Written by Andy Jones (@TheRamblingHam)
Liverpool suffered a huge blow to their hopes of retaining the Premier League title on Thursday night as Burnley claimed a 1-0 victory over the champions.
Jurgen Klopp’s are now winless in five league games and have failed to score in their last four, posing the question, what is going wrong at Anfield?
Klopp made several changes to the side that faced Manchester United last weekend.
Joel Matip returned from injury to partner Fabinho in defence, whilst Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Divock Origi earned starts after impressing in training.
Skipper Jordan Henderson was unavailable due to a minor muscle injury, while Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino were benched as the Liverpool boss looked to find a solution to his side’s lack of goals in recent weeks.
Yet despite a positive start in the opening moments and a glorious opportunity spurned by Divock Origi just before half-time, the current Premier League champions looked disjointed and were unable to carve out too many clear-cut chances.
Origi produced a rare moment of excitement when he capitalised on a mis-hit back pass from Ben Mee.
The Belgian forward had the beating of Nick Pope as the Burnley ‘keeper rushed out to the forward, but his powerful effort came crashing off the crossbar and safely into the arms of the England stopper.
Not long into the second-half and Klopp had seen enough from Oxlade-Chamberlain and Origi, the German coach called upon Salah and Firmino who both saw efforts blocked on the line as the hosts struggled to find that elusive goal.
Liverpool continued to huff and puff but ultimately failed to breach the Lancashire side’s defence, who put in a hard working and disciplined performance, which was rewarded with 8 minutes to go when Allison brought Ashley Barnes down in the box.
The forward picked himself up to convert from the spot and give Burnley the three points.
So, what is going wrong?
Liverpool’s forward line underwhelmed yet again with a lack of movement and creativity proving the stumbling block.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was uncharacteristically wasteful as his crosses rarely beat the first man.
The right-back has not been playing well of late and normally his delivery from the right flank is crucial in how Liverpool play.
The Reds just seem to lack that energy and spark that has so often defined their performances in recent years.
Some have astonishingly attributed Liverpool’s struggles to the introduction of Thiago .
The Spanish playmaker has already been showcasing his sublime ability to run the show from midfield.
Thiago was arguably Liverpool’s best player against United last week, but the Spaniards tendency to slow the game down to pick a sumptuous pass could be hindering his side’s strongest assets’.
While the brilliance of the former Barcelona man is unquestionable, his presence at the heart of Liverpool’s midfield seems to be changing the way they play.
No longer are we seeing Salah and Mane running directly at full backs, turning one way then the next, but a slower more methodical approach.
Against Burnley the Reds had much of the ball but were limited to passing from side to side on the edge of the box or lumping crosses into an area, which is meat and drink to a side like Burnley.
The instinct that Liverpool’s front three have so often acted upon when putting defences to the sword seems to have disappeared, and the correlation of Thiago being brought in after Liverpool’s 7-0 drubbing of Crystal Palace might have some truth to it.
That does not mean Thiago and Liverpool can not be a match made in heaven, but rather the player and his teammates will need to adapt with each other quickly or they run the risk of getting left behind by their rivals.
A tough run of fixtures from now until the end of February include matches against Tottenham, West Ham, Brighton, Manchester City and Leicester, which are all sandwiched in between an FA Cup 4th round tie with Manchester United and a Champions League round of 16 clash with RB Leipzig.
It now looks like a defining month for the reigning champions – they will need to get the goals flowing again soon before teams like Man City, Man United or Leicester have the chance to pull away.