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A Crisis of Confidence at Liverpool?

A Crisis of Confidence at Liverpool?

During the 2022/23 season, one of the biggest stories has been Liverpool’s early struggles, with the Reds sitting ninth in the Premier League table with just 16 points from 12 matches.

This comes just five months after Liverpool were chasing a quadruple of trophies in the 2021/22 season, an achievement that would've been unmatched if Jurgen Klopp’s side had pulled it off.

Here we take a look at why Liverpool are so far off the pace in the Premier League after their recent shock losses to Nottingham Forest and Leeds United.

Liverpool’s Midfield Issues

It is well known that Liverpool were in the market for the likes of Aurelien Tchouameni and even Jude Bellingham, however, their failure to land either saw them loan in Arthur Melo from Juventus on Deadline Day, an approach which saw FSG receive criticism from the Anfield faithful, having only brought in Calvin Ramsay, Fabio Carvalho and Darwin Nunez on permanent transfers.

Although Nunez himself cost the Reds £85m, this was subsidized by the sale of Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich for around £30m. On top of this, Liverpool managed to sell Neco Williams, Takumi Minamino, Marko Grujic and Ben Davies for a combined £44m, meaning that their net spend finished at around £22m for the summer transfer window.

Since then, Liverpool have been left short, as Naby Keita is set to miss 19 matches, whilst Arthur has been ruled out until early January. Meanwhile, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has suffered persistent injuries in the past, leading to him being made surplus to requirements and not registered for the Reds’ Champions League squad.

Thiago Alcantara is a vital cog in Liverpool’s system, he has missed seven matches this season with a hamstring injury, as well as an ear infection. The Spaniard allows the Reds to have high ball retention figures due to his passing range and capability to dictate the tempo of games.

Meanwhile, Jordan Henderson and James Milner are 32 and 36 years old and are showing some signs of wear after years of high-intensity football. Ideally, they would be used as squad players at this stage in their careers, however, they have played 1,469 minutes of first-team football between them already.

On top of this, Fabinho has a 6.63 average rating from WhoScored across 18 first-team appearances, averaging just 1.8 tackles, 1.2 fouls and one interception per Premier League game, showing that the 29-year-old Brazilian is offering little defensive protection.

Liverpool’s midfield is vital when it comes to pressing up the pitch to regain possession in dangerous areas on top of providing defensive protection, however, due to their age and lack of energy, they have now exposed their defence. At the weekend against Leeds, Liverpool were outran by 11km.

Liverpool’s XG Statistics

Staggeringly, Liverpool’s XG created stands at 25.37 goals, this is the third most created in the division, only bettered by Newcastle United and Manchester City.

At present, Liverpool are underperforming this by 2.37 goals, as they have scored 23. However, what must be taken into account is the fact that they thrashed Bournemouth 9-0 from an XG of 3.81, so their finishing statistics are perhaps worse than they look on paper.

Star signing Nunez has scored just six times in 14 games from 42 shots across all competitions, resulting in the Uruguayan coming under fire from British pundits, however, Roberto Firmino stands as the Reds' top Premier League goalscorer with six goals in 11 games.

In terms of XG conceded, remarkably, Liverpool have conceded 19.84 XG, but, have conceded just 15 times, which is staggering and also displays how good Alisson Becker’s form has been during the 2022/23 season. Their XG against is the sixth-worst in the division, this is over ten XG worse off than Manchester City’s record of 9.03 - the best in the Premier League.

Defensive Errors

At the start of the season, Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold came under huge scrutiny, having made errors against the likes of Fulham, being caught high up the pitch against Crystal Palace, as well as being poor away at arch-rivals Manchester United, as the Reds failed to win any of their opening three league matches.

On top of this, the England right-back put in further sloppy displays against the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion, as Leandro Trossard scored a hat-trick to earn his side a point in a 3-3 draw at Anfield. Although he has stepped up his game a little bit of late, perhaps a lack of high-quality competition at right-back has made the 24-year-old a little complacent.

Joe Gomez was the most recent Liverpool player to make a defensive error at the weekend, as after just four minutes, his lax back pass gave Leeds United forward Rodrigo Moreno a cheap goal to put the Whites 1-0 up, as they went on to win at Anfield for the first time since 2001.

Simple errors such as this have plagued Liverpool, as ultimately, they have found themselves chasing games on a frequent basis this season. Their loss to Leeds was the eighth time in 12 matches that Liverpool had fallen behind in a Premier League game this campaign - this is simply unsustainable.

What Liverpool Must do to fix the Situation

Of late, Liverpool have been trying a narrow diamond in midfield, with the likes of Harvey Elliott involved - the 19-year-old has been a bright spark so far this season.

However, they must invest in another midfielder in January if they are to salvage their campaign. But, this does beg the question of who should they purchase?

Perhaps someone along the lines of Konrad Laimer of RB Leipzig could be on the cards as the Austrian’s contract expires at the end of the 2022/23 season. The 25-year-old is a high-energy and intensity player that has been coached by Ralf Rangnick at club and country, meaning that he would be used to a style of football that optimises the gegenpress.

A transfer of this nature would at least get Liverpool through to the end of the season and offer another solution. After all, Klopp has signed players previously coached by Rangnick such as Joel Matip and more.

Another factor that will determine many clubs' positions come the end of the season is the World Cup in Qatar, as this may effectively give players a mental reset when Premier League football returns just after Christmas. This could also allow Liverpool to have more numbers available squad-wise which could be of great benefit to Klopp.