Reasons for Klopp’s struggling Reds to be cheerful

Does it serve any real purpose trawling through Liverpool’s travails this season? After all, we’ve watched it unfold before our ever-widening eyes. The shocking 7-2 defeat at Villa Park. The injuries. The six home defeats on the bounce. A recently indomitable, ferociously brilliant creation reduced to a stuttering side unsure of themselves.

There is a scene in Superman II where the man of steel has lost his powers and is duffed up in a diner as Clark Kent. “That’s my blood,” he says incredulously. That’s pretty much been Liverpool this term.

What is to become of Jurgen Klopp’s team from now until the season’s end? Will their struggles continue until a reset can be attempted in the summer? Or are there causes to be upbeat amidst all the negativity surrounding Anfield right now?

As the examples below illustrate, it’s the latter.

Liverpool are still in top four race

This weekend the Reds return to league action after the international break and face the immediate threat of losing further ground in the race to secure a Champions League spot for next season.

On Saturday lunchtime fourth-placed Chelsea play West Brom. If the Blues win then the Reds will be eight points adrift of the top four by the time they take on Arsenal at the Emirates that evening.

Should Liverpool beat the Gunners, however, then suddenly their top four fight looks a lot more manageable.

The champions have the easiest run-in of all the teams involved in the race. Six of their final seven fixtures are against sides currently languishing in the bottom half of the table and their other game is against Manchester United which we can assume will end in a draw because it usually does.

By comparison, Chelsea’s home straight is strewn with obstacles. Their final four fixtures are against Manchester City, Arsenal, Leicester, and Aston Villa.

Staying in touching distance with the Blues must be Liverpool’s objective for now. Because at the business end things could change very quickly.

Liverpool are 15/8 to finish in the top four.

Arsenal’s Achilles heel

Arsenal are Jekyll and Hyde under Mikel Arteta but they still have their big club aura at the Emirates and several stats point to a home win.

Mikel Arteta, Arsenal boss.jpg

Arteta clearly likes playing Liverpool, having won three-quarters of his encounters with them as manager, although two of those victories were achieved via penalties. Then there’s the contrasting form of both sides, with Arsenal unbeaten in four.

But here’s the counter argument.

The Gunners have conceded more goals in their last six games than Liverpool yet Arteta’s men have accrued five points more. This suggests that, if the Reds’ back-line holds firm, they have every chance of winning.

Furthermore, despite haemorrhaging points of late Liverpool’s away record stands up to scrutiny. They have won four from their last five, including two successful trips to London when they beat Spurs and West Ham.

Arsenal have conceded 34% of their league goals this term inside the opening 25 minutes. Interestingly, they have also been breached four times in the 45th minute, indicating that they switch off mentally as the break approaches.

Can Liverpool take advantage of their opponent’s first-half Achilles heel? If so, they will have to break a long-standing habit because astonishingly they have only scored twice in the first period in 2021. But guess when those two goals flew in? That’s right. The 45th minute.

The champions are 17/10 to be ahead at half-time.

A disciplinary issue is also worth noting. Arsenal have received five red cards this season. Liverpool have yet to see a player sent off.

Kabak and Phillips offer defensive solution

Many of Liverpool’s problems this season stem from defensive issues, namely losing Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip to long-term injuries.

Klopp has played 18 different centre-back combinations and the deployment of Jordan Henderson and/or Fabinho in defence has weakened the midfield.

But all of that might be about to improve due to a burgeoning partnership in the shape of Ozan Kabak and Nathaniel Phillips.

Granted Kabak, a 21-year-old loanee from Schalke, and the academy product Phillips may have only started three games together, but all have been clean sheets. They have played 330 minutes together and conceded just one goal.

Kabak in particular is looking more solid with every performance as he adapts to Klopp’s detailed demands and best of all, the duo’s trustworthiness has resulted in Fabinho returning to the centre-circle where he thrives.

Up front there are also grounds for optimism with the return of Diogo Jota. His recent winner against Wolves was a welcome reminder of his goal-threat prior to succumbing to injury while it bodes well that the Reds’ summer signing bagged three on international duty this week for Portugal.

Jota is 11/2 to break the deadlock this weekend.

Champions League suits Liverpool

With Liverpool just two rounds away from reaching what would be their third Champions League final in four seasons, it has been mooted that continental success might be their best route to securing European football again next year. Moreover, lifting the big-eared trophy at the end of May would certainly turn a fan-base’s frown upside-down in spectacular fashion.

Standing in their way are Real Madrid, a formidable prospect with Toni Kroos and Luca Modric in scintillating form. The seasoned schemers could do real damage with no Henderson patrolling.

There are, however, more reasons to be cheerful than fearful for the Reds because this is not the Real Madrid of old. They’re eminently beatable with Eden Hazard a major doubt. Mo Salah, meanwhile, may be suffering a rare goal drought in the Premier League but he boasts three in three in the Champions League.

Liverpool so often find a way through in this tournament. Its dramatic structure suits them.

They are 11/2 to win European football’s biggest prize for a seventh time this season.