Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at West Ham on Monday means they have now dropped seven points from their last five and allowed Manchester City to catch right up with them, despite the champions faltering themselves against Newcastle and Crystal Palace.
Their lacklustre showing at the London Stadium this week followed an equally uninspiring performance against Leicester – who, like West Ham, held them to a 1-1 draw – and a nail-biting 4-3 win against Crystal Palace. Being knocked out of the FA Cup by Wolves may prove to be a blessing in disguise in the Reds’ bid for the title but it still remains a poor result in a poor run.
What can Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool do, then, to ensure they nip this bad run in the bud and find a quick route back to top form? Read on to find out what we, here at Football Fancast, would do if we were in the charismatic German’s shoes…
None of the Reds’ midfield three were on form against the Hammers but Naby Keita must take much of the flack for his lack of imagination in the final third. This wasn’t the first time that the 31-cap Guinean international has failed to justify his price tag.
Using WhoScored‘s statistics, the midfielder has averaged a match rating of 6.45 in the last four games, while his assist against Crystal Palace was his first in 18 Premier League appearances, in which time he has completed 676 passes – a poor return for a number 8 billed as one of the most well-rounded in Europe.
Keita hasn’t cut the mustard recently and Gini Wijnaldum hardly has to try to get the nod ahead of him.
Klopp has experimented with different formations this year as he flirts with a 4-2-3-1 and sometimes a 4-4-2, whereas last season he swore by the 4-3-3 which allowed his team to press effectively.
The 4-2-3-1 accommodates summer signing Shaqiri, who is vying for the title of their best acquisition this season, and enables Mohamed Salah to play centre-stage.
Although he is naturally a winger, Shaqiri’s flair could make him the central midfielder to replace Keita and finally fill the creative void left by Philippe Coutinho’s departure just over a year ago.
The little Swiss has a hammer of a left foot and could surely learn the role. Shifting the 27-year-old inside would mean Klopp can continue with his tried and tested 4-3-3 and Liverpool’s front three would go back to their old ways – Sadio Mane has chalked up just one assist this season while Roberto Firmino is far more effective playing as a striker that can drop deep, rather than starting in that deeper role.
The former Monaco midfielder was at the heart of defence alongside the ever-present Virgil van Dijk in a hard-fought 1-0 win over Brighton in January and impressed, recording 5 clearances and 2 blocks.
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Height is a commodity in the Reds midfield and by taking the 6 foot 2 Brazilian out in favour of deploying him in defence may see Liverpool lose some physicality in the middle of the park – nothing that the industrious James Milner cannot make up for, though.
Klopp may have been forced into deploying Fabinho as a centre-back due to the absences of Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren, but perhaps this should become more than a one-off. He’s certainly seemed more reliable this season than Joel Matip – who he kept out of the lineup against the Seagulls. Perhaps this is the way forward while the previously impressive Gomez is out of action.