Liverpool were caught in a perfect storm

Sebaran :

It’s been a crazy season, it’s been a weird season; eerie but entertaining, full of shocks and injuries, but ravaged by a virus and tarnished by racism and VAR.

For all that, some good football has broken out and Manchester City are well-placed to make it their season by winning everything.

But even they have not dazzled as they did in their previous title-winning campaigns.

Which is why the story of the season so far has to be Liverpool – albeit for the last reason the Reds would have wanted.

People love to see giants fall and theirs has been all the more newsworthy as no one saw it coming.

Just over a year ago, everything in Jurgen Klopp’s garden smelled of roses. His all-conquering team were exactly that – European champions, world champions and about to become English champions.

Klopp, himself, could do no wrong and had just signed a new contract to keep him at Anfield for another four years.

They had squeezed a trip to the World Club championship in the Gulf at the busiest time of the season and managed to come back with the trophy.

And even the youth team, which they had to field because of a Carabao Cup clash, showed there were real talents coming through despite a 5-0 defeat.

After that, a slightly older second-string team had knocked a near full-strength Everton out of the FA Cup. The senior side had thrashed the Toffees 5-2 a month earlier.

Off the field, they had snapped up Takumi Minamino for just £7m, the cut-price release clause being spotted by Liverpool’s shrewd director of football, Michael Edwards.

Even if the Japanese was ultimately disappointed and was loaned out, at the time it seemed like an astute piece of business. Another sign the club was in good hands – on and off the field.

Whether they were paying world record fees or picking up bargains, the perception was that Liverpool were smarter than the rest in the transfer market.

With the club as well run as this and the team over 20 points ahead in the table, what could go wrong?

Liverpool’s global diaspora looked forward to an era of dominance not seen since the heady days of Bob Paisley. Then came Covid-19.

Among the countless inquests that are being held following the catastrophic 4-1 home defeat to City ended any hope of retaining the crown, the virus gets its share of the blame.

The absence of crowds probably hit Liverpool hardest of all given the symbiotic relationship between their players and fans. So, too, the crammed schedule which was not designed for the Reds’ heavy metal pressing game and numerically light and ageing squad.

That said, you don’t need to be a super sleuth to figure out that a pandemic of a different kind was the principal reason – the one that crippled their centrebacks.

Every fan knows that central defence is the key to any successful side. It’s the foundation on which the team is built, and we only have to look at the effect Virgil van Dijk’s arrival had in 2018 to see the difference such solidity makes.

His absence this time was always going to be huge but when Joe Gomez followed him in being out for the season, Liverpool were never going to be as sure-footed again.

Although Jordan Henderson and Fabinho camouflaged the loss to some extent, the ripple effect was felt throughout the side. Midfield was not as vibrant without those two winning back the ball and the whole side struggled.

And then when Joel Matip, who, like Gomez, might struggle to get health insurance, was also gone for the season, that was more or less that.

But it’s too simplistic to say injuries were the only reason. What is worrying Reds’ fans is that the team seldom reached the heights of a year ago even before the jinx struck.

Perhaps, they were due a blip after a relentless couple of years with minimal rotation. It seemed that Klopp recognised this by bringing in fresh legs in Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota, but both have also been out for long spells at different times.

Now, there are calls for a wider revamp with many good judges claiming this side has peaked.

They laboured over the line to lift the Premier League trophy and suffered a 7-2 defeat at Aston Villa with their Dutch defensive rock still in place.

Many players are nowhere near the standard they set last season and they’re not getting any younger: only Jota, Andy Robertson, Curtis Jones and Fabinho will be under 28 when next season starts.

The recruitment of two centrebacks in their early twenties in January suggests the age issue is already being addressed and expect more to come.

What happened to Liverpool was a perfect storm of misfortune: a combination of injuries, mainly, but also the aforementioned factors that made them one of the vulnerable groups.

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to slip from a perch but this time there was an awful lot to cope with and even the best run club found it too much to handle.

But there should be no panic – two or three judicious signings and a return of Van Dijk can turn them back into a force that will be remembered for the right reasons next season.

This, though, looks like City’s year. As they’re still in everything, on a record-breaking run of 15 wins and leading the EPL, they have a great chance to make the 2020-2021 season remembered for their success.

But right now, it’s Liverpool’s epic failure that is reverberating through the game.

Sebaran :

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