'Massive punch in the face' – Klopp takes blame but what has happened to Liverpool?


Manager Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool’s defeat by Burnley was a “massive punch in the face” but took full responsibility for Thursday’s 1-0 loss at Anfield.

The champions romped to their first top-flight title in 30 years last term but have fallen off significantly this season, lying six points behind leaders Manchester United and without a win in five games.

The Reds seemed to be hitting their stride on 19 December when they took Crystal Palace apart 7-0, but have not won since then.

“It’s a tough one, not easy to explain,” Klopp told BBC Sport. “These boys are not the kind of person after a 7-0 to think ‘we’ll go like this’, they worked hard tonight and it didn’t happen.

“If something doesn’t work, you have to try harder, more often, longer. It was not easy to lose that game and we did it.

“If I sit now here, losing against Burnley and didn’t score for the last four games and talk about the title race, how silly that would be?”

So where has it gone wrong for Liverpool?

‘Confidence is a small flower and someone has stamped on it’

Liverpool’s last loss at home came 1,370 days ago against Palace in April 2017, and they were undone this time by a late Ashley Barnes penalty.

It was their first league defeat at Anfield in 69 games, the second-longest unbeaten top-flight run behind Chelsea, who managed 86 games before their streak was ended in October 2008.

Despite missing injured defenders Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, their issues lie at the other end of the pitch where they are usually so efficient.

Since Sadio Mane netted in the 1-1 draw against West Brom on 27 December, Liverpool have had 87 shots at goal in the Premier League without scoring, including 27 against Burnley – although they did win 4-1 at Aston Villa in the FA Cup.

Despite that Cup success, they have failed to score in their last four league games – with two goalless draws and two 1-0 losses – and boss Klopp has not gone that long without his side scoring since 2006 when manager of Mainz.

Klopp, who left star forwards Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino on the bench for the first 57 minutes against Burnley, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It’s my fault and that’s how it is. We have to make better decisions, we have to do the right stuff more often.

“These boys are able to do it but obviously after not scoring for a while, it’s not that they are full of confidence. You can see that.

“And people say ‘how can they not be full of confidence, they have won last year this and that?’.

“But confidence is like a small flower, obviously someone has stamped on it. In this moment, we have to find a new one and we will – but for tonight, it was not enough.

“In the last third, decision-making is not how it should be. Everyone will talk about it, which makes the problem not smaller but bigger.”

Liverpool’s top four place under threat?

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson reacts after conceding a penalty to Burnley
Liverpool have conceded two penalties at Anfield this season

The Reds are fourth in the table, a point clear of Tottenham, who they face in their next league game on 28 January after Sunday’s FA Cup fourth-round tie at Manchester United.

After Spurs, they face a tough run of fixtures against West Ham, Brighton, Manchester City, Leicester and Everton.

Former Anfield defender Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports: “Liverpool are so poor going forward. They have been miles off what they have been the last few years.

“At the moment it looks like the title is slipping away. Six points can still be recovered but, with form and fixtures, Liverpool might be worrying about [losing] top-four positions rather than the title.

“They have a lot to ponder, you can’t help but wonder what has gone wrong. I can’t remember a time this Liverpool team have been so out of form.”

Former Reds manager and fellow Sky pundit Graeme Souness added: “It has been coming. Liverpool have been a shadow of the past three years. No sparkle, they were flat.

“This will be a real test, Jurgen will find what he has got in that dressing room. So much expectation and they have not dealt with it very well – that’s what makes you a special team. “

‘Something missing from this team’ – analysis

Ex-Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson on BBC Radio 5 Live: “There were too many occasions for Liverpool where they had an extra touch, their crossing into the box wasn’t particularly good, the passing generally wasn’t good.

“The Liverpool full-backs aren’t providing as much for the forwards because teams have worked out how to play against them. Also, the service from midfield without Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in there isn’t quite the same.

“The problem for Liverpool is they are not creating enough clear-cut chances. Why? I honestly don’t know. Jurgen Klopp and his coaches will know there is something missing from this team at the moment.”

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