2022/23 Premier League season kicked off last week and there were some surprising results as things are to go by. AFC Bournemouth, Fulham and Brighton & Hove Albion are majorly the 3 clubs that handed their “more favourable” opponents an opening day shocker.
Bournemouth defeated Aston Villa as did Brighton, but the highlight of gameweek 1 were Fulham. The way they performed against one of the stronghold contenders to win the title this season, Liverpool, was an entertaining spectacle. Although the final result after the full-time whistle was a 2-2 draw, but for a side to have been viewed as a mere underdog Fulham proved their mettle against one of the top guns. Prior to the game, there were betters, fans and even pundits placing their bets on the Reds, but it seems as if Marco Silva has prepared his team well despite the shortcomings.
It is, indeed, true that the Cottagers are short on centre-backs and other defensive amenities of sort, still, they managed to muster out a draw against Liverpool following a good overall team effort/performance. Marco Silva has a total of just 28 player roster up his sleeve, out of which there are just 6 defenders between whom the Portuguese like to rotate his backline. And this is too after the new addition of Shane Duffy into the squad! We also saw the big Irish center-back getting a few minutes under his belt against Liverpool, as he was brought on to strengthen the defence more so in the dying moments of the game, and seems to have paid dividends.
As for the travelling Reds, well, there is an imminent fault in the system somewhere that led to them not being able to convert their hard work in training sessions into a good 3 points on the pitch. On paper, Jurgen Klopp and his men should have been victorious but Football is not played on paper now, or is it?! Even if we compare their opening day performance to how they performed against Manchester City a week before, they were miles off from their Community Shield win in every aspect of the game.
Although the main reason looks to be the injuries and hence the shortage in the midfield position, in specific, the team’s chemistry looks off as well. If we analyse the game against Fulham we would be able to observe that the passes were not really sticking, runs were not timed, the movement was a bit hazy as well and overall there was this usual intent which was lacking a bit.
Long season ahead for Jurgen Klopp?
This has been long recurring for the Reds now, conceding goals early in the game and then trying to pull the game back from thereon in. Now, one might think that it is a defensive problem and they would not be wrong in thinking as such. Virgil Van Dijk, in particular, has not looked the same since he returned from the injury that he picked against Everton 2 years ago.
Before, he would not shy back from tackling his man and get the ball right off his feet. But now he appears to be holding back a little while attempting one-on-one tackles which seem to have changed his approach to the game completely.
Like this goal above – Liverpool conceded in the final of the UCL last season against Real Madrid, the Van Dijk that was just short of a point from winning the Ballon D’or would have easily tackled Fede Valverde – instead, he just stood there in a hope that he would be able to get his leg in between the pass that led to the goal.
So yes, defence has been a part of the problem for Klopp. But the major concerning area of this current Liverpool side is their midfield. As said by Klopp “We have 8 midfielders in our current squad”, underlining the fact that there is no shortage of players in that position but the sheer quality is lacking. If we look at Man City, for example, they have squad depth but not just that- the players who are there to play as a cover-up for a regular starter, even they have the equivalent ability to create and provide for the team- like Kalvin Phillips for Rodri.
Hence if Liverpool decides to challenge City for the title charge this term then, they must sign a good creative midfielder as Thiago cannot carry a 3-man midfield all by himself.
Someone like Bellingham, or even Conor Gallagher per se could easily provide that stability which is required in the midified. Though Naby Keita was signed for that same purpose, but he has been miles off from his Leipzig form/performance- injuries having a major role in the downside.
Jurgen addresses the midfield issues 👀 pic.twitter.com/wUNPGi61KF
— Liverpool FC News (@LivEchoLFC) August 6, 2022
Despite the gaffer reiterating the fact that they don’t need to sign new midfielders, it’s clear and evident that the Kopites do not think like their manager.
However, it can never really get worse than it already is whenever there is a consideration to sign new players. In my opinion, the club should keep their options open and keep one eye in the window, so if there is a good-looking player begging to be signed then the club could sit together and decide upon it further.
And in turn, this might only help the team stop losing points in such games, as it can cost the title charge in the dying moments of the campaign – like Liverpool lost the title by just a one-point margin last season.