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injury woes Klopp's refusal to change tactics has cost Liverpool dearly says Anfield hero John Arne Riise

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has struggled with injuries this season

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has struggled with injuries this season

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has struggled with injuries this season

LIVERPOOL manager Jurgen Klopp should have done more to halt Liverpool’s alarming slide in form, with his lack of tactical flexibility exposed over the last two months.

That’s the verdict of former Liverpool full-back John Arne Riise, who believes the German boss should have changed the way his team played amid an injury crisis that has halted their ability to play the high-intensity football Klopp demands.

Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Fabinho and captain Jordan Henderson are among the senior player who have missed large parts of his season, with their absence destabilising a Liverpool side that have lost six home league games in succession at Anfield for the first time in the club’s history.

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday World at a BT Sport event, Riise has given his verdict on Liverpool’s collapse in the opening weeks of 2021, with Klopp’s side looking unlikely to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League as they prepare to face Wolves tomorrow night.

“It’s hurts to talk about it because it’s my team, but we have never seen a collapse like this,” admitted Riise, who was part of the Liverpool team that won the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul.

“You can lose six games in a row if you are a team that has had a few years of bad football, but the way Liverpool have played over the last two years, you don’t expect this to happen this quickly. I’m very surprised – and it is all a bit of a shock, to be honest.

“I’m not a manager of Klopp’s standards and I can’t tell him what to do, but I have had a few thoughts when I’ve seen his team in 2021 – and it feels like he could have done more to stop this run.

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 Fabinho has been forced to fill in at centre-half

Fabinho has been forced to fill in at centre-half

Fabinho has been forced to fill in at centre-half

“For me, when you have 18 or 19 different pairings of centre-halves and the midfield keeps changing, you don’t have the same relations between the players that you normally have.

“I also feel teams have got used to playing against Liverpool at Anfield. They sit deep, they are more compact, they hit them on the counter-attack and Liverpool keep playing a high line defensively.

“You can say its confidence and mental fatigue and maybe that is a factor, but I can’t stress enough that when you don’t have the players you normally had, it’s tough to play the kind of football you want.

“Nobody is going to do the job of Van Dijk or Gomez in terms of speed, so when opposition play balls in behind they know they are not as quick.

“So Liverpool are getting punished more now than if they had all their players available. This is why I feel they could have looked at a change their approach.”

Liverpool fans have been reluctant to criticise Klopp so soon after he ended the club’s 30-year wait for the Premier League title, and during a period that has seen him battle an injury crisis and suffer the personal agony of the death of his mother.

Yet Riise believes the injuries that have rocked Liverpool should have inspired a change of approach from Klopp, even if it went against the principles that have served him so well during his coaching career.

Liverpool’s front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Fimrino have shown a lack of composure in front of goal in recent weeks, with Riise offering up his view on why they have been affected by injuries in other areas of the team.

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Jurgen Klopp has missed the solidity provided by Virgil van Dijk

Jurgen Klopp has missed the solidity provided by Virgil van Dijk

Jurgen Klopp has missed the solidity provided by Virgil van Dijk

“Liverpool used to be able to press so high in midfield and when they won the ball back, they were already in a great position to attack,” he continued.

“Then the front three could just finish it off. Now, with all the swapping and all the different players being used, they are not getting into those positions.

“The front three are looking different. Before they would shoot on instinct and it was a goal. Now it looks like they are thinking too much, taking too much time because things are not going their way. So a lot of things are not happening naturally for them.

“There is mental fatigue, confidence is low and they are not linking up so well. In the past it was one to two passes and they were in, but now they are trying to do things on their own.

“They don’t have the normal midfield that could keep pressing like they used to do and win the balls, so the opposition knows that.

“They don’t have Van Dijk or Gomez, who are quick and can cover the balls over the top. They don’t have Fabinho and Henderson and Wijnaldum every game to win the ball in the middle, so this is why I feel they could have changed their tactics a little.”

Despite his criticism over Klopp’s lack of tactical invention, Riise is backing Liverpool to save their season by following in the footsteps of the club’s 2005 Champions League winning heroes by returning to Istanbul in May and winning the biggest prize in European football once more.

Riise played a central role in Rafael Benitez’s iconic success as Liverpool came from 3-0 down to beat AC Milan in the final, with the location of this season’s Champions League final inspiring hope of a repeat.

“We played poorly in the league in that season, but we had that European run that gave us confidence,” he reflected.

“Player for player, the 2005 side was not as good as this Liverpool team, but we knew in one game we could beat anybody. That’s how we managed to believe we could win the Champions League.

“This team is so much better than we were in 2005 and the squad is also bigger. One win can change a lot and one win could put them back on track again.

“I don’t think anyone in the competition would like to draw Liverpool.

“Everyone knows that on their day they are still capable of beating anyone, so I wouldn’t count them out.”

The Champions League continues on Tuesday and Wednesday night on BT Sport, with all matches available to Sky customers in Ireland with a Sports Extra package.

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