When Liverpool kicked off the 2021-22 Premier League season with a 3-0 victory at newly-promoted Norwich City, it sort of erased the memories of their consistent struggles during the previous campaign that was tied to multiple injuries, chief of which was Virgil van Dijk.
Liverpool should be worried about their Premier League title prospects
The Reds have seen their form dented lately after a strong start to the season.
The Dutch man returned to competitive action after 10 months out with a dreadful anterior cruciate ligament injury and showed no sign of rustiness whatsoever. Credit to the Liverpool medical team for a job well done.
What followed were more dominant performances that saw clean sheets kept in three of the next four games, and Mohamed Salah scoring for fun. Liverpool was truly back and reminiscent of the 2019-20 side that lifted the league title for the first time since 1990.
All that strong form however seems to have vanished with the past few games leaving a lot to be desired.
It first started with a 3-3 draw at Brentford, followed by a 2-2 draw at home against Manchester City. In those games, they failed to hold firm to their lead with less than 25 minutes left to play. They might have bounced back with back-to-back 5-0 wins at Watford and Manchester United, but the leaking of goals came back to hunt them with Brighton and Hove Albion clawing their way back from two first half goals at Anfield to draw 2-2.
Then came the most recent match at West Ham where set piece prowess and sharpness in attack gave the Hammers a resounding 3-2 win. It was Liverpool’s first league loss of the season and ended a 25-match unbeaten run that stretched back to April, when they lost 3-1 to Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League quarter finals.
Speaking of the Champions League, the Merseyside club also let in cheap goals against AC Milan and Atletico Madrid in the current group phase of the competition, even though they ended up winning both games 3-2.
This raises a lot of questions as to what exactly has gone wrong at Liverpool.
Van Dijk has remained fit all season, continually playing 90 minutes, the same as the rest of the back line. The midfield might have seen injuries to Naby Keita, Curtis Jones, James Milner and Harvey Elliott, which obviously limits the best possible selection in the middle of the park, but is it enough for such a struggle to re-emerge?
Liverpool can't afford to drop points as they have been doing lately. As is a known fact, accumulating too many draws can have a bad effect on their title chances. This was their undoing during the 2018-19 season where they only lost once all season, but drew seven times while eventual champions Man City, drew only twice and lost four times.
Liverpool already have four draws this season.
It's only 11 games into the campaign, but Reds boss Jurgen Klopp must find a way out of this mess in good time if he wants to give the Anfield faithful something to smile about at the end of the season. Otherwise, he could see the shambles of last season revisited all over again, and not even a fit-again Van Dijk will be enough to save them.
Kunle is an avid writer with interest in topics on sports, politics and health. His articles have featured in Goal.com, Opera News and Vanguard News. He holds a Bachelors and Masters degree in International Relations and is an advocate for people living with Hydrocephalus and other neurological conditions.
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