It was not a good week for Liverpool. Three home losses to Swansea, Southampton (League Cup) and tier-two Wolverhampton (FA Cup) extended their poor run of form to one win in its last eight games across all competitions.
The scrutiny has intensified on coach Jurgen Klopp and his selection policy, not to mention the club’s recruitment department, the success of which is an on-going cause of distress for fans.
This cannot have come as a total surprise to anyone who saw Klopp’s struggles with the winter fixtures last season.
This time last year, Liverpool won two matches out of 10 – those wins were an FA Cup replay win over lowly Exeter and a 5-4, get-out-of-jail result against Norwich.
The team also lost to Leicester, Manchester United and West Ham and drew with Sunderland.
Klopp demands what he calls “heavy-metal” football from his players and the fact is, with his current squad, they cannot maintain the performance level when the fixtures come thick and fast, all this despite the fact that figures show Liverpool players have covered the most distance in league games in January.
There have been mitigating factors: Joel Matip and Philippe Coutinho have been hurt, and the former had a clearance fiasco with FIFA; Daniel Sturridge has lost his form; and Sadio Mane has been absent due to the Africa Cup of Nations.
Klopp rotated his side for the FA Cup tie, but he cannot win either way: he wants to give young players from the academy a chance, but is then accused of disrespecting the tournament once he does.
Welcome to England, Jurgen.
While the debate about Klopp’s record in cup competitions continues, he has reached seven semifinals and won one trophy – there is some optimism on the horizon.
As February approaches, the European fixtures kick off again, and it won’t be Liverpool playing twice a week anymore. It will be its rivals for a top-four spot: Arsenal and Manchester City in the Champions League, Spurs and Manchester United in the Europa League.
Liverpool is back to playing just once a week now, which should work in its favor. The only other top-six side with no European action is Chelsea, Liverpool’s opponent on Tuesday. It could get worse before it gets better for Klopp. But it should get better soon after.