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Loss of control and attacking clout: Liverpool's issues are systematic and not all on Loris Karius

BeSoccer by BeSoccer @besoccer_com - 0 378

Pin Loris Karius is the target of critics. Goal
Loris Karius is the target of critics. Goal

Loss of control and attacking clout: Liverpool's issues are systematic and not all on Loris Karius

BeSoccer by BeSoccer @besoccer_com - 0 378

The goalkeeper has dominated the agenda when dissecting the Reds' mini-slump, but there is a deeper conundrum than the 23-year-old's mistakes.

Jurgen Klopp knew what the headlines would be as soon as the words rolled out of his mouth, yet beyond the barbs aimed at former players-turned-pundits - supremely the Neville brothers - the Liverpool boss provided revealing analysis at Melwood on Monday.

His tactical thoughts were gazumped by his verbal punches to the gut of Gary, Phil and co, but they were of greater significance. 

The Reds have won just one Premier League game since the last international break and were made to toil for that 2-0 triumph over Sunderland after losing Philippe Coutinho to ankle ligament damage in the first half. 

The Brazilian’s absence has not just affected the quality of Liverpool’s attacking output, but their shape - Roberto Firmino is more effective as the focal point than he is stationed wide - and ability to transition effectively. 

It is unfortunate and unhelpful that Coutinho's injury has coincided with several others: Daniel Sturridge is set to miss a fifth consecutive game with a calf complaint, Marko Grujic has a tendon issue, Emre Can is nursing a knee problem and Klopp’s best offensive option from the bench has been 17-year-old Ben Woodburn.

In terms of personnel, they've gone from a position of power to one of paucity in less than a month.

Liverpool scored a combined five goals in the defeat at Bournemouth and the draw with West Ham, but chance creation has decreased, while the counter-press has not been as efficient.

The struggling Hammers matched their hosts for shots on target at Anfield on Sunday, with three apiece. 

Bournemouth, meanwhile, managed five more in their shock 4-3 comeback at Dean Court seven days earlier, with Eddie Howe believing: "In the second half we looked like scoring every time we attacked".

Liverpool’s faded frontline has heavily contributed to a lack of control and increased pressure defensively so while the agenda may be to pick, prick and pull at Loris Karius, their current problems go much deeper than the goalkeeper, who has erred in the past two games and hasn't been fully commanding yet.

The 23-year-old’s job would be made easier if the team was not offering up the highest quality chances to the opposition in the league, despite restricting them to the fewest shots.

It is myopic to separate criticism of him from that of the system. As Klopp explained on Liverpool’s difficulties: “It's a little bit about formation, at this moment we played with three real strikers.

"I know everybody misses Phil, of course, but the role he played was very often like a central midfielder or a No.8 when he came in the middle. 

"That means when you misplace a pass from there or lose the ball then we already have a formation for counter-press and things like this. Now we have too many players in the first line. 

"We still create chances with this but it's, of course, a little bit too risky. That's what we have to adapt now, we know already what we have to work on but that doesn't mean it works immediately in the first second. 

"And then you concede these kind of goals".

With Middlesbrough next up for the Merseysiders, a side Antonio Conte labelled as “incredibly organised and hard to break down,” Klopp needs to find ways to revive Liverpool’s authority and effectiveness in attack.

"Unfortunately, they are a very difficult side to play, because they haven’t scored a lot until now but they don’t concede a lot,” the German said of Wednesday night’s opponents.

"They are a football-playing side with quite skilled players. We made the opposition analysis this morning and it’s really interesting to see what they are capable of. It’s an interesting challenge, I would say.

"It’s never easy in the Premier League, but this game of course is not easy. But we don’t care too much; we take their skills, we take their qualities, we take their weaknesses only for analysis and then we have to play our game. If there is something we can use, we try to, that’s all.

"They played quite differently against different sides. In one moment they are a real possession side but on the other hand, against Arsenal and City for example, they only had 20 per cent possession or something.

"That’s all part of the truth. They are flexible in the way they play but always difficult to play".

Liverpool have already proven that their assertive blueprint, while inviting risk and seeing small mistakes punished, works to blinding effect when the balance is right.

They need to restore the terror opposition managers spoke of when lining up against them prior to the international break, and sharpish.

The conversation on Karius can and probably will run, but he is only one part of a larger talking point with Liverpool needing to transform the discussion. 

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