Despite beating Ajax Liverpool still don’t look right – but Klopp’s been here before
Last Tuesday’s late win against Ajax was a much-needed boost after a horrible start to the season, but you can sense Klopp is concerned by what he is seeing from his team.
He described the 4-1 defeat against Napoli earlier this month as the worst performance he has witnessed from his team since he took over as Liverpool manager, and that was a pretty big statement.
There were worse displays early in his reign, as he bedded down his ideas before he finally got the club winning the biggest trophies in the game.
Yet, having reached those heights, he would have been shocked to see how far a team loaded with most of the players who took Liverpool to Premier League and Champions League football had fallen that night in Naples.
Klopp suggested eight out of the 11 players in his line-up that night were well below their best, and he was being generous there.
We haven’t come away from too many matches since Klopp took over with nothing to take away from it, but that’s where we were after Napoli.
The bizarre decision to call off last weekend’s Premier League fixtures meant Liverpool had a few more days to stew on that defeat before the Ajax game, and they still didn’t look right.
Joel Matip’s late winner was vital, and moments like that can turn a season around, but there are still big issues to address in this Liverpool team.
Finding a balance in the forward line is an issue that needs to be resolved quickly because this area of the team is clearly in a period of transition.
Sadio Mane’s exit was always going to be a big blow and Darwin Nunez needs to be given time to settle.
It’s unfortunate that Mo Salah has not been at his best during this period, as Liverpool needed him to hit the ground running this season.
Hopefully his goal against Ajax will spark him into life after the international break, and Klopp will also be hoping to see Diogo Jota back to his best next month.
Defensively, the high line Klopp likes to play has been exposed far too often, and Ajax created a lot of chances once again the other night.
It may be that the midfield is lacking the bite due to the injury problems affecting that area of the team, with the protection the defence have had in the past no longer in evidence.
Virgil van Dijk has had his first dip in form and teams are targeting Trent Alexander-Arnold, so the list of problems has been mounting for Klopp.
The good news for Liverpool is we are only six games into the Premier League season and some of the other big teams are also struggling.
Chelsea have already sacked their manager and their new boss Graham Potter has never managed at this level of the game.
Potter did a great job at Brighton, but it is a big test stepping up to manage a team like Chelsea that have big demands for instant success.
We all saw how long Thomas Tuchel lasted when he had his first bad run of results, so Potter must know what is coming his way if he doesn’t start winning quickly.
Manchester City have also drawn a couple of matches and only just about managed to beat Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday night, so they are not firing on all cylinders. Decent
The same with Spurs, who were beaten by Sporting in the Champions League and have not been convincing so far despite their good results.
Manchester United are on a decent run, but there is no clear pattern to this season among England’s big-hitters yet and that’s good news for Klopp.
Liverpool could have been miles behind City if they had made the most of the incredible contributions of Erling Haaland so far.
Not many teams in the Premier League have the potential to go on an eight- or 10-game winning run, but Liverpool can do that.
If they get Salah firing, get Thiago back in the midfield for an extended period without injury, find a solution to the defensive problems and build some momentum, this can still turn out to be a great season for Liverpool.
The concern is there are a lot of if, buts and maybes in that last sentence and Liverpool haven’t been dealing with those in recent years.
Despite a net spend in the transfer market that is less than teams like West Ham and Wolves, Klopp has kept Liverpool in the mix for the biggest trophies in recent years.
You can sense from his mood in recent press conferences that he is not enjoying this period at all, and it’s even more challenging than the season when he had a defensive crisis that was impossible to fix.
When you have lost three or four first choice centre-backs for most of the season, it’s almost impossible to find a way around that.
Klopp has had injury nightmares again this season, but he is facing up to the kind of problems these players have not given him in the last three or four years.
He will sit back for the next couple of weeks trying to work out how he can spark his team back into top gear, and they need to do that quickly.
Liverpool are not out of anything yet this season, but if they play their next eight games in the way they have played their first eight, then they could be in big trouble.