Juergen Klopp, lauded for overseeing the most attractive side in English football before Christmas, said Liverpool’s New Year decline made “no sense” after their Premier League title challenge evaporated on Saturday.
A 2-0 defeat at struggling Hull City was probably the worst display by Liverpool in a woeful series of performances that seemed unthinkable after they ended 2016 with a vibrant win over fellow contenders Manchester City.
Since that New Year’s Eve victory, they have won just one of 10 matches and that was a fairly undistinguished affair against fourth-tier Plymouth Argyle in the FA cup.
Their malaise, again in evidence as they ran out of attacking ideas against Hull — losing to goals from the Tigers’ on-loan Senegalese strikers, debutant Alfred N’Diaye and Oumar Niasse — has been put down to numerous factors.
Weariness stemming from their energetic pressing game, the loss of Sadio Mane to the African Nations Cup, an overcrowded schedule, the belief that other sides have cottoned on to Klopp’s methods… all these have been put forward as reasons for Liverpool’s slump.
Yet even Klopp himself sounded as if he could not fathom the reasons as he told the BBC after the game: “We gave both goals away easily, the overall performance was not like it should be.
“It makes no sense for us to play like this. If we played like we did in the second half for the whole game, no team can cope with us. But we need to wake up; that was not acceptable.
“I have a lot of thoughts at the moment and I can’t even say a few of them right now because I really need to think about what happened.”
Once again, his side dominated the ball but did not come close to making their 72 percent worth of possession count, even after they improved on their insipid first-half showing. “We had a lot of possession, but what is possession?” mused Klopp.
“Possession is only good if you create something. It was not like we expected from ourselves. We have to take the criticism, think about it, find a few answers and react.
“We have quality still but we have to show it, it’s not to talk about it or to find excuses. Maybe a few teams have found a solution to us but that doesn’t matter because we are making chances and should score goals.”
Most alarming for Klopp has been to see the goals dry up. Before Christmas they had been comfortably the most prolific scorers in the league but they have scored just eight times in their 10 matches this year.