What's going wrong at Liverpool and who should they sign to save title hopes? Big debate

16 mins read

Jurgen Klopp reacts to Man Utd defeat

For all the talk of Manchester United being submerged in a crisis at the start of this season, it is their old enemy Liverpool who now lie lower in the table following the Red Devils’ 2-1 victory over their bitter rivals on Monday night. Jurgen Klopp’s side put in an uncharacteristically meek, timid performance at Old Trafford, and have now picked up just two points from three games following similarly disappointing showings in the 2-2 and 1-1 draws against Fulham and Crystal Palace respectively. 

The Reds look miles away from the team who have reached three Champions League finals in the last five seasons, and questions are now being asked over whether their hopes of mounting another title challenge are already in jeopardy. 

So what exactly is going wrong? Why has Klopp’s heavy metal football been so out of tune in the current campaign? And what can the powers-that-be at Anfield do in order to turn things around?

Express Sport take an in-depth look at the situation on Merseyside…

What has gone wrong for Liverpool so far this season?

Stuart Ballard: Not to fall into the same trap as Klopp but it’s hard not to point out the main issue being the injuries – and Darwin Nunez’s red card against Palace obviously didn’t help. Not having Diogo Jota, Nunez, Thiago, Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate available, while Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino are far from full fitness, would hamper any team.

But more worrying than that is the perceived lack of effort from the team as a collective through the first three games. The next match against Bournemouth now looks a daunting prospect given how Liverpool have started the season and that says a lot.


Liverpool have had a dreadful start to the season (Image: Getty)

Danny Gallagher: The hangover from the tail end of last season has failed to subside, and it’s becoming fairly clear Klopp has been unable to fully iron out the malaise. Liverpool look like a team waiting for somebody to take charge, as many have over the past few seasons, but no firm candidates are stepping up to the plate and the whole side is looking rather lethargic as a result.

Tom Parsons: Klopp should ask himself how far he can take his players. The Reds were absolutely outstanding last season but still missed out on the Premier League title and the Champions League trophy. Can Klopp really expect the same intensity and belief from his players after they failed to get the rewards for their endeavours last time around?

Archie Griggs: A number of injuries to key players have derailed Liverpool’s start to the season, with their stretched midfield struggling to live up to expectations. The duo of Henderson and James Milner were largely ineffectual against United in particular, although Harvey Elliott has shown flashes of promise when called upon to deputise.

Sam Smith: A late end to last season due to the Champions League and a short pre-season have contributed to an inevitably slow start to the new campaign. Klopp surely regrets deciding against making a midfield signing, with United looking so much fitter in the middle of the pitch on Monday night. 

Jack Otway: It’s difficult to say. Liverpool weren’t fully at the races during pre-season and they appear to be struggling when it comes to rediscovering their mojo. There’s still no need to panic, however. Some teams start slower than others. Losing Sadio Mane was always going to be tricky and Nunez is yet to hit the ground running.

He is too good to flop, however, and it’s likely he’ll come good in the coming months ahead. Liverpool just need a win to lift spirits – then I can see them going on one of their typically brilliant runs.

Joe Krishnan: It would be understandable for Klopp to blame their poor form on the Reds’ injury woes at present, but it is not the only issue that is preventing them from finding their feet. Some of Klopp’s selections – from choosing Milner over Fabinho against United to persisting with an out-of-sorts Firmino – have been odd.

Michael Gowler: Klopp’s side appear to be experiencing something of a hangover having seen the most enthralling campaign end in agony with Premier League and Champions League heartbreak last time out. The loss of Mane cannot be understated while torrid luck on the injury front, a failure to land an all-action midfielder and too much experimenting within pre-season are all contributing factors in Liverpool’s lacklustre start to the new campaign.

Who could they sign to improve things before the end of the transfer window?

Stuart Ballard: You can’t ignore Liverpool’s obvious need for a playmaking midfielder. Thiago holds that position down when fit and will clearly be the first-choice option, while Elliott has shown promise, but Liverpool have been in desperate need of a Plan B so far and not having that available has cost Klopp. Someone like Florian Neuhaus or Nicolo Barella would likely fit the bill if Jude Bellingham can’t be picked up this summer. But Liverpool’s need for a midfielder is well known and they will be forced to pay a premium.

Danny Gallagher: The midfield situation needs to be addressed, and looks set to become the talking point of the season either way. Liverpool have too many players who cannot be relied upon right now, as Naby Keita’s latest injury absence against Manchester United showed. Others, including Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, have equally poor records when it comes to the medical department, and are severely lacking in match fitness.

Bellingham appears to be the long-term focus but no guarantees exist to give the confidence that he will arrive in 12-months time. A favourable option right now could be to acquire the services of Youri Tielemans, who is keen to leave Leicester and in turn the Foxes are willing to arrange a deal. 

Tom Parsons: Mane’s departure appears to have hit Liverpool hard – but they have already bolstered their attack by signing Luis Diaz in January and Nunez in June. The forwards need a chance to show what they can do, but the Reds should bring in a star midfielder who can protect the backline and dominate in the centre of the pitch.

Archie Griggs: A new central midfielder would be the obvious choice in order to provide some much-needed additional injury cover in the engine room. A move for Tielemans, who is out of contract at the end of the season, could be an interesting one to pursue for Liverpool and the 25-year-old is likely to be available for a relatively modest fee after turning down the offer of a new deal at Leicester City.

Sam Smith: It is too late for Liverpool to make a big-name signing who would be an obvious improvement. There is no way Borussia Dortmund would relinquish Bellingham with less than two weeks of the window remaining. The Reds are desperate for an energetic combative midfielder. 

Jack Otway: The money doesn’t appear to be there at Liverpool after the Nunez deal. But a new midfielder is sorely needed, as their defeat to United showed. Brighton’s Moises Caicedo would be a good recruit but the Premier League side will likely demand a huge figure to let him go at this stage.

Joe Krishnan: Bellingham would be an outstanding signing, but it’s just not realistic this late in the window. Tielemans would provide a quality extra option for Klopp in midfield amid Keita’s injury woes and the fact the Leicester midfielder is available for a cut-price fee would make it a steal for Liverpool.

Michael Gowler: The obvious suggestion would be Bellingham to address the Reds’ midfield malaise, but at this stage in the transfer window, that one appears completely out of the question. It may well be a case of too little too late with regards to reinforcements, and Klopp’s side have now been left to pay the price.


Stars such as Roberto Firmino are struggling for form (Image: Getty)

Are the Reds’ title hopes over already or can they turn things around?

Stuart Ballard: Things will eventually turn around for Liverpool and it may come as a blessing that their blip comes now as opposed to later in the season. They were nine points adrift of Manchester City as late as February last season and still forced the title race into the final day of the season. It’s far from over, but Liverpool need to end this blip before it becomes a crisis.

Danny Gallagher: The metaphorical mountain to climb is now very much the situation. As they’ve shown numerous times over the past several seasons, Liverpool can click into gear and go on the most remarkable runs. With the quality of the Manchester City squad however, and the general elevation in quality across the top flight, Klopp’s men would need to be close to immaculate for the remainder of the campaign to keep realistic hopes alive.

Tom Parsons: It doesn’t look like Liverpool can be title contenders this season. We know how competitive the Premier League has become, and two points from the opening three games just won’t cut it. Tottenham and Arsenal are flying this season. And with City’s dominance showing no sign of abating, the Reds could well be in for a tough campaign. 

Archie Griggs: It would be silly to write Liverpool off after just three matches of the new Premier League season, with a huge number of points still left to play for over the coming months. However, the Reds already find themselves five points adrift of City and it will undoubtedly be tricky for them to close the gap unless the defending champions experience a blip of their own.

Sam Smith: Liverpool were already facing an uphill battle due to Man City’s improvements over the summer. The title race is not over yet, and Liverpool would have been buoyed by City’s draw with Newcastle, but things need to improve quickly. 

Jack Otway: No title hopes are ever over after the first three matches. Liverpool were way behind City last season and still pushed then close, so it’s not unfeasible they will challenge later in the campaign. That said, another defeat at the weekend – against Bournemouth – would be a hammer blow. Four games and no wins wouldn’t exactly suggest they’ve got what it takes to win the country’s biggest prize again. 

Joe Krishnan: If the title wasn’t over by February last season when Liverpool were some 13 points adrift, it certainly isn’t this year after just three games and a five-point deficit to claw back. But as I said at the start of the season, losing Mane is a killer blow and Liverpool are some way short of being good enough to challenge City at the moment.

Michael Gowler: As a number of shock results at the start of this season have already proven anything can happen in Premier League football. While it’s far too early to dismiss Liverpool as title challengers, the Reds need points on the board and fast.

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