Jurgen Klopp declared himself “sick” after Leicester City rode its luck and displayed some profligate finishing to beat Liverpool in the League Cup third round on Tuesday evening at the King Power Stadium.
Liverpool has now failed to win their last four games and the visceral hammering of Arsenal at Anfield back in August seems a long time ago now. Here are some of the problems with Klopp’s team.
1. Bad defence
A recurring theme under Klopp—Liverpool is sparkling in attack and holey like a Swiss cheese in defence. Once Leicester warmed to its task in the second half, it found it far too easy to cut through Liverpool.
And this, remember, is a team 15th in the Premier League averaging less than a point a game. There was little anyone could have done about Islam Slimani’s thunderous goal that made it 2-0 to Leicester, but the reactions for Shinji Okazaki’s strike that opened the scoring were far too slow.
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2. Or is the midfield the problem?
When Liverpool is on top in games, as it was in the first half at the King Power Stadium, then Jordan Henderson looks a perfectly capable, even excellent, central midfielder.
Henderson regularly fails to convince, though, when Liverpool comes under pressure. In the second half, when he should have been leading the inexperienced Marko Grujic through the game, the former Sunderland man began to misplace passes. By the end of the game Liverpool was regularly inviting attacks on those nervous central defenders. Conceding goals regularly is rarely just the defense’s fault.
3. New signings are failing to convince
Liverpool spent £35 million on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Arsenal. Oxlade-Chamberlain, the boyfriend of someone from the pop band ‘Little Mix,’ came to Liverpool to play in central midfield, rejecting Chelsea in the process.
At the moment, the pricey experiment is yet to work out for either party. On his first start for Liverpool Oxlade-Chamberlain was occasionally promising, more often clumsy especially in the second half as his team was pushed back towards its own goal. It is more than slightly dizzying to consider that Mohamed Salah, Liverpool’s other expensive summer signing, cost the same amount of money as Oxlade-Chamberlain. Salah looks more than worth the money; “The Ox,” as of yet, does not.
4. An overreliance on Coutinho?
This comes heavily prefaced with the caveat that neither Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane nor Salah, Liverpool’s first-choice attacking trident, played against Leicester. Even so, it was impossible not to notice the contrast between Liverpool’s performance in the first half when Coutinho was on the pitch and the second, when he was withdrawn for the prodigal teenager Ben Woodburn. Liverpool is a better team when Coutinho prods and prompts; for its supporters, the prospect of his seemingly inevitable departure must be a terrifying one.
5. Does Klopp need another conventional striker?
Against Burnley at the weekend, Liverpool took 35 shots and scored only once. Against Leicester, it had 21 but just three were on target and it was held off the scoresheet. It is becoming as much of a problem as the defense that Liverpool will regularly dominate teams in terms of possession and chances, yet just as regularly fail to kill the game off.
Daniel Sturridge played against Burnley but he looks a shadow of the player who was so successful alongside Luis Suarez under Brendan Rodgers. Liverpool can be thrilling to watch but that will be remembered less than their ability to put their many chances away.
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