league matches against relegation-threatened pair Nottingham Forest and Leeds Utd. Forest hadn’t won in nine league matches prior to beating Liverpool. Leeds hadn’t tasted victory in eight.

Liverpool already sit eight points outside of the top four. A surge in the second half of the season will be required to qualify for next season’s competition. A title charge is already out of the question.

Numerous theories have been presented as to why Liverpool have fallen off a cliff. Burnout after their quadruple near-miss, poor recruitment, Klopp’s seven-year itch and another injury crisis have all been put forward.

Former Chelsea and Marseille striker, Tony Cascarino, was the latest to weigh in on the Reds, with the pundit claiming Man Utd’s resurgence under Erik ten Hag is amplifying Liverpool’s problems.

“The balance has suddenly shifted in their rivalry with Manchester United,” wrote Cascarino for the Times.

“After being inferior to Liverpool for most of Klopp’s tenure, United are now seven points ahead of their bitter foes, and I think they will finish the higher of the two this season.”

Explaining two simple decisions Klopp must make to give his side a quick boost, Cascarino pointed to a pair of players who, in his mind, should be nowhere near the starting eleven.

“Klopp must give up on some players, at least for now,” continued Cascarino. “Harvey Elliott is a really exciting prospect, but he is 19 and cannot yet reach the levels demanded of a Liverpool starter.

“Joe Gomez was outstanding in the win over Manchester City but has been dreadful for the rest of the season.”

Joe Gomez criticism fair or unfair?

Gomez has been castigated for the part he played in Rodrigo’s goal on Sunday. However, but for Alisson’s untimely slip, Gomez’s pass would’ve been latched on to by the goalkeeper and Liverpool would not have fallen behind.

Furthermore, while it’s fair to say Gomez hasn’t played well overall this season, he’s only getting the nod because of injuries to Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate. Klopp is selecting Gomez out of necessity, not choice.

Cascarino went on to claim Klopp’s past exploits ensure his position as Liverpool manager won’t come under threat. However, the pundit believes the German must shoulder a portion of the blame for recent results.

He continued: “I do not believe Klopp’s position is at risk and he has plenty of credit in the bank at Anfield, but he is not absolved from blame.

“His decision to take off Trent Alexander-Arnold, one of the best attacking full backs in the world, and replace him with James Milner against Leeds was baffling.

“Recruitment has not helped him. Liverpool were so concerned about the impact of losing Sadio Mané that they overlooked the need to reinforce the engine room.

“The only central midfielder they signed in the summer was Arthur Melo, who has played 13 minutes for the first team.”

Finally, Cascarino weighed in on the ever-hot topic of Darwin Nunez.

Darwin Nunez a “minor upgrade” on Reds favourite

The Uruguayan is under the microscope each and every week given his lofty £64m price tag (rising to £85m).

He had notched a goal every 93.5 minutes in October prior to the Leeds contest, thus suggesting he’s finding his feet after a dubious start.

However, for all his endeavour and boundless potential, Nunez does appear to have fundamental flaws in his game.

He gets caught offside a frustratingly high amount of times. Furthermore, he struggles to link up the play and attacks all too often end at his feet.

While it’s still too early to cast a firm judgement on whether Nunez will be a success or failure, in Cascarino’s eyes, the new frontman is only a minor upgrade on cult favourite Divock Origi.

Origi was never clinical during his time at Anfield, though did come good when it mattered most.

The Belgian was allowed to leave Liverpool as a free agent last summer. He joined AC Milan, though like Nunez, is struggling to adapt to his new surroundings.

He has just one goal in 11 matches for Milan and was rather cruelly branded Serie A’s worst signing of the season back in September.

“And then there is Darwin Núñez,” added Cascarino.

“For me, the striker is only a minor upgrade on Divock Origi and is not the right man to lead Liverpool’s line.

“The Uruguay international does not appear technically good enough and he loses the ball too quickly, which is hardly ideal when Liverpool are so poor at winning it back.”

READ MORE: Five positions Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp must prioritise in the January transfer window after Leeds embarrassment