Graeme Souness has declared an entire section of the Liverpool squad requires a “rebuild” after highlighting one player who may have caused unrest in the dressing room.
Liverpool have endured a nightmare defence of their Premier League crown. The Reds sat atop the table in December, but wretched form after the turn of the year sent title aspirations up in smoke. A key factor behind their continued struggles has been their continued struggles with injury.
The club’s three first-choice centre-halves are all currently sidelined with significant injuries. At varous points, that led to the club’s top two midfielders – Fabinho and Jordan Henderson – having to cover in defence.
That placed greater responsibility on the shoulders of Jurgen Klopp’s faithful midfield general, Georginio Wijnaldum.
The Dutchman has been a dependable performer during his time at Anfield. However, he has struggled to replicate his levels of consistency this campaign.
The 30-year-old is nearing free agency with a much-speculated move to Barcelona frequently touted – despite the move recently being cast into doubt.
It is this speculation that Souness believes has hindered the Reds’ season to some degree. As a result, he stated Wijnaldum has lacked “intensity” amid the swirling rumours.
Writing in his column for the Sunday Times, the Liverpool great declared: “Injuries have hurt Liverpool badly, but they have not played with the same intensity either. Some players have felt sorry for themselves.
“They’ve not responded as well as Jurgen Klopp would have expected or wanted them to. They felt it wasn’t their year and have meekly accepted that.
“They need to rebuild their midfield — it’s the catalyst for their pressing. People talk about the strikers, but a lot of their success was based on getting the ball back so quickly because of Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Fabinho putting a shift in.
“Wijnaldum is leaving for Barcelona and I’m not sure how I’d have reacted to a player who made it clear he was off, how that goes down in a dressing-room. The players may make a joke of it, but it also may not sit well with all of them.
“He’s not played with the same intensity this season. Henderson has been absent with injuries, Naby Keïta has not shown he can step up, Milner’s another year older.
“Fabinho’s often filled in at centre back and Thiago Alcantara has come into a team that’s been huffing and puffing.”
Klopp reveals secret to Liverpool top four hopes
Meanwhile, Klopp believes Liverpool’s experience of competing for the top honours in the game in recent times can make the difference as they battle the likes of Chelsea and West Ham for a top-four place.
After being knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid on Wednesday, the Reds’ sole mission for the remaining weeks of the season is clear – to get back into the top four and secure another campaign in Europe’s top competition.
Having lifted the European Cup in 2019 and the Premier League last season – a year after taking Manchester City to the wire in the title race – Klopp’s players are no strangers to having the pressure on down the stretch, and the manager expects that to count.
“It is absolutely important,” he said. “We have kind of seven finals if you want. We will see.
“We’ll only know at the end how many points we will need to make it happen. But as I have said before, we should not waste time or points and really go for it. That is the situation we are in.”