Liverpool’s unbeaten home run in the Premier League is over, after a 1-0 loss to Burnley at Anfield on Thursday night.
Ashley Barnes’ 83rd-minute penalty was the difference between the two sides.
A 68 game streak meant that Liverpool had not lost a Premier League game at home since losing 2-1 to Crystal Palace in April 2017.
Liverpool have not scored a goal since the 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion on December 27th.
They have not tasted victory in the league since their 7-0 win away at Crystal Palace in their last game before Christmas.
So what has gone wrong for Liverpool?
Struggles After A Brilliant Three Seasons
It has been a difficult spell for Liverpool fans who have seen their club be so successful in the past three seasons.
When Christian Benteke netted two goals against his former club in the aforementioned Palace win back in April 2017, nobody could have predicted the run the club would go on.
Liverpool crucially reached the Champions League at the end of the season, thanks to a 3-0 win over Middlesborough on the last day.
In the three seasons that followed, Liverpool reached two Champions League finals in consecutive seasons, winning one and losing one. They also won the European Super Cup, Club World Cup as well as ending the 30 year wait for a Premier League title. This was one season after missing out on the league title with 97 points.
The team was bound to hit a bad run of form at some point after such a successful period.
Injuries To Key Liverpool Players
Liverpool drew 2-2 with local rivals Everton in October. Jordan Henderson’s injury-time winner was ruled out after a VAR check but this was not the biggest disappointment of the game.
Centre back Virgil van Dijk suffered a season-ending injury after a tackle from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Joe Gomez would soon follow suit and also suffer an injury that would keep him out until next season. With Matip’s unreliable ability to stay fit and the sale of Dejan Lovren, this left the club with no recognised centre-halves.
Youngsters Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips have both impressed at times but have also shown their inexperience with some mistakes they have made.
So far in 2021, before Matip returned on Thursday, Liverpool have had two midfielders playing centre back in Fabinho and Jordan Henderson. It is reported that Henderson was going to remain centre back against Burnley had he not suffered an injury that ruled him out of the game.
Fabinho and Henderson played well in the 0-0 draw with Manchester United in early January. The defence has not been an issue for Liverpool in van Dijk’s absence, especially considering the Dutch international played in the 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa.
Van Dijk’s absence has caused more issues for how it has affected the Liverpool midfield, along with his missed aerial threat from set-pieces.
Playing Fabinho and Henderson centre back means Liverpool have been without their impact in midfield.
One of Fabinho’s biggest strengths is his ability to mop up the ball and get the ball straight back to the Liverpool attacking three. Henderson does a lot of unnoticed work for the team. Both of these are missed when they play in defence.
A lack of intensity is something that Liverpool are suffering with at the moment. Not having these two in the midfield has been a bigger loss than we all envisaged.
Trent’s Poor Season
Trent Alexander-Arnold has had a poor season by the standard’s he has set in his young career. Both Trent and left-back Andy Robertson have the four most assists in a season in Premier League history.
The ability to get forward and cross the ball in for the forwards has been the staple of Liverpool’s attacking system these past two seasons.
In the Burnley loss, Trent struggled both defensively and going forward, with his crossing off the mark.
In the 1-0 defeat to Southampton on January 4th, Trent recorded 38 misplaced passes.
Talk of moving to midfield has been around throughout Trent’s time in the first team, but right now he seems devoid of creating anything going forward and is really struggling at the back.
Diogo Jota’s Impressive Start Halted By Injury
Diogo Jota signed from Wolverhampton Wanderers for £45 million during the summer transfer window and had an excellent start to the season.
Jota scored 9 goals in 17 appearances in all competitions and was in great form before suffering an injury that has ruled him out since mid-December.
In seasons gone by, one of Mané, Firmino and Salah would always turn up and perform if the other two didn’t. This season, there have been games when none of the three have played well. Jota was making up for that with his goals.
Liverpool faced Danish side FC Midtjylland in the final game of the group stage. They were already through as group winners. Manager Jürgen Klopp decided to start Jota, Salah, Fabinho and Alexander-Arnold in this game and paid the price with Jota suffering the injury.
Jota has been a big miss, especially with the front three all off the mark.
He returns in early February and will be a welcome addition to this Liverpool attack that is short of confidence at this present moment.
Reasons To Be Optimistic
Despite the run of form, Liverpool fans should still find room for optimism.
In any other season, you would probably rule Liverpool out of contention. However, this season has been the most open and topsy-turvy season in Premier League history. There are six to seven teams that have a chance of winning the league.
Manchester City’s form means that they are rightly the current favourites for the league, but they have every chance of going through a bad run. Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton have all gone through bad spells this season.
Just eight points separate seventh-place Everton and first place Man United, with the blue half of Merseyside having two games in hand over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men at the top.
If Liverpool can get back to the form that saw them beat Tottenham 2-1 and Palace 7-0 in the same week, then they remain a title contender. Should the current form carry over then the club will have to be wary of their place in the Champions League next season.