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Is Liverpool’s era coming to an end?

The World Cup provided a welcome respite for Liverpool Football Club. After a rocky start to the season, it’s time to regroup and reassess. Defeats and poor performances had made for an unpleasant autumn. Things couldn’t possibly get any worse, the logic went.

They have, however. As the European soccer season began, the same issues arose for Jürgen Klopp’s team, and now not only is there no chance of winning the English Premier League, but there is also little chance of finishing in the top four, securing qualification to the Champions League for next season.

To be sure, if Liverpool wins the Champions League in June, it will be in Europe’s showpiece competition the following season. It is still mathematically possible to win the English Premier League title, but only because there are so many games left.

In truth, Liverpool was out of the title race in October due to their dismal results, and now, barely into the new year, Klopp’s men are 10 points behind a resurgent Manchester United, who are fourth.

How did Liverpool come to be in this position? Last season, this was a club that battled for all four major trophies, narrowly missing out on the Premier League title by one point on the final day of the season and losing to Real Madrid in the Champions League final.

The other two trophies, the FA Cup and the League Cup, were won in a season in which Liverpool played 63 games and won 73% of them.

Since Klopp’s arrival in October 2015, this is a club that has grown accustomed to winning, competing for the title, progressing in cup competitions, and bringing in the right players at the right time.

‘I can’t think of a worse game.’
Liverpool has dropped 26 points in the league this season, four more than it did all of last season, and has scored fewer goals, conceded more, and won fewer points than in any of Klopp’s previous seven seasons at this point.

Liverpool’s 3-0 league loss to Brighton on Saturday was their worst performance of the season, and there have been plenty to choose from.

“I can’t remember a worse game,” Klopp said after the game to BBC Sport. I truly cannot… Of course, we’re worried. “How can you not be interested in a game like this?”

“It hasn’t been right for a little while now,” captain Jordan Henderson admitted. Everyone is aware of this. I’ll accept responsibility, and the boys will as well. We must try to make things right.”

However, the big question is: how? One of Liverpool’s major issues is a lack of energy in midfield, which is required if the team is to play Klopp’s high-octane pressing game.

Henderson, now 31, and Fabinho, 29, appeared heavy legged in the middle of the pitch against Brighton and have failed to provide the needed thrust this season.

The two have performed admirably for Liverpool during Klopp’s tenure, and were key cogs in the club’s first league title in 30 years in 2020, but does this season signal a need for long-term change? Is an era coming to an end?

On Saturday, Klopp made four substitutions, including Henderson and Fabinho. It was too late to change the outcome of the game, but it may be a sign that a major shake-up is required if the team is to return to previous seasons’ levels.

The Reds have been linked with a summer move for Borussia Dortmund’s English midfielder Jude Bellingham, a teenager with exceptional talent who is wanted by the majority of Europe’s top clubs.

Would the midfielder choose a Liverpool team that will not compete in the Champions League next season over Real Madrid and Manchester City, both of which are likely to be more lucrative options?

It all depends on how appealing the prospect of working with a manager like Klopp is. Given how vulnerable Liverpool’s midfield has been this season, he would almost certainly be guaranteed plenty of playing time.

However, midfield isn’t the only issue. The defence is weak. Virgil van Dijk, the Netherlands’ defensive leader, is injured, but his absence is brief – the backline has been poor this season even with the captain in the centre of defence.

Confidence is clearly low, as it should be when opponents, even those from lower leagues, cut through with ease.

‘We’re pretty low on confidence,’ Henderson admitted. “There is a lack of energy. We must continue to fight, and hopefully we will be able to change things sooner rather than later.”

And, in terms of offence, a forward line that isn’t scoring isn’t wreaking havoc in the opposing half. Sadio Mane’s summer departure to Bayern Munich is certainly one explanation for the demise of a once-feared frontline, while injuries to more recent signings Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota have limited the Reds’ attacking options.

Darwin Nez, who has the potential to become the club’s record signing, was brought in to replace Mane, and while he has the potential to be a superstar, he has had a mediocre start to his Liverpool career.

While few could have predicted that a team that scored with ease last season, led by an in-form Mo Salah, would end up in this position, Mane’s departure may have signalled the end of a cycle and the need for a total refresh.

Liverpool signed Cody Gakpo, one of Europe’s most coveted young players, from PSV Eindhoven last month, but expecting a 23-year-old to make such an immediate impact on the club’s fortunes would be too much to ask.

However, it has been reported that Liverpool’s owners are considering selling the club, which raises the question of how much money they are willing to invest in revamping a team that has fallen so far behind its competitors.

If this team remains the Liverpool of old, the’mentality monsters,’ as Klopp dubbed them for their refusal to wave the white flag, there is still hope for the season, hope for a turnaround and a string of victories to put them back in top-four contention.

However, the results of this season indicate that this is a highly unlikely scenario. Only time will tell if Klopp and his team can turn things around for an incredible comeback.

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