Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool boss Klopp must find missing pieces of jigsaw

By Jordan Seward

It's a question very much on the lips of the Kop faithful - what's happened to Liverpool? It's the mystery at Anfield that is yet to be resolved.

It stems from as far back as the 2-2 away draw with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on January 2. Since then, the Reds have won just once in their last nine games, an FA Cup replay away to League Two side Plymouth.

It is not only their form that presents a problem to Jürgen Klopp, though, it's the way they've lost. It's been so un-Liverpool. This is not the side we saw play with intensity, flair and vigour at the start of the season, who pressed high and worked tirelessly to win the ball back, the team we all thought was here to stay under Klopp. Things have only got worse for the German in recent weeks.

The 1-1 home draw with Chelsea last Tuesday offered Klopp little joy, though it did spare his side equalling their worst home run since 1923. A draw against the best team in the league who look certain to storm their way to the title this season is not a bad result, and it should have been their watershed moment. Worryingly it wasn't. Goals from Alfred N'Diaye and Oumar Niasse at the weekend condemned them to an embarrassing 2-0 away defeat by relegation-threatened Hull City.

Their drastic change of fortune threatens to spoil a season that began with so much promise. A month back Liverpool looked Chelsea's only realistic challengers to the Premier League title, but now they've slipped to fifth and missing out on a top four spot is becoming the reality, with their rivals Manchester United finding their tune. Their sudden fall from grace is for no one reason, but for a number.

They lost Sadio Mane to the African Cup of Nations at the beginning of January, who any team would be worse off without. But, though his role has been instrumental, it hasn't been anything too spectacular - certainly not enough to be the solitary explanation. His absence in January was just one of the many missing pieces to the jigsaw.

Perhaps, Klopp missed a piece by failing to recruit last month. The best solution isn't always to spend money and sign players; nevertheless, the Liverpool crisis was well-timed, coinciding with the January transfer window, yet no players were brought in.

Klopp hasn't exactly got the pick of the bunch with his fairly thin squad - and though he is well known for his frugality and shrewdness in the transfer market, no investments were made, despite their hectic schedule, a schedule that has since got less hectic after being knocked out of the FA Cup and the EFL Cup.

The verve from their front trio of Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho is missing. If Liverpool are to get themselves out of their funk, these three are vital.

Tiredness is at the heart of the problem, it leads to poor performances which leads to players being bereft of confidence.

This torrid run is making it worse.

Teams have also begun to work them out, presenting them with a problem England struggled with in the European Championships last summer in breaking teams down.

But the problems don't end there, its Liverpool's defence, too.

They have only registered two clean sheets in their last ten games, both coming against Plymouth. It has led to Liverpool fans calling for Klopp to change his mind on Mamadou Sakho, who he exiled from the first team after breaking club rules on their pre-season tour of America.

Liverpool face three of the top four in Tottenham on Saturday, Arsenal and Manchester City in their next five games.

Liverpool simply came out of the starting gate too quickly and now it's catching up with them.

No Mane in January, Klopp failing to spend, tiredness, a hectic schedule, lack of intensity and creativity, no clean sheets and a lack of depth in defensive options - this all adds up to why Liverpool have endured the run they have.

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