Three defeats in four games, hey? No wonder certain sectors are having a mini-meltdown: it has been a full year since Liverpool had anything like this run of results.
It was never going to last forever. Football is cyclical and footballers are human; eventually, fortune or form would dictate a defeat was forthcoming.
And most fans could have lived with that. Even if it was disappointing in its manner, even if Watford, of all teams, weren’t the ones we’d choose to lose to (as if any Red was choosing a defeat at all this term), there’s still an acceptance that the madness we have managed this season will long be remembered more than a single defeat.
But then it turned into back-to-back defeats, and then people started pointing out the flaws which have been prevalent of late.
Three defeats in four is tough to take at the best of times…and that’s what this is, for Liverpool.
The best of times. Perhaps the upcoming run is a chance to remind a few of that, closer to home.
Turn the clocks back
The Reds have barely tasted defeat since then, and hadn’t at all in league play, absurdly. The magnitude of that particular achievement still hasn’t quite been made enough of.
But the poor run, such as it was, did not start and end with two losses: the Reds went on to draw five of the next nine, including no less than three 0-0 scorelines. Goals were a problem suddenly, for a team who had been winning with frequency and scoring with ease.
Stop me if you’ve heard this story before.
There aren’t any secrets here to reveal, there aren’t any hidden double meanings or clues as to why the drop-off has happened at almost the same time of year.
Sometimes teams go through tough runs and drop-offs occur – that’s football.
But even so, we can perhaps identify one mitigating factor, if not outright excuse.
Since the winter break, Liverpool haven’t really clicked into gear in terms of performance level, but maybe part of that is that four of the five games we’ve played in that short time have been away from home.
Again, it’s not an outright reason – it can’t be, after winning 12 of 13 away league fixtures prior to the trip to Vicarage Road – but it might be a factor in not hitting top gear.
The matches have come quickly, with little training time in between, and after having had a break away from the first-team environment, perhaps the extra travel, the reduced preparation time, the injuries and lack of consistent line-ups have all contributed to the sluggish play, the messy defending, the overall drop in standards.
It’s hard for teams to get rhythm and fluidity if there’s no familiarity among the players, and while they obviously haven’t forgotten how to play with each other after a mere two-week break, it’s not a coincidence that we made such a great start to the season at a time when Klopp barely ever changed the starting XI.
Here we’ve had alterations in midfield, centre-back partnerships changing, rotation for the FA Cup and whatever else to contend with.
Add in being an ever-bigger scalp for teams in front of their own fans, the quick turnarounds and constant travel to East Anglia, Madrid, Merseyside, the London outskirts and back to London once more…and maybe, just maybe, that has been a drain on the team’s collective mind as much as anything.
After all, factoring in the youth team win over Shrewsbury and the winter break, a Liverpool first team has played just one game at home since February 1 – an unusually long spell of five weeks without regular Anfield visits.
The good news in that case is, three of the next four are at home. Two are rather important.
Liverpool need to get back to winning ways pronto, to stop any self-doubt creeping in, to stop the tiresome headlines and discussion points and also to give the fans the iron-clad belief in that most fabled of football legends: The Power Of Anfield.
Beat Bournemouth and the match-goers will be all-in for Atletico in midweek. Fail to produce a performance or a result and there really will be worries, justified ones to an extent, that it’s rather coming off the rails at the wrong moment.
There’s no question of the league title – we’ll wrap that up along the way regardless. But we want to keep proving we’re the best, we want to defend the crowns we win.
Those games we cannot go into without our hard-earned aura and our identity.
For that, perhaps we need Anfield: less travel time means more options for Klopp and his coaches, more rest time for the players and perhaps the familiarity of the stadium where the haven’t been beaten, still, since September 2018, and only that one occasion in the last two full years.
Fortress Anfield has inspired us to one-off results previously; perhaps this time we use those same home comforts to restore our entire sense of ongoing, unbeatable self.