Liverpool’s draw at Chelsea showed both sides of Jurgen Klopp‘s team, but it was the midfield battle that drew a lot of attention as it struggled to nullify the hosts.
For many, the midfield all but picked itself against Chelsea but James Milner‘s name in the XI was a surprise as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita were fit and available.
In the early stages, the 35-year-old was his usual no-nonsense self but quickly tired next to Fabinho – who is only recently back from Covid – and Jordan Henderson, who both similarly waned.
They afforded Chelsea the time and space to take advantage of the Reds’ high line and let runners loose on the backline, subsequently relinquishing control.
Injuries and Covid cases have not helped matters but the inability to lock the game down and dictate it from midfield has proved worrisome in recent weeks, both in and out of possession.
It proves damaging for both the defence and the attack and Thiago‘s absence throughout the season has not helped matters, but the Chelsea outing was one that got fans talking about reinforcements and recent midfield chaos:
Liverpool simply have to spend money in the next 12 months. They have to refresh the squad in midfield and forward positions.
Thinking about the long term, like the season after next, I think that could be the sell-by date of a few of these players (at the latest). So, act now.
— Ben Kelly (@bkelly776) January 2, 2022
Imagine having the worst relationship with the best person. That’s what it feels like watching Liverpool play game of the season contenders consistently and drop points in each of them.
With AFCON departures, we now have no midfield, no attack, just vibes. #LFC
— Tushar (@tushar_chawla) January 3, 2022
The CL/PL-winning version of Klopp’s Liverpool were masters at churning out mundane wins, often by a single goal. Not always exhilarating but ruthlessly efficient. The current incarnation is the total opposite; frequently involved in thrilling contests, a magnet to chaos.
— Joel Rabinowitz (@joel_archie) January 2, 2022
Henderson and Milner in midfield, and Liverpool embracing total chaos with zero control. It’s not 2022, it’s 2017.
— Josh Williams (@DistanceCovered) January 2, 2022
I must have watched a completely different game to everyone yesterday but I thought Fabinho had one of his worst games! Henderson and Milner have been slated but not one mention of how many times he gave the ball away.
— peter kilshaw (@peterk1603) January 3, 2022
Much of the media still like to think of Klopp’s Liverpool as a ‘heavy metal’ side but their greatest periods of success have come when they’ve showcased composure & control to go with attacking flair.
This iteration of #LFC only has that when Fabinho & Thiago both play.
— Hari Sethi (@Hari_Sethi) January 2, 2022
Think this didn’t tell us anything new about the season so far
Liverpool’s midfield availability the main downfall, doesn’t function without Thiago+Fabinho
Chelsea and Liverpool both brilliant but can’t match City’s consistency
Salah is the best player in the league
— Olli Emmerson (@Oliver_Emmerson) January 2, 2022
Liverpool might win this, but they have a serious midfield issue this season, for me. Availability is part of it (who saw that coming?) but I also think they look way too open since asking the midfielders to create attacking triangles out wide during pre-season.
— David Lynch (@dmlynch) January 2, 2022
It’s funny because you’ll usually associate a midfield of Hendo Fab Milner as energetic and duel monsters, Kante and Kova absolutely battered them, Hendo & Milner in particular are finished at Liverpool football club. They have been for a while now
— S (@9squeeze) January 2, 2022
It's true that players are always better when they don't play, but Liverpool really miss Thiago.
No one else — bar Keita and he's not available enough — can play through pressure, with feints, dribbles or passes, like him.
You can't expect the defence to be perfect
— John O'Sullivan (@NotoriousJOS) January 2, 2022
Overall I think that’s the worst midfield display I’ve seen in a big 6 game this season from Milner-Henderson. The lack of control after snatching a 2-0 lead was glaring. The front 3 carried Liverpool into the lead but the midfield have (likely) taken them out of the title race.
— Raj Chohan (@rajsinghchohan) January 2, 2022
At a time when near perfection is required, Liverpool’s inability to display the ruthless edge that took them to the title in 2019/20 is costing them dearly against the conquering Man City.
The midfield is an area that needs attention and it will have to be a priority in the summer.
The return of Curtis Jones and soon Harvey Elliott will boost options but work needs to be done with plenty of silverware still on the line this season.