A run of three straight defeats in the Premier League means Liverpool head into this weekend’s clash with Merseyside rivals Everton with their season in a state of crisis. The Reds’ title challenge has crumbled – they are barely within sight of the runaway leaders Manchester City – and there were even rumours last weekend that Jurgen Klopp might quit.
The German refuted those suggestions ahead of a Champions League tie against RB Leipzig, which Liverpool won handily to prompt hopes they have turned a corner. But with an epic battle for Champions League qualification on the cards – a resurgent Chelsea are suddenly looking strong – Liverpool have a lot of work to do if they are to save their season. Here are a few of the things Liverpool need to do if 2020-21 is not to be a total aberration.
5 ways Liverpool can salvage their season
Win the derby
The next game is the most important one. It is one of football’s most common cliches, but that does not mean it is untrue. At times Liverpool have been guilty of looking too many games in advance this season, but the visit of Everton on Saturday should focus their minds somewhat.
A spikier affair than usual is expected after the serious injuries suffered by Virgil van Dijk and Thiago Alcantara in rash challenges by Jordan Pickford and Richarlison in a recent derby.
Everton’s record at Anfield is truly dire, with the Toffees recording no victories away to their local rivals since 1999. It has been over 20 years of derby misery for Everton fans and they will be desperate to right that wrong, especially as a top-four finish remains a possibility.
Put simply, Liverpool simply have to win the derby this weekend as a draw would not be enough to get their season back on track.
Cut out Alisson’s errors
Alisson has been a wonderful signing for Liverpool but his form has been poor of late, though he’s not the only Premier League goalkeeper struggling. Two bad mistakes in the home loss to Manchester City effectively ended the Reds’ slim title hopes, but that game is not the only time he has been at fault in recent times.
A risk-taking goalkeeper like Alisson is always likely to cost the odd goal, but there have been too many occasions this season where the Brazilian has let his team down.
Alisson returning to his usual imperious form, as he perhaps should as the second most expensive goalkeeper ever, would be a big boost for Liverpool over the second half of the season, though it should be noted he has not played behind a settled defence.
Better luck with injuries
There is not much Klopp can do about the injury situation at Liverpool other than hope things get better in the next few months.
None of Liverpool’s senior centre-backs at the start of the season – Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip – are expected to be able to play again this term. Diogo Jota’s absence has also been painful given the brilliant form the Portuguese forward was in immediately after his surprise switch from Wolves.
The bench Klopp named against Leipzig was telling, with two goalkeepers joined by a smattering of fringe players. The remaining spaces were taken up by mostly untested youngsters.
The lack of game-changing options was notable and while other Premier League clubs have struggled with injuries this season, few have been hit as hard as Liverpool.
Move midfielders out of defence
Being without Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip forced Klopp to use midfielders such as Fabinho and Jordan Henderson at the back, but he has better options now. January arrivals Ozan Kaban and Ben Davies should be given a chance to impress, which would allow Fabinho and Henderson to return to the middle of the park.
The balance of Liverpool’s side has been off for most of the season, partly due to being without the steadying influence of their captain, along with the defensive nous of Fabinho.
Thiago’s form since returning from injury has been mediocre but if Liverpool can start to put out something close to their strongest midfield again, their results should improve immediately.
Bring back the fun factor
At their best in recent seasons, Liverpool played with a smile on their faces. That has not been the case this term, with players seemingly struggling with the pressure of being champions.
A factor is surely that Liverpool were unable to celebrate winning their first title of the Premier League era with their fans. The success, as great as it was, must have felt a little hollow given the unusual circumstances of a trophy lift at an empty Anfield.
Klopp has always been prone to moodiness but his temper has been faster to surface than usual this season, with that spikiness rubbing off on his side. The reasons behind Klopp’s changing mood are personal and understandable, but his team needs to feel the love again if Liverpool are going to salvage this season.