Klopp’s Liverpool farewell at risk of fizzling out



LIVERPOOL:

Jurgen Klopp was headed for a glorious send-off in his final season at Liverpool just a few weeks ago, but talk of a potential quadruple is now long forgotten as the Reds have come off the rails.

Liverpool have a mountain to climb if they are to make the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday after losing the first leg of their last-eight tie at home to Atalanta 3-0.

Klopp’s men were also dumped out the FA Cup by Manchester United last month as the Red Devils edged a thrilling tie 4-3 at Old Trafford.

Liverpool failed to learn their lesson from that defeat as they were held 2-2 by United three weeks later and then stunned 1-0 at home by Crystal Palace in their last two Premier League games to fall two points behind Manchester City in the title race.

AFP Sport looks at what has gone wrong to leave Klopp’s fitting farewell at risk of fizzling out.

Liverpool’s habit of fighting back from losing positions was lauded earlier in the campaign as a sign of the “mentality monsters” Klopp has created throughout his time at Anfield.

They have amassed 27 points after falling behind in the Premier League alone this season, but saw their luck run out against Palace on Sunday after another slow start.

In all competitions, Liverpool have conceded the opening goal 21 times this season.

“It’s been the story of the last few games and that’s why we have been punished,” said left-back Andy Robertson on his side’s sluggish starts. “We are struggling to keep clean sheets right now.”

To compound a run of nine games without a clean sheet, Liverpool’s forward line has also gone off the boil come the business end of the season.

In their last six league games, the 19-time English champions have scored nine goals from a total of 149 shots, a conversion rate of six percent, which would be the worst in the Premier League over the course of a season.

Mohamed Salah has looked out of sorts since returning from a hamstring injury picked up at the Africa Cup of Nations.

And Diogo Jota, often heralded as the most natural finisher at the club, has only just returned from a two-month injury layoff.

Luis Diaz, Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo have combined to score 45 goals this season but all remain inconsistent in front of goal.

That trio have been labelled “scruffy” by former Manchester United captain Gary Neville in comparison to the Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane triumvirate that carried Liverpool to glory earlier in Klopp’s reign.

“I think the nature of the players, it will always be a little bit like that in terms of the numbers we are looking at because of the way they finish and the type of players that they are,” said former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher.

The quest for the quadruple could now be coming back to haunt Klopp as Liverpool look to have run out of steam.

They have already played 51 games this season and will have a minimum of seven more before the end of the campaign.

A number of academy graduates stepped up during an injury crisis in the early months of 2024 and helped ensure Klopp did at least secure some silverware in his final season by winning the League Cup in February.

Yet, just as they are getting major players back with Alisson Becker and Trent Alexander-Arnold returning along with Jota in the past week, those that have been relied on most during the winter months are fading.

Klopp admitted after the Palace match that midfield duo Alexis Mac Allister and Wataru Endo are struggling due to the burden placed upon them.

“A couple of players had to play a lot and a couple of players always were interrupted — that’s a bit the situation,”  said Klopp.

“We just have to make sure that we don’t think about where we are coming from — whether they are injured or whether they are not — and make sure we find a way to beat the specific opponent in front of us. It’s always like this.”



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