The Premier League title race consistently delivers drama and excitement. Last year, Arsenal fell short due to a combination of injuries and individual errors. This year, Liverpool experienced a fall in what had been a closely contested three-horse race for the championship. What exactly went wrong for Liverpool?

Manchester City, the Eternal Competitor

Manchester City seems to be the common denominator, and Pep Guardiola’s Citizens are not slowing down. City consistently ramps up their performance as the season progresses, defying their typically slow starts and securing victory after victory.

But Liverpool’s challenges this season are largely of their own making. The Reds played with fire – and got burned. Klopp announced his departure mid-season, leaving the club in uncertainty as they scrambled to find a suitable successor. 

Although the players have been giving it their all – for their beloved manager – in most cases, working hard is simply not enough. If there is one lesson Liverpool has learned this season, it is the importance of strategic finesse over raw exertion.

Trailing Behind Is Never Healthy

One pattern that has haunted Liverpool throughout the season is the lack of midfield compactness. This has allowed opponents to swiftly break through defensive lines, exploiting gaps with alarming ease.

Memorable moments, like the crazy 3-2 comeback against Fulham, showed Liverpool’s typical fighting spirit. However, most of the goals conceded could have been avoided. Such escapes became a pattern, and it is possible to rely on them up to some point. However, there will come a day when they don’t work anymore. Albert Einstein once said that ‘madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. In April, Liverpool learned this the hard way.

A Stark Contrast with Their Rivals

Liverpool represents the opposite of what Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola believe in – maintaining control and minimizing risks to secure clean victories. Although it might sound like a cliche, preventing a problem is always better than finding a cure.  

Meanwhile, Klopp sees opportunities and risks as engines driving his team, no matter the consequences. And this season, with injuries and a lack of confidence haunting his forwards, this approach has backfired.

Key players like Luis Díaz and Diogo Jota have been sidelined with injuries during the season. Additionally, Darwin Núñez’s finishing technique still needs refining, as the Uruguayan forward tends to hit the ball too hard, sacrificing accuracy for power.

The criticism and personal attacks he has faced online, particularly targeting his family, have also contributed to his subpar performance. This has also led to Núñez removing all Liverpool-related posts on social media, further drowning the forward in a lack of confidence in his abilities.

The defence heavily relied on Virgil Van Dijk and Konaté, but Trent Alexander-Arnold’s injury added insult to injury. This culminated in a disastrous April, illustrating the severe consequences of Klopp’s high-risk strategy.

A Difference in the Squads

On the other hand, the opponents faced fewer injuries. In recent weeks, both Manchester City and Arsenal have seen their squads return to full strength after recovering from injuries, improving their performance.

 Meanwhile, Liverpool couldn’t deal with the tight schedule. Atalanta eliminated them from the Europa League, and they lost against a direct competitor. Furthermore, it led to a lack of morale, as seen in the surprise defeat in the Merseyside Derby (0-2). Liverpool’s descent into hell continued with a clumsy draw against West Ham (2-2). 

A Lack of Defensive Care

Liverpool’s defence is in shambles, as the last clean sheet in the Premier League dates back to January against Bournemouth (3-0). Since then, the Premier League hasn’t witnessed another clean sheet from the Reds, which starkly contrasts with their rivals Arsenal and Liverpool. This defensive frailty is a key reason why Jürgen Klopp’s team faltered in April.

The midfield has also been a major issue, failing to support the attack and defence. While capable of contributing offensively, the trade-off was absent, preventing the team from performing optimally. In many ways, a drop-off was expected, albeit not as stark and severe as it turned out. Liverpool followed the ‘don’t fix what ain’t broken’ motto but failed to realize something had broken. 

From the perspective of performance analytics, the warning signs were clear well before the visible decline began – the numbers don’t lie. Too often, Liverpool has trailed behind in the opening quarter of the ninety minutes, leading to a vulnerable side that still often managed to escape. However, justice has no mercy, and Liverpool eventually got what they had coming. 

Liverpool’s guideline was a broken thread, and the dopamine from comebacks is rarely healthy. Despite the signs, the Reds knew nothing else, so they continued, which led to a sharper decline than necessary.

A High-Quality Competition

Liverpool’s recent struggles, while notable, shouldn’t be viewed as a disaster or as a source of shame for the fans. But it was bound to happen in the world of probability. It is also a testament to the quality of Liverpool’s opponents, who have been enjoying life to the fullest extent. Both Manchester City and Arsenal are the antithesis of Liverpool’s culture, which leads to intense battles. 

The FSG group is known to be careful with how much money it invests in the club, and this year, it showed. Liverpool lacked funding and, therefore, played with a tighter squad. Especially on the offensive end, it meant playing with limited resources, making it easier for opponents to strategize effectively against them.

Liverpool was not supposed to be standing this high in the Premier League – but in the end, the course of justice finally arrived. The Football Gods avenged clubs that fell short against Liverpool and took matters into their own hands. If Liverpool wants to keep fighting in the future against the other giants, it will have to learn that too relying on dopamine is unsustainable – and that strategic investment in expanding the squad depth is vital.

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