Liverpool’s trip to Manchester United already seems fundamental

Liverpool’s trip to Manchester United already seems fundamental

Suddenly, Liverpool’s visit to Old Trafford on Monday has developed quite a different feel.

What seemed, after Manchester United’s desperate start, to be a cruel turn in the calendar now feels like a seismic game in both teams’ seasons.

People no longer wonder how many goals Liverpool will rack up against their hapless rivals. Instead, the pressing question is: can Klopp’s team afford another slip?

Liverpool travel to Old Trafford unsure of themselves after drawing their first games this season

Liverpool travel to Old Trafford unsure of themselves after drawing their first games this season

There really should be no reason to panic after two games. Especially when the data suggests Liverpool’s performances deserved six points.

But they only have two and this is a league where the margins have gotten incredibly small.

Two of the last four title races have been decided by a single point; in five of the last six seasons, the winners have accumulated 93 points or more.

Jurgen Klopp saw his team struggle to put the ball in the back of the net against Fulham and Crystal Palace.

Jurgen Klopp saw his team struggle to put the ball in the back of the net against Fulham and Crystal Palace.

Last year, when Liverpool fell one point behind Manchester City, they dropped just 22 points from 38 games. Loss at Old Trafford would mean Liverpool have given up almost a third of that tally in just three games.

They are already four points behind and few early signs suggest Pep Guardiola’s side will fall well below last season’s levels. Not with Erling Haaland leading from the front.

To think that less than three weeks have passed since Darwin Núñez drew the first blood in his face to face when Liverpool won the Community Shield. Now, the striker’s teething problems are among several problems Klopp must address.

The trip should have evoked memories of last season's 5-0 run, but instead they travel with an air of trepidation.

The trip should have evoked memories of last season’s 5-0 run, but instead they travel with an air of trepidation.

As the Liverpool manager admitted after Monday’s draw with Crystal Palace: “It’s not the start we wanted, but two points is the least of our problems at the moment.” It’s really complicated with injuries.

During the early years of Klopp’s tenure at Liverpool, there was perhaps no more derisive critic than Raymond Verheijen, a Dutch manager who worked with Gary Speed ​​with Wales. He argued that Klopp’s methods cause injuries.

Verheijen has been fairly quiet in recent years as Liverpool have racked up trophies. This week, however, another plague has been affecting the Anfield manager.

“It was like there was a witch in the building, every time someone else was in trouble,” Klopp said. Everything went against us, it was crazy. The result? Liverpool’s spine is cracking once again.

After two stuttering displays, they head to United with 11 players battling injury or suspension.

Among them the center backs Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip; central midfielders Thiago Alcantara, Curtis Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; The strikers Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota and Darwin Núñez, the Uruguayan who saw a red card against Palacio and will now miss three games.

Darwin Nunez, the club's new £85m man, was sent off for headbutting an opponent on Monday

Darwin Nunez, the club’s new £85m man, was sent off for headbutting an opponent on Monday

Neither Jordan Henderson nor Joe Gomez started at Anfield on Monday either. Both had health problems before kick-off.

Nat Phillips had not played a Premier League game since May 2021, at the end of a season in which he and Rhys Williams were recruited to lift Liverpool out of an injury black hole.

They helped Klopp’s team secure Champions League football with a win on the final day. About the Crystal Palace.

So Phillips’ return to the last four on Monday felt pretty symbolic. Even if Liverpool’s current struggle still can’t be compared to 2020-21, when they had their spines ripped out and were without Virgil van Dijk, Gomez, Matip, Jota, Henderson and Thiago for long stretches.

Liverpool have added more depth since then. Now, though, some fans will inevitably ask: why didn’t they get stronger this summer, particularly in midfield?

Against Palace, Fabinho’s slow start to the season continued. Joining the Brazilian were 19-year-old Harvey Elliott and James Milner, who made his Premier League debut 145 days before Elliott’s birth.

Klopp will go to Old Trafford with the full-back weakened by various injuries this season

Klopp will go to Old Trafford with the full-back weakened by various injuries this season

Their association was symptomatic of a side where age is a topic of conversation. Liverpool’s starting XI against Fulham (average age 29.4) was the oldest in the Premier League this season. Eight of Klopp’s starting squad are 28 or older.

The situation is starker at the core of Liverpool: Naby Keita is the only creative midfielder between 21 and 29 years old.

Further down the line, Klopp has a better balance of developing and established talent: Nunez (23), Luis Diaz (25), Jota (25), Mohamed Salah (30), Firmino (30). The departures of Sadio Mane and Divock Origi left a gap and the suspension of Núñez as well.

Questions remain as to why Liverpool choose not to strengthen their options in midfield.

Questions remain as to why Liverpool choose not to strengthen their options in midfield.

The striker’s red card came after a masterful lesson in provocation from Joachim Andersen. All night, the Palace defender nibbled at Núñez: little pushes, ball hits, a few choice words, the occasional theatrical dive. “I bothered him a lot,” the defenseman said. Finally, the red mist descended.

No doubt defenders like Tottenham’s Cristian Romero will have taken note.

“He knows that he will be challenged in this way,” Klopp said. It is not a reaction that we want. Darwin knows (he let his companions down)’.

Instead of punishing the striker further, Klopp wants to use the penalty to strengthen Nunez physically.

However, after the worst start to his tenure, the manager could have had more time to mold his new front line.

Add that to Klopp’s to-do list as Liverpool limps on, towards Old Trafford and yet another battle that could take its toll.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.