Two games in and for many it is the end of the world. The season is over, and we are already too far behind. We played poorly at Fulham and still should have won. We should have had the game won after 30 minutes against Palace and we only managed a point. Next, we go to Old Trafford and no doubt the alarm bells are going off for some people. After all, if we lose there, United will go ahead of us… The word crisis will be whispered this week. And the game next Monday will be hyped out of all proportion. The titanic battle for survival.
Yet what is the reality and what is after causing the starting slump for Liverpool?
Firstly, we have only played two games. There is no need for knee-jerk reactions. There are a few areas that need to be addressed though. Towards the end of last season, we had the uncomfortable knack of letting in the first goal. This has continued into this season. Could it be a case of teams figuring out how our midfield plays? Maybe the time has come to change up our formation. Could we go to a 4-4-2, or a 4-2-3-1? Would that help to facilitate a stronger midfield, and play more to the strengths of Nunez?
The Midfield Conundrum
Are Thiago, Henderson, and Fabinho really the players to lead us through another season? We had a different midfield tonight and we were found short once again. Much has been made of the need for a new midfielder. But what can you do from Klopp’s perspective? He has obviously been promised money to sign Jude Bellingham, so why would he sign a stopgap now for 40-50 million, when he can get the player, he really wants next summer? We placed our faith in the manager when we pursued Van Dijk, and maybe we must place our faith in him again as we pursue Bellingham. Signing a stop-gap now may mean the funds for Bellingham may not be available next summer.
But can we afford to wait? However, that could cause a few nerves this season and the personnel available may sometimes be in short supply. We have some great players, but the unfortunate reality is that Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago, Ketia, and Chamberlain cannot be relied upon to play 10-20 consecutive games. It was great to see Phillips play center back tonight, yet the reality is that he is number 5 in the pecking order. This is not to single him out or to say he is a bad player, but it highlights the truly fragile nature of our squad.
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Diaz Statement and Nunez’s Mistake
Much has been made of Mane leaving, and much will be made this week. He was a great player, who had an amazing second half of last season. Yet the reality is that Mane was not the Mane we remember for the first half of last season or the season before. He was not as consistent in finishing and the different moves he would try to pull off did not always work. Will we miss him? Yes, but maybe not as much as people make out. Luis Diaz was a revelation when he came in last season and his wonder goal tonight may well be the goal that truly launches him for Liverpool, much like the Mane goal in his first season away to Arsenal.
Darwin Nunez got himself into trouble tonight. He was foolish and made a mistake. Yet, he also showed fight and passion. Was he wound up? Yes. Did the defender fall like a ton of bricks? Yes. Will Nunez learn from this? Most definitely! Again tonight he got into good positions and had chances. During the early days of Fabinho, one Irish TV pundit thought he was a disaster on the pitch. By the end of his first season, he had developed into one of the best midfielders around. Andy Robertson took a while to settle in also and is now regarded as one of the best defenders in the world. Maybe, just maybe this sending-off will be a blessing in disguise as it may allow Nunez further time to settle in and to learn the Liverpool and Klopp way.
So is it all over, already?
Definitely not. Tonight, was not pleasant, but it may well be the rocket the team needs before going to Old Trafford. United will be like a wounded animal after their weekend. But the reality is that we will feel wounded also, and I know which side I’d rather be on for that one. The season is a marathon and not a sprint. Man City will drop points. We will drop them also. But the reality is that if we beat City at Anfield, we will only be a point behind them and ready to pounce. Keep the faith. Don’t lose hope. This year is going to be a great rollercoaster, and while we may have made a slow start, I am sure we will be at the front of the ride soon enough.