Luis Diaz‘s spark seems to have deserted him for Liverpool this season, but is the Colombian’s dip a short-term problem or a more concerning issue?
The form of Diaz is arguably the biggest worry, though.
The impact he made when he moved to Anfield in January 2022 was season-changing, with the Colombian reinvigorating a flagging Liverpool team.
When the winger came in, the Reds were nine points adrift of Man City and in unconvincing form, but he played a big part in them winning both domestic cups and almost clinching a quadruple.
Diaz injected so much life into Liverpool’s season, and while six goals in 26 appearances weren’t relentless numbers, it felt as though a new superstar had arrived.
The knee injury suffered initially at Arsenal last October halted him in his tracks, however, leading to a six-month absence from the team.
Return from injury
This season, Diaz has really struggled to get going at any point, and he is part of an attack that currently feels more like a group of individuals than a unit.
Watch a video compilation of him at the end of the 2021/22 season and it’s like a different player, constantly running at and often beating defenders, dynamic, quick feet and direct.
Thomas Partey you have blood on your hands you criminal. Luis Diaz was the best left winger in the world in 2022
— ^ (@Maccaaaaa10) October 24, 2023
Now, three goals and no assists in 16 league appearances is a disappointing return, and he isn’t beating or attempting to dribble past defenders anywhere near as much.
Against United, for example, Diaz failed to complete any of his three dribbles, won two out of eight ground duels and lost possession 10 times.
Granted, the form of others such as Nunez may not be helping, but he has lost that spark that may made him such a joy to watch when he first joined.
This is someone who it was hoped would replace Sadio Mane, but he is not close to hitting the world-class level that the Senegalese did for six years, scoring 120 goals in 269 appearances.
Comparing him to such a legendary Liverpool figure might be unfair, but these are the calibre of players the Reds need if they are to become the best again.
What’s behind Diaz’s struggles?
Of course, there are some clear reasons to explain Diaz’s noticeable dip this season and it would be unfair to ignore them.
The severity of his knee injury means he could still be working his way back to full sharpness, not to mention trusting his own body.
Diaz looks like a player who doesn’t believe he can beat his man currently, and that explosive turn of pace is lacking.
“It is not surprising that you have to get to know your knee again, so to speak. But now I don’t notice it anymore. I haven’t had to change much in my way of playing, I have the feeling that I can do everything again.”
There is also the situation surrounding the kidnapping of his father to take into account, which is going to take a major toll mentally.
Diaz has gone through an unbearable time in his life – the character he showed in scoring a late equaliser at Luton during that period should never be forgotten – and it could still be affecting him.
While his dad is thankfully safe and enjoying Christmas in Liverpool, the Reds attacker’s primary focus may still understandably be on family over football.
He and Robertson have often clicked together, with the Scot making constant overlapping runs to create space for his teammate, and it is no surprise that he has been below-par with the left-back out of the team.
There is also the possibility that Jurgen Klopp has tweaked Diaz’s playing style and tweaked that direct, unpredictable style.
It still feels too early judge that, considering he hasn’t been back for too long, but has the German made him more functional than flamboyant, like Pep Guardiola does with his many of his Man City players?
Either way, there are enough mitigating circumstances to excuse Diaz’s dropoff.
What next for Liverpool’s No.7?
Football fans love an overreaction, so it is no surprise to see some supporters calling for Diaz to be moved on next summer.
It is too soon to be writing his Anfield obituary, though, and he needs to be judged more at the end of this season.
By then, he will have had more time on the pitch to overcome the knee issue, the situation with his father will be more settled and Robertson will be back in the starting lineup.
The Merseysiders need a lot more from Diaz if they are to win the Premier League title, however, in terms of attacking output.
Goals and assists need to return, as does that effortless ability to beat a man on both the inside and outside, and he must avoid being on the periphery of the action so often.
This is a crossroads moment for Diaz at Liverpool, and considering he turns 27 in January, now is the time for him to kick on and show that this is just a lull.
He is a special footballer in full flow and a return to his best would be a huge shot in the arm for Klopp.