Arsenal’s win over Leeds saw the club close out their run of ‘winnable’ matches. Seven games since the Manchester City defeat, seven wins, and 21 points. Now the schedule, and mood, shifts with Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Newcastle, and Brighton all in the next seven matches. When that run ends the season will have just two rounds to go and the title picture will be very clear. The final push starts this Sunday with a trip to Anfield.
At the start of March Liverpool defeated Wolves 2-0 before destroying Manchester United 7-0 and looked ready to make a run for the top four. Since then the club has had a run of four matches without a win and were knocked out of the Champions League. A 1-nil loss at Bournemouth, the 4-1 defeat against Manchester City, and this week’s scoreless draw against Chelsea see Liverpool in eighth and ten points behind fourth place.
To discuss the season, Jurgen Klopp’s future, the summer transfer window, and this weekend’s match we chatted with Mark Kastner from The Liverpool Offside.
You can read the reverse Q&A article over at The Liverpool Offside.
TSF: Following their midweek match against Chelsea, Liverpool are 8th in the table. The last time they finished that far down was the season Jurgen Klopp joined them in October of 2015. Since then they’ve been in the top four every year. Are the fans itching for an overhaul or seeing this year as a one-off and willing to ride it out after a long period of success?
Liverpool Offside: Even the most patient parts of the fan base are getting a little antsy at the moment. There has been a lack of investment in the midfield which has come home to roost and is the center of all the problems right now. I don’t think a full overhaul is necessary, such as getting rid of the manager, but in order to make sure this season is just a one-off, investment in the summer is needed.
TSF: It’s been well-documented that Klopp spent seven years at Mainz and then seven years at Borussia Dortmund. Now in his eighth year at Liverpool do you think he still has the interest in reshaping, to an extent, the squad and continuing for a few more seasons, or are we near the end of his time at the club?
Liverpool Offside: Last April Klopp signed an extension to his current deal. His contract runs through 2026 now and I think he probably sees that out and retires.
TSF: The league performance this season, do you credit that to the World Cup break, injuries, a squad in transition, a dip in form, something else, or a combination of it all?
Liverpool Offside: So, it might sound like a bit of a cop out to choose “all of the above” as an answer, but that’s the case. Liverpool were on the cusp of doing an unthinkable quadruple last season, playing in every single possible match available to them. Not only did they lose the league in the final minutes, the Champions League Final was a disaster because of the way French police treated Liverpool fans. Klopp, Henderson, and van Dijk have all publicly stated that the way fans were treated in Paris affected them emotionally. So, you couple the heavy weight of last season with a historically short turn around this last summer, with a never-done-before Winter World Cup, with key injuries...you end up with what we’re witnessing. It’s not an excuse, but it is grim.
TSF: At the end of the season James Milner, Firmino, Oxland-Chamberlain, & Naby Keita will be out of contract, plus Arthur Melo’s loan from Juventus ends. Thiago and Joel Matip will also enter the final year of their deals. Add in that Henderson, van Dijk, Salah, & Alisson are all already 30, how do you think the club approaches those players and their plan for the summer transfer window?
Liverpool Offside: Most of the players you mentioned are not serious contributors to the squad and there’s a reason Liverpool is allowing them to go on a free. In particular, Ox and Keita have let down Liverpool massively through reoccurring injuries. To get to the heart of your question, this is a crucial summer for Liverpool. In order for the Reds to get back to challenging for trophies, they have to nail it. From where I sit, they’ll need the following: a backup goalkeeper, a centerback, and 2-3 midfielders. That’s if everything stays the same, which is unlikely. You could see a forward (Jota) leave, and maybe that means needing to add in that area as well. It’s just a significant amount of work to be done in one window.
TSF: And finally, can you give us your predicted formation for Liverpool this weekend and a starting XI?
Liverpool Offside: I think Liverpool will play a 4-4-2/4-2-4 hybrid against Arsenal. All of the midfielders suck right now and there’s an abundance of healthy forwards. Here’s my stab at a guess: Alisson; Robertson, van Dijk, Konate, Trent; Fabinho, Henderson; Nunez, Gakpo, Jota, Salah.
2-1 to Liverpool.
Thanks to Mark Kastner and The Liverpool Offside.