Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp begins yet another week wondering how to correct problems with his side after their latest baffling defeat.
The 3-0 loss to Wolves has left the Reds down in 10th spot in the Premier League and was a third successive away defeat in the competition. It is also only the third time since 1993 they have conceded three goals in three consecutive away matches in the top flight.
An aggregate scoreline of 9-1 against Brentford, Brighton and Wolves lays bare the current state of a Liverpool side who last season were chasing an unprecedented quadruple but the reasons for their problems are many.
The PA news agency takes a look at what is going wrong.
What has happened at Liverpool?
They appear to have become embroiled in a perfect storm. Coming off the back of a physically and mentally draining 63-game season in which they almost won four trophies, a lack of investment in key areas, added to a number of injuries, has contributed to a drop in performances, which has led to results taking a dive and that has caused confidence to plummet. And the cycle just repeats.
Who is at fault?
Responsibility has to be at the top of the club, starting with owners Fenway Sports Group, but also Klopp and his recruitment team.
FSG have provided £150million for five transfers in the last year, which is more than Premier League leaders Arsenal and Manchester City but less than Manchester United and Newcastle – the current top four – in the same period. However, those signings have made the team top heavy with four being forwards.
Thiago Alcantara, in September 2020, is the only midfield signing in the last four-and-a-half years. Borussia Dortmund’s £100million-rated Jude Bellingham remains the summer priority target but with the remedial work needed it is no surprise FSG are looking for additional outside investment.
So are the players are excused?
Absolutely not. The majority of this group have won the biggest trophies in club football and should be doing better than they are, even if age is starting to catch up with the midfield in particular.
A squad hailed as ‘mentality monsters’ appears to have lost the drive needed to impose themselves in games and also rectify situations when things go wrong. Since the 2018/19 PL season, Liverpool’s win percentage in games where they have conceded first has dropped from 71 to 17 in the current campaign.
What do the statistics show?
Wolves’ three goals mean Liverpool have already conceded more this season than last, and that is reflected in the number of shots on target they have faced – 104 already, perhaps a symptom of that midfield malaise. That is 5.2 per game, up from 2.8 last season, and just one more game at that rate would bring it up to both last season’s 108 and the 109 they allowed in their 2019-20 title-winning season. Even in a relative down year in between, finishing third in 2020-21, they allowed only 3.7 shots per game.
Can it be fixed in time to save their season?
There is huge work to be done all over the pitch. Liverpool’s top scorer in the league since the campaign resumed after the World Cup is Leicester defender Wout Faes, who scored two own goals at Anfield in late December.
The return to training of long-term injured Diogo Jota may help that aspect, but Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez (both one goal in eight) need to find form. Virgil van Dijk is also back this week after injury and that cannot come soon enough for a back four which has looked porous and ponderous. Dropping Jordan Henderson and Fabinho from midfield was the right decision but with the solution still far from solved another re-jig may be necessary.
What does Klopp do now?
The Liverpool manager has a full week to prepare for the Merseyside derby at home to Everton next Monday, which is a rarity for him in recent seasons. Klopp often complains about not having enough time to train but they had a full week before Wolves and still put in one of their worst performances, which suggests tactics and preparation are not necessarily the issue.
Shattered confidence needs to be rebuilt and an attitude which can make them competitive again in games restored ahead of one of their most closely-contested fixtures of the season against neighbours whose own confidence has received a new manager boost and will arrive looking to expose any weakness.