Kop demise is hard to understand; even harder to fix

Along with the Big Bang and Black Holes, it’s one of the mysteries of the universe.

How Liverpool have gone from the cusp of immortality to the demoralising clutches of mediocrity.

And not in light years but a few dark months.

Even Einstein might struggle to explain it, let alone fix it.

They went from chasing the quad to being marooned in mid-table, as close to the bottom three as the top four.

From all-conquering kings to struggling proletariat.

Signings used to arrive to the manor born; now they’re overpriced duds who don’t belong.

And the manager with the Midas touch is fumbling with fool’s gold.

As for the recruitment department that found only gems, they’re now struggling to replace their own director.

It’s a mess and everyone knows it. Yet no one saw it coming.

Certainly, no one saw Sadio Mane leaving.

But for a purring engine that almost won everything last year, it shouldn’t have caused it to come off the road.

It’s gone from vorsprung durch technik to juddering jalopy.

A slight dip after an epic season might have been expected, but not an implosion.

And there’s been only Stefan Bajcetic’s emergence to lift the gloom.

The explanation is that it’s been a combination of many factors going awry at the same time.

Copping much of the blame are the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) whose decision to sell was bound to shake the tectonic plates under Anfield.

It’s up to owners when they want to sell, but the timing could have been better.

They may have rushed to get ahead of the Glazers who, they sensed, also wanted to cash in on their prized asset.

And Manchester United were not only put on the market, but seem closer to finding a buyer and are improving on the field.

Liverpool have neither a sale nor a victory in sight.

Whether or not FSG’s decision is the cause, the club looks to be in turmoil.

Last year’s double winners have yet to win in the EPL this year, have earned a solitary point, scored just one goal and conceded nine.

Injuries continue unabated while departures off the field have been enough to be dubbed “a brain drain”.

With the unexplained exits of research director Ian Graham and club doctor Jim Moxon, the loss of smarts could indeed be crippling.

And Jurgen Klopp has even slammed his own players’ body language as “not being OK”.

He had to: slumped shoulders, bowed heads and not tracking back don’t need an interpreter.

The once-golden trinity of Klopp, FSG president Mike Gordon and sporting director Michael Edwards is now down to a single, and often frazzled, pillar: the manager is the last man standing.

And when you add questionable recruitment and a team showing its age, you can see why there’s a sense of an era coming to an end.

But its suddenness is still a surprise given the meticulous way FSG ran the club.

Previously, changes were anticipated, contracts were carefully renewed and there was a succession plan for everyone.

When Edwards left, he was succeeded by Jonathan Ward (who signed Luis Diaz), but now Ward is quitting after one season with no successor in sight.

You wonder if he’s copped the blame for the neglect of the midfield, but surely Klopp had the last word on that.

Not every recruit can hit the ground running as Diaz did, but for a combined £100m without add-ons, Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo are still to find their feet.

Last summer, a tidy sum was set aside for Aurelien Tchouameni only for the talented young Frenchman to opt for Real Madrid.

Instead, Liverpool brought in the walking wounded Arthur Melo who played 23 minutes before he was crocked again.

The Brazilian is yet another injury-prone midfielder to join Thiago, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Makes you think the once-ever-present Gini Wijnaldum shouldn’t have been allowed to leave.

Jamie Carragher has always said it was a mistake and now the defender-turned-pundit is saying what a big loss Virgil van Dijk has been lately.

“It’s not too difficult to play centre-back next to the leader of the back four,” he tweeted. “Judge centre-backs when they have to lead themselves.”

The verdict is not favourable but Van Dijk returned to training this week along with Diogo Jota, and we’ll see if the Dutchman can galvanise the rest.

For most Kopites, it’s hard not to think that FSG have taken their eye off the ball while Klopp is not immune from criticism.

Like the legendary Bill Shankly, who had fallow seasons too, he may be guilty of too much loyalty to those who’ve served him well.

When money was found in January, Gakpo was preferred to bolstering the engine room which, Klopp felt, was in safe hands.

He trusted the likes of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Thiago and the youthful Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones.

But the Brazilian has had a poor season and neither of the latter are true midfielders, their strengths being in attack, where Elliott has shone.

Injury-prone Jones, however, has not progressed as hoped.

Even more attention than usual will be focused on Monday’s derby at Anfield.

Despite Liverpool’s historic dominance, Everton will be up for it after their win over Arsenal.

Sean Dyche has turned them back into the Dogs of War but they’ll need bite as well as bark in front of a derby crowd.

It may give an idea whether the Toffees can stay up and whether Liverpool can qualify for Europe.

The Champions League looks out of reach unless they can win it.

You wouldn’t put it past Klopp to target it even now.

After the Everton clash (4am on Tuesday in Malaysia) will be a visit to Newcastle and two games with Real Madrid.

All of this should tell us whether Liverpool are merely in transition or something more serious.

Either way, there’s no one fans would rather have in the dugout next season than Klopp.

It’s his biggest crisis and will be his greatest challenge.

And he’s up for it.


The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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