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As we all know, Liverpool did indeed overcome Barcelona and, though they missed out on the Premier League, they did bag their sixth Champions League trophy. August brought the UEFA Super Cup, December brought the FIFA Club World Cup, and by the next June, they’d landed their first top-flight title in 30 years. The Reds were simply unstoppable from 2018-2020 and although the injury-hit 2020/21 season was disappointing, they were back to their best in 21/22 - winning both domestic cup competitions and reaching the Champions League final once again.
The runaway-train that has been Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool has come to a screeching halt, however, with the Reds being nowhere near the Premier League title picture and looking as if they’ll crash out of the Champions League in limp fashion. Real Madrid, their scourge in Europe, dismantled them 5-2 at Anfield despite being 2-0 down initially.
What’s Going Wrong For Liverpool?
Liverpool’s poor form in the Premier League has been caused by a myriad of factors, none of which are particularly easy to explain.
A key component of Liverpool’s success comes from Klopp’s flamethrower approach to games. When the Reds didn’t have the ball, then players would hunt in packs to close the player down, regain possession, and utilise their devastating attackers when the opposition were unsettled. Creativity came from the wide areas, with Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold being some of the most creative full-backs the United Kingdom have ever produced.
Virgil Van Dijk, a generational talent and well-worth his £75 million fee, would provide the defensive abilities and passing range needed to break teams in a low-blocks down, and the famous front three of Mane, Firmino, and Salah would cause devastation in the final-third.
Klopp’s midfield three weren’t the best footballers, but they’d function as a busy, energetic engine room whose purpose was to cover space left by the advancing full-backs intercept play at all costs. Henderson, Fabinho, and Winjaldum weren’t as glamorous as their peers, but they certainly got the job done, and then some.
Departures And Poor Form
Georginio Winjaldum, Sadio Mané, Divock Origi, and Xherdan Shakiri are some of Liverpool’s departed players in the seasons since their peak, and the advancing age of James Milner, Jordan Henderson, and Fabinho have caused the Reds to be overrun in midfield time and time again.
Never was this more apparent in Liverpool’s crushing loss to Brighton in January 2023 - perhaps the worst league performance dished out by Klopp’s men during the German’s long spell on Merseyside. Liverpool looked toothless and lethargic, whereas Brighton looked like a side with all of the attributes that the Reds once had.
Klopp hasn’t been blameless by any means, but Liverpool’s players simply aren’t what they used to be. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been hot-and-cold since the Champions League defeat and even Mohammed Salah has looked a shell of himself since penning a lucrative new deal in 2022.
The End Of A Cycle
Football is cyclical and all great teams must eventually ride off into the sunset and allow the new breed to take their place. Manchester United, Barcelona, Arsenal, Inter Milan, Juventus, and Bayern Munich have all, at one point or another, been considered the best team in the world, only for the generation to end. Liverpool are certainly no exception to Father Time, and the emergence of Man United, City, Arsenal, and even Newcastle United as Premier League big-hitters has pushed Liverpool down the pecking order.
It’s ironic that the nail in the coffin for Liverpool’s 2022/23 season occurred against Real Madrid, the team who they have failed to beat in their last 14 meetings, but football works in mysterious ways sometimes. Nobody questions the Reds’ status as a club, but their time in the sun looks like it’s coming to end for now.
Upon his arrival as Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp stated his aim was to ‘’turn doubters into believers’’. Seven-and-a-half years later, and the German has to do exactly that once-again.
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