Jurgen Klopp has endured a few miserable runs in January during his Liverpool tenure but few will compare to this current malaise which is threatening to derail his Premier League title defence.
A run of just three points out of 15 is miserable for any Premier League team but for Liverpool, they have been favourites for at least four of those games and backed themselves to beat Manchester United at home.
But instead, they’ve laboured to three draws, scoring just once and have slid down to fourth. Second-place Manchester City have a game in hand on them, while Tottenham and Everton, in fifth and six, can also move above them by winning their next games.
Klopp fronted up and took the blame on Thursday after their 68-game unbeaten home run was snapped by Burnley but how do the first-team players rank after their latest defeat? Sportsmail takes a closer look.
Liverpool have started to falter and pressure is on Jurgen Klopp to find a quick solution
ALISSON – 6/10
Yes, Alisson conceded the penalty that Ashley Barnes scored from for Burnley but days prior, he made two brilliant saves to keep Manchester United at bay in the drab 0-0 draw at Anfield.
He superbly denied Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba and had Liverpool slumped to a defeat there, their fierce rivals would have stretched out a longer lead at the summit of the standings.
Alisson conceded a penalty against Burnley but produced some vital saves against Man United
TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD – 2/10
The slump in form of Liverpool’s right-back has been alarming. In the 1-0 defeat by Southampton, Alexander-Arnold gave the ball away a staggering 38 times – more than any other player in the Premier League this season.
He was taken off by Klopp on 77 minutes for James Milner and while his displays reached their lowest point that night at St Mary’s, they haven’t got too much better since. At present, he just seems to lack that impetus to his play.
His crossing doesn’t seem inventive enough to penetrate teams who sit back and his confidence looks to have been knocked. On the stroke of half-time against Burnley, Alexander-Arnold blazed a free-kick high and wide from the edge of the penalty area and it epitomised his recent form.
Trent Alexander-Arnold gave the ball away an astonishing 38 times in the Southampton loss
JOEL MATIP – 5/10
A fine defender on his day but his fitness is always going to be the issue. He went off injured in the 1-1 draw against West Brom on December 27 and made his return against Burnley. He was easily the best player in a red shirt on Thursday night but that isn’t saying too much.
Klopp will be desperately hoping that his return to fitness can be maintained. It isn’t exactly a wild revelation to say that Liverpool are harder to beat with Matip in the team.
Joel Matip’s return to fitness is key for Liverpool but injury battles have hurt his time at Anfield
Overall, probably Liverpool’s player of the season so far. He has slotted seamlessly into defence and even during this current slump, hasn’t looked either out of form or a problem. He was brilliant in the 0-0 draw against Manchester United.
But it cannot be underestimated how much Liverpool miss him in midfield. And with Matip back, Klopp should seriously consider playing one of his more inexperienced centre-backs alongside the Cameroonian and moving Fabinho back into the middle of the park.
Fabinho has been one of Liverpool’s players of the season filling in at centre-back
RHYS WILLIAMS – 5/10
His only Premier League appearance in this run was to replace Matip when he went off injured against West Brom.
But a wider point needs to be considered now with Williams, who is inexperienced but is also a promising player that has shown encouraging signs in tough Champions League games, as well as playing the full 90 in Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Tottenham.
Will Klopp return him to the starting line-up and move Fabinho into midfield? Or will he persevere with Fabinho in defence and back his midfield to click into gear?
Rhys Williams could be an option to return in defence in order to allow Fabinho into midfield
NATHANIEL PHILLIPS – 5/10
Phillips played the full 90 in the 0-0 draw against Newcastle and was booked but overall, didn’t have too much to do – especially in the second half as Liverpool pursued a winner that never arrived.
ANDY ROBERTSON – 5/10
The Scotland left-back was excellent in the 1-1 draw with West Brom and while his form hasn’t dipped as significantly as his fellow full-back Alexander-Arnold, he hasn’t looked at his best in the games that have followed.
Robertson has played a lot of football this season with back-up left-back Kostas Tsimikas taking his time to settle after his summer arrival.
Perhaps a rest in the upcoming FA Cup clash against Manchester United would allow him to approach the game against Tottenham next Thursday with a fresher mindset.
JORDAN HENDERSON – 6/10
The captain has led by example in two of the recent Premier League games by filling in as a centre-back alongside Fabinho to help cover the absence of Joel Matip. He did better against United than Southampton.
News of his groin injury ahead of the Burnley match is a big blow for Liverpool. Yes, they have other midfielders who can fill his place and with Matip back, the need for Henderson in defence is lowered but in trying times, you need your big players on hand.
Liverpool badly missed Jordan Henderson against Burnley as the captain’s absence was felt
THIAGO ALCANTARA – 5/10
At times, he has looked outstanding since his return to fitness. His substitute appearance – his comeback from injury – in the 0-0 draw against Newcastle was fantastic. In the first 20 minutes or so against United, he was the best player on the pitch.
But in other moments, he just hasn’t looked quite on it yet. It is extremely harsh to lay any blame at his door – his arrival at Liverpool has been hampered by contracting coronavirus and then a bad injury sustained from a horror challenge by Everton’s Richarlison in the Merseyside derby. With a sustained run of games, he will get fitter, sharper and better.
But also, let’s call it how it is – Thiago’s vision and creativity is most important against teams who will set up to frustrate, like Newcastle and Burnley. And unfortunately, a run of those games has fallen before he can properly find his stride.
At times, Thiago has looked excellent but it has been in patches as he returns to full fitness
GEORGINIO WIJNALDUM – 4/10
The injury pile-up Liverpool have endured means Jurgen Klopp will be thanking his lucky stars that he didn’t sell Wijnaldum to make room for the arrival of Thiago, as was mooted throughout last summer.
Overall, the Dutchman has had a solid season and never goes hiding on the pitch. But in these last few games, his displays have been a lot like the overall team – out of ideas and low on confidence.
Georginio Wijnaldum has been a key man for Liverpool this season but lately his level has fallen
JAMES MILNER – 5/10
His experience will be important over the coming weeks, especially with Henderson out injured. Milner has made three appearances in this current Liverpool run but two of those were off the bench and equate to 13 minutes of game time.
Klopp has been patient in Milner rebuilding his fitness after a hamstring injury in late November away to Brighton. It could be time to turn to him now as Liverpool look to cajole their way back into winning form.
XHERDAN SHAQIRI – 5/10
At times, it has been curious as to why Jurgen Klopp hasn’t used the Swiss international more. His flair and energy looks to be just what suits Liverpool but after starting the last two games, Shaqiri has struggled to find the creativity that his side desperately need after failing to score since December 27.
Shaqiri came off the bench at Newcastle and has featured in some capacity in every game since. It is worth recognising that before that draw at St James’ Park, his last game was on November 8 before injury struck.
He should be approaching proper match sharpness by now, so it is going to need to show.
Xherdan Shaqiri’s vision could help Liverpool but he has also faced long spells out injured
CURTIS JONES – 4/10
There was talk that wasn’t particularly unfounded regarding Curtis Jones being a possible outside bet for Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2020 England squad.
His displays at Liverpool this season have been excellent and when their midfield injuries were piling up earlier on in the campaign, Jones stepped up valiantly.
But against West Brom, Jones was caught in possession before the Baggies snatched an equaliser – a steep learning curve for the 19-year-old.
Since then, he has started just one Premier League match in the 0-0 draw at Newcastle but with the team floundering, Klopp must be tempted to throw him back into the starting line-up and challenge him to show he has learnt from his mistake.
Curtis Jones made an error against West Brom but has otherwise had a solid season so far
ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN – 3/10
Patience is going to be key with Oxlade-Chamberlain, but how patient can Liverpool be in this current title race? The 27-year-old has had a horrid few years with injuries and it will take him time to rebuild the form, sharpness and momentum that can make him such a brilliant player.
He has started two games in the last five but lasted 56 minutes away to Southampton and 57 against Burnley before coming off. His performances haven’t been too eye-catching and his substitutions haven’t been surprising.
He is at a bit of a juxtaposition at the moment – his team needs an instant impact, a spark to reignite their winning form but Oxlade-Chamberlain himself needs a run of games to rediscover his highest level.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain needs patience as he bids to return to full fitness at Liverpool
DIVOCK ORIGI – 3/10
When Divock Origi was warming up at Anfield on Thursday night, he’d have been praying for a chance like the one that fell to him in the first half against Burnley. Unfortunately for him and for Liverpool, his effort cracked the underside of the crossbar and bounced back out.
In the 10 minutes or so before that, Origi looked to be coming to life in the game but that chance just before half-time took the wind out of his sails.
He went off in the 57th minute alongside Oxlade-Chamberlain and it feels like time is running out for Origi’s Liverpool career.
Diogo Jota is expected to return in February and that will push Origi further down the attacking pecking order. So between now and then, the Belgium international has to show Klopp why he still belongs in his Liverpool plans. But it increasingly looks like he doesn’t.
Things could have been so different against Burnley if Divock Origi took a great chance
SADIO MANE – 5/10
He scored Liverpool’s last goal in the 1-1 draw at West Brom, so that counts for something. And defeat by Burnley was, amazingly, the first time he has lost at Anfield since joining from Southampton in June 2016.
But in recent games with Liverpool toiling and unable to break down some stubborn defensive displays, they’ve needed a moment of magic from one of their key men. And Mane just hasn’t looked like providing it.
For all of his graft, defenders seem to find it easier to usher him down dead ends than they have for years.
MOHAMED SALAH – 3/10
His last two Premier League goals came in the 7-0 win at Crystal Palace in a substitute appearance the day an interview was published in Spain where Salah was fluttering his eyelids at Barcelona and Real Madrid.
That day, in a 33-minute appearance, Salah was ruthless, clinical and looked in fabulous touch. But since, he’s seemed flat and off the pace. Michael Owen said his play has been selfish and he is holding on to the ball too long.
Against Burnley, he had a good chance shortly after replacing Origi that brought a good save from Nick Pope but otherwise, his link-up play was so poor Liverpool fans, and Owen, would probably prefer him to hold on to the ball than give it away.
Like Liverpool overall, he looks like he needs a scrappy goal to lift the weight of pressure and play with a bit more freedom.
Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane look unable to find a moment of magic for their team
ROBERTO FIRMINO – 2/10
For so long, Firmino hasn’t had the plaudits he deserves but at present, the criticism coming his way is justified.
His position in Liverpool’s team has been under scrutiny like never before thanks to the flying start that Jota made to his Liverpool career but with the Portuguese now injured, Firmino has less pressure on his place and, one might have imagined, a bit more freedom to focus on his own game and not worry about being dislodged from the starting line-up.
But he looks remarkably bereft of confidence at present. Against both Burnley and Manchester United he had prime chances to score but mis-kicked on both occasions.
He deserved to be dropped for Burnley but unfortunately for Klopp and Liverpool, the only man who has shown enough to deserve replacing him for a proper run of games is Jota and he’s still on the treatment table.
Roberto Firmino looks out of confidence and has misfired on two great chances to score lately
On his day, Firmino’s movement and link-up play is so vital to Liverpool and he has been central to so many excellent team performances under Klopp.
A return to form, with cunning movement and slick flicks and passes wouldn’t just boost Firmino himself but also his strike partners Mane and Salah which, in turn, would make Liverpool more likely to win a game or two.
For Klopp, restoring Firmino’s confidence could be key to an upturn in form.
TAKUMI MINAMINO – N/A
It seems the worst thing Minamino could have done was score his first Liverpool goal.
After netting the opener in the 7-0 win against Crystal Palace on December 19, the Japan international would have been forgiven for expecting a little bit of a run of first-team action, especially with games coming thick and fast over Christmas.
Instead, his next Premier League appearance was a seven-minute cameo on January 21 against Burnley, more than a month later. Has Klopp fully taken to Minamino? Something seems odd.
Players like Takumi Minamino have struggled with such infrequent minutes on the pitch
JURGEN KLOPP – 4/10
Everyone is always wiser after the event, especially in football but for Klopp, a few issues are coming to the surface at the same time.
The toils of Origi, Shaqiri, Minamino are in part down to how few minutes they’ve played this season when fit. Rhythm is key to a Klopp side and it’s hard for his back-up players to have to much of it when they are given such a staggered run of games.
For Oxlade-Chamberlain particularly, but also Thiago Alcantara, patience will be needed after prolonged injury spells and they will need time to play themselves into consistent form.
Starting them both against Burnley in a Fabinho and Henderson-less midfield was an error.
For Jurgen Klopp, several problems have come to the surface at the same time for Liverpool
Further back, he has to consider returning Fabinho to midfield and trusting Rhys Williams or Nathaniel Phillips a bit more. Their confidence will have been knocked by Klopp preferring midfielder Jordan Henderson in central defence ahead of them and some of his smartest man-management will be needed to lift their belief again.
If Williams is good enough to start against Tottenham and Harry Kane and Son Heung-min – one of the deadliest strike partnership in the league this season – he’s good enough to start against most teams.
And Fabinho in the midfield holding role will give more insurance to players like Thiago to get further up the pitch and help out a flailing strike force with the vision and invention that makes him such a thrilling player to watch.
Mane, Salah and Firmino have all hit a wall at the same time but they can’t, and won’t, stay like that for too long. For Firmino, his scoring form points to a deeper malaise but earlier this season, when the goals were still few and far between, his performance level was so much higher. When one gets back to something near their best, it’ll create chances for the other two on the pitch.
It will be fascinating to see how strong a line-up Klopp chooses to face United at Old Trafford in the FA Cup on Sunday. Four days later, they are away to Tottenham in the Premier League. Two defeats, especially in the latter, really would be a disaster.