It’s not exactly been the best start to the new year for Liverpool, with their dismal January form continuing for much of February.
An impressive win against Premier League rivals Tottenham ought to have given the side a platform with which to build upon heading into the business end of the season. However, Liverpool became unstuck on Monday night at the King Power Stadium, where they were outfought and outclassed by a manager-less Leicester City side.
Without a goal or win in the league in 2017, it was only going to end one way when the unexpected news of Claudio Ranieri’s sacking came through on Thursday night.
The predictability of the result has to be a huge worry for Jürgen Klopp as Liverpool were carved open at the back once again. It was all too familiar a story on Monday night, with Lucas Leiva left isolated in a one-on-one situation against Jamie Vardy – a situation which was always going to result in disaster.
Reds in need of fresh ideas
Having taken to the field just twice in February, Liverpool came into the game fresh off the back of a 16-day break, during which they took a four-day training trip to La Manga.
However, instead of looking re-energised and refreshed, the Reds failed to impress, producing yet another lethargic display in which the attitude and desire of the players was left to be questioned.
Klopp has been widely criticised during his tenure at the club for his tactical stubbornness. While his faith in his players and system is admirable, Liverpool are simply regurgitating the same unimaginative and uninspiring football, especially against sides lower down in the table.
When all the players are singing from the same hymn sheet, Liverpool are collectively a devastating unit. But those days have become fewer and far between since the turn of the year.
Didi Hamann recently referred to the side as distinctly “one-dimensional”, with Klopp failing to mix things up despite the alarming form Liverpool find themselves in. So, if plan A isn’t working, what option does that leave Liverpool?
A Spanish plan B
The left-back role has been a problematic one for Liverpool for a long time now, with Fabio Aurelio arguably the most recent long-term success there.
The signing of Alberto Moreno didn’t see an end to that trend, with the Spaniard’s calamitous display in the Europa League final last season a perfect illustration of his shortcomings.
However, while no-one would argue against his ineptitude in defence, Moreno could provide Liverpool with an unlikely lift going forward.
Armed with alarming pace, the 24-year-old offers a real threat from wide areas and his desire to burst forward on the overlap and maraud into the box could give Klopp’s side just the injection they need.
The impressive form with which Liverpool started the season papered over some cracks that could, and more accurately should, have been addressed in the January window.
James Milner, who performed admirably in the opening half of the season has now come unstuck in the unfamiliar left-back role, with teams exploiting him and other members of the back four – only West Ham United and Stoke City have conceded more goals of the current top 10 teams in the league.
In a creative sense, Milner’s numbers are hardly impressive either. At the end of 2016, the England international was ranked 3rd in total crosses attempted but 30th in crosses completed, reflecting his lack of quality from out wide.
While Liverpool no longer have an Andy Carroll or Christian Benteke type player, when they face teams who are set up in a very rigid defensive shape, they often resort to crosses from out wide. Thus, Milner’s ineffectiveness from out wide is a real issue.
In contrast, Moreno’s quick thinking and willingness to run would enable Liverpool to play swift one-two's in behind the opposition and thus produce more chances on goal. Certainly, it would give them an energy they clearly lacked against Leicester.
While it isn’t a long-term solution, with Moreno more than likely to be shipped out in the summer, it would freshen up an increasingly stale-looking attacking line and potentially help Klopp find a solution against the weaker Premier League sides.
Liverpool can ill afford to throw away any more points if they want to secure a top four spot and Moreno could well be the unlikely catalyst to reignite a stuttering engine.