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What needs to improve at Liverpool so they can contend for the Champions League again

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For a side that came close to winning a quadruple last season, including reaching the Champions League final, Liverpool are far from the side we know them to be.

The Reds are punching far below their usual standards at the moment and it appears to be a tough time for Jurgen Klopp and company. In similar fashion, the Three Lions are going through the same slump but are still favourites to challenge at the showpiece in Qatar, as highlighted by England World Cup predictions by Overlyzer.

It is only early days into the 2022/23 campaign but many have started to write off Liverpool as title challengers, given their poor start to the season. After seven games, the Reds find themselves in eighth place and are already nine points behind league leaders Arsenal.

Away from the domestic scene, we turn our focus to Europe and ask the question of whether Liverpool still have the quality to challenge on continental front. More appropriately, how can Jurgen Klopp get his back to their dominating best and as one of the usual favourites for the Champions League?

We’ll take a look at it all below.

Style of play – needs a reset

Alongside Manchester City, Liverpool have dominated England over the past five seasons and the influence of the Reds has been arguably far better than their rivals on the continental front. Liverpool have reached three out of the last five Champions League finals, winning one of them and losing twice to Real Madrid, including a 1-0 defeat to the Spanish giants in May.

A characteristic nature that allowed Liverpool and Klopp dominate several sides was their ‘high pressing’ style of football. The Reds are famous for pressing with high intensity and almost seem to never get tired up until 90 minutes. That style of play has made them almost unplayable over recent years, up until the current campaign.

Liverpool have looked so ordinary in the current campaign and ever since their 2-2 draw with Fulham on the opening day of the season, it was evident something had changed. Though their 9-0 thrashing of Bournemouth seemed to flatter their struggles, they have recorded draws with Crystal Palace and Everton while also losing to rivals Manchester United.

Their biggest defeat of the season so far came in the Champions League where they suffered a 4-1 defeat to Napoli in their first outing of Group A.

 Speaking after that humiliating defeat, Klopp pretty much admitted his side needed to change, saying:  “We were not compact defensively or offensively. With Alisson in goal you have to be really bad to concede three goals [in the first half]. You could see it on the pitch. We were not working as a team. That is why we lose games.”

“We need to reinvent ourselves,” he added. “There are a lot of things lacking, not in all games but the fun thing is we have to do it in the middle of the Premier League season and a Champions League campaign. We need a set-up to be better in pretty much everything.”

Perhaps a slight tweak in tactics is the way to go but it is rather obvious that their once successful style of play is no longer the answer.

Standards from players – must go back to normal

After losing Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich over the summer, many expected Mohamed Salah and other names to step up but it has been pretty much the opposite. The Egyptian has largely underperformed this season and only has three goals to his name as at the time of writing.

Not just Salah but pretty much the Liverpool squad are going through the same struggles.

None of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil Van Dijk, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho have been anywhere close to their usual best.

In particular, Van Dijk, who was once not dribbled past for a seemingly long time has looked so easy to breeze through of late. Aleksandar Mitrovic gave him a tough day to forget on the opening day of the season, and he also struggled in the Merseyside derby against Everton and was fortunate to avoid a red card.

Injuries

Injuries have also not been kind to Liverpool this term. In fact, Caomhin Kelleher, Calvin Ramsay, Ibrahima Konate, Joel Matip, Curtis Jones, Thiago Alcantara, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita, Kaide Gordon, Diogo Jota have all suffered injuries at one point in this early stage of the season.

This has caused something of an imbalance in Klopp’s starting lineup but the current problems hit far deeper than injuries.

However, the Champions League is only two games away and there is still time for Liverpool to bounce back and show that they are only wounded at the pint but still boast the quality to conquer Europe.

Photo by Unsplash

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