Liverpool read off a similar script against Fulham as they succumbed to yet another Anfield defeat, leaving many to question if they are done with the season.
With a lack of threat in the final third once more and mistakes at the back duly punished, Jurgen Klopp‘s side sunk to a sixth successive Anfield defeat.
A total of seven changes did mix things up but fresh legs were not enough to dig Liverpool out of their hole, leaving their league season to continue to drift in the wrong direction.
The Champions League in mid-week will come as a welcome change and the hope will be that it can act as a bright spot in an otherwise season to forget.
Here, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) and Jack Lusby (@LusbyJack) are joined by Brian Irvine (@btirvine) to discuss the latest defeat and if there is anything left to feel from the hollow season.
BRIAN: I felt Klopp got the team selection wrong in making so many changes.
Yes, the squad needs to be managed with consideration of other fixtures but I didn’t think against a somewhat of a resurgent Fulham was the time to do so, especially given the current mire the Reds find themselves in.
The decision to leave the regular starters out (particularly Trent) only to be forced to introduce them later when chasing the game defeated the purpose of resting them in the first place.
A squad struggling for form requires the best available XI starting each game; a team capable of killing a game early and resting players later on.
JOANNA: Firstly, a slight positive to mention is Naby Keita – far and away the standout.
But it just doesn’t look like we’ve tried to change anything of note, it was mostly the same formation, the same lack of creative spark and mistakes being punished once more.
Why we aren’t altering the high line or using Ben Davies in any way is confusing to say the least.
We’re not anywhere close to a ‘Klopp Out’ discussion but he obviously has to take responsibility and it just feels as though we’re banging our head against the wall and just expecting something to change in the process.
Six straight defeats at Anfield, no goal from open play in more than 11 hours. Ouch.
JACK: I agree with Brian in that this particularly rotational trend may not be the best-advised at present.
Klopp has often opted for his strongest side for an extended run before making almost wholesale changes for one fixture, but given the lack of form and confidence, a piecemeal approach may be more suitable.
The constant injuries may not have allowed this, of course, but Neco, Rhys, Keita and Shaq have been more or less available throughout, while the same can be said of Ox and Tsimikas.
Not using either Tsimikas or Davies is baffling to me. I’m convinced Davies will never play for Liverpool, and that both will be sold in the summer.
BRIAN: The worst thing about recent games for me is the lack of intensity we’ve come to know and love from Klopp’s men.
I’m not sure if it’s mainly a personnel issue or simply the boys are just spent.
And the continual high line the team employs has of course paid huge dividends in the past but without the relentless pressing that enables it to work so well, I’m not sure this will be the last time we see such a result this season.
JOANNA: I have to agree with Brian on this, it just felt we were lacking any real fight that we’ve come to know.
I think effort and fight are two separate issues and I have no objection to Klopp’s statement that “my boys wanted to win games” but there was no aggression nor clear burning desire when things got tough to turn it around.
It’s a non-negotiable and while I can relate, see below, the champions are just withering away and it’s hard to watch.
JACK: Onto the performance, then.
I think there is a clear void of confidence during this run – and understandably so – but the manner in which Liverpool are unable to put their words into practice is concerning.
After each defeat, it seems another player comes out and says ‘we need to do this’ or ‘we can’t keep doing this’, but nothing seems to change.
Perhaps they just need the wind to change and luck to go in their favour, because at the moment it appears there is little else they can do.
And is there any feeling left in the season?
BRIAN: My hopes of Liverpool getting anything positive out of the season evaporated weeks ago, to be honest.
It’s mainly about damage limitation at this point and ensuring at least a fourth-placed finish, which seems like more of a distant possibility than ever after the last two fixtures.
Maybe a few players returning from injury will allow for a cause for encouragement in the Champions League. The best, realistically, I think we can hope for is that the squad learns from the experience and are hardened by it, especially our younger players.
As we all know, we wouldn’t be in this mess without such horrid luck with injuries that have permeated problems though the entire spine of the team.
I feel so often it’s not considered the ‘right’ mentality to offer such an excuse, but this season it’s simply a massive and demonstrable reason for the decline.
JOANNA: I’m just so numb to it all, to be honest. Ice cold. I’ve turned off the emotion because it just doesn’t feel like football.
Of course, if results were going our way it would not be all doom and gloom but a season without fans and its heartbeat was never going to elicit the same emotions.
People talked about our title-winning season as one needing an asterisk, but this is on an entirely different planet.
Do I wish to feel this way? No. But Liverpool‘s woes and performances are compounding what is a really tough period of time and I’ve come to expect the worst now and I’ve made peace with it.
While the return of fans is not going to fix all our problems, it will at least add colour to the black and white landscape and I cannot wait for when that time arrives.
JACK: This season has long been a write-off, and beyond Liverpool‘s own fortunes this campaign has been a relentless bore for me.
Without fans, and with games seemingly every day and long into the evening, it has become a chore to watch the Premier League – and 27 goals over 16 games last week is proof the ‘product’ is suffering.
Even when Liverpool were winning I struggled to get myself motivated for games as they were invariably dull.
This is not football as it was intended, and set to the backdrop of a ridiculous season in which injuries have plagued the Reds more than ever, it’s barely worth pandering to.