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David Meyler: Klopp is still the right man for Liverpool despite record losing streak at Anfield

In his latest column, the former Ireland international discusses the Merseyside club’s fall from grace before predicting the North London derby.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp.
Reds boss Jurgen Klopp.
Image: PA

EX-IRELAND INTERNATIONAL David Meyler is The42′s football columnist for this season.

Every Friday, the former Hull City and Sunderland midfielder will give expert insight and his predictions ahead of the weekend’s Premier League action, alongside the latest William Hill prices.

This week, he gives his thoughts on the problems facing Liverpool as they prepare to take on Wolves at Molineux and then looks ahead to Sunday’s North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham. 

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Wolves v Liverpool, 8pm Monday

How have things gone so wrong at Liverpool? 

At this stage of the season a year ago, the Reds had won 26 out of 28 matches — having drawn one and lost the other — to hold a commanding 22-point advantage over Manchester City en route to winning the league for the first time in 30 years. 

Their title defence has been nothing short of abysmal, however. 

Last weekend saw them set a new record for the longest top-flight home losing streak by a title holder with the 1-0 defeat to relegation-threatened Fulham. That was the sixth straight defeat at Anfield, a statistic that would have been unthinkable until very recently.

Given the intensity they played at and the levels they reached over the past few seasons, there was always likely to be a drop off, but few expected it to be for this long to the point where the soon-to-be dethroned champions are currently eighth in the table and seven points off the top four.

There is no doubt that injuries to key players at the back have been a major factor. The big-money signings of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson were rightly heralded as the missing pieces of Jurgen Klopp’s jigsaw when they were made in January and July of 2018 respectively. 

A player as influential as Van Dijk was always going to be impossible to replace while he recovers from ACL surgery after Jordan Pickford’s reckless challenge in October’s Merseyside derby.

To make matters worse, fellow centre-halves Joe Gomez and Joel Matip were then ruled out for the season, while makeshift defenders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson also picked up injuries — although the former has recently returned to the fray. 

The drop-off in form of Liverpool’s forward line has been significant too. Sadio Mane chipped in with 18 goals and nine assists in the Premier League last season, but he has only managed seven goals and four assists so far this term. 

Roberto Firmino’s displays have also largely been below par, and while Mohamed Salah only needs two goals to equal last season’s tally of 19 in the league, his assists are way down and speculation about his future at the club makes you wonder whether he will there beyond this summer. 

The trio have now failed to score in the last four league games and it has simply not been good enough. 

Having to play in front of empty stadiums hasn’t helped Liverpool either, in my opinion. Of course, no club has had supporters at their grounds since before the beginning of the pandemic but as an away player, Anfield is always one of the most difficult places to go because of the hostile atmosphere and their passionate supporters.

sheffield-united-v-liverpool-premier-league-bramall-lane Mohamed Salah. Source: PA

On top of that, family tragedies for Klopp, who lost his mother last month, and Alisson, whose father drowned in Brazil a fortnight ago, will have certainly affected both as much as they try to remain professional and get on with their jobs.

There have been rumblings from some supporters about whether it is time for Klopp to move on. This is the man who delivered the club’s sixth Champions League/European Cup trophy, as well as the Premier League — the Holy Grail and one Reds fans craved for so long.

Having led Rangers to the Scottish Premiership title last weekend, club legend Steven Gerrard was asked about managing Liverpool and replied:

“The Liverpool fans don’t want me to be the manager of Liverpool Football Club. They want Jurgen Klopp to continue to be the Liverpool manager, and I’m totally with all of them. We shouldn’t talk about this, we have one of the best managers leading our club at the minute. I love him.”

I think he echoes every true Liverpool supporter. They know all too well what going through hard times feels like, and Klopp succeeded where so many failed by ending the 30-year wait.

A concern some might have is where does Klopp go next after all his success? He won two league titles with Borussia Dortmund, then came to Liverpool and made them English, European and world champions.

The German national job is the one that seemed to fit and my fear was, if he was going to leave Liverpool, that would be his destination.

After 15 years in charge and having won the World Cup, Joachim Low came out a few days ago and announced that he would be stepping down once the Euros are played. So it was nice to hear Klopp say he doesn’t want it now.

I still feel that he may take over after whoever replaces Low, but right now he is still the man for Liverpool and I believe that they can turn things around by altering a few things to make sure they are more solid defensively.

Look at Manchester United, who changed their approach after the 6-1 defeat by Spurs in October and shored up the backline. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have been thinking ‘we’re not conceding six again, so let’s be harder to break down and look to counter attack’.

It’s a trip to Molineux for Liverpool on Monday night to face a Wolves side who have blown hot and cold this year. Raul Jimenez continues to be a massive loss as their focal point and while they have tried to address that issue by bringing in Willian Jose from Real Sociedad, the Brazilian striker has done okay leading the line without converting any of his chances.

This is a game Liverpool will be desperate to claim three points in after getting back to winning ways and progressing past RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

The pressure is on to make the top four and they need to start turning the tide now. As a Liverpool supporter, I’m thinking glass half-full and expecting them to win — 2-0.

Arsenal v Tottenham, 4.30pm Sunday 

gareth-bale-file-photo Gareth Bale is in fine form for Tottenham. Source: PA

We’ve got a North London derby on our hands this Sunday as a rejuvenated Tottenham make the short trip to the Emirates Stadium to face their rivals. 

Spurs have scored four goals in their last two league outings at home and Gareth Bale is beginning to look like the player they hoped they were signing on loan from Real Madrid.

He is obviously a world-class footballer, you don’t win three Champions Leagues if you’re not.

Although it will be very difficult for him to hit the heights he has in the past, Bale is finally finding form and brings a different dynamic by creating space for Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane. Likewise, when the other two are performing well they do the same for him.

The Gunners, 10th in the table right now, continue to be hit and miss — a fine victory over Leicester was followed up by the 1-1 draw with Burnley. You have to give credit to the Clarets for how good they were on the day though, as they took the game to Arsenal and pressed well.

This weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mikel Arteta doing something different tactically. He is going to have to nullify Kane, not only his goals but his assists and his link-up play too.

I think the momentum is with Tottenham but feel Arsenal will create chances. I’ll go 2-1 Spurs.

William Hill odds above correct at the time of writing. New online customers get €30 in free bets when they bet €10 with William Hill. Just use the promo code H30. For all the latest prices, visit williamhill.com. 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more information, see gamblingtherapy.org    

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