Gary Neville says with Liverpool looking zombie-like in recent performances, is it time for Jurgen Klopp to consider a more defensive approach?
Everton ended their 24-game winless run at Anfield on Saturday with a deserved 2-0 win over Liverpool as Klopp’s team slipped to a fourth straight home defeat. Liverpool lacked urgency in their play and their challenge became harder when Jordan Henderson limped off with a groin injury, further worsening their problems at centre-half – an area of weakness exploited by Carlo Ancelotti.
He said: “It’s starting to get a little bit worrying in the sense we know they have got injuries, we know they have not got fans in the stadium, we know about COVID and there a lot of games, but it’s the same for everybody. But it’s the lack of change. A different idea. They just look beaten, almost like zombies on the pitch. Walking around thinking the same thing.
“Maybe it needs something different from Klopp? He has been quite simply unchallengeable and still is at Liverpool but even he might be thinking now: ‘do I have to do something different?’
“It’s not for me to advise Liverpool or Klopp what to do but playing a box to protect your centre-backs or maybe going to three at the back. We have seen other teams go to that system. But it looks to me they need a new idea just to give them a spark or it could be a really depressing season for them where they do not qualify for the Champions League, although I still think they will.
“It is a bit more of a worry than it was two or three weeks ago if you are a Liverpool fan.
“There is a chance of reset in the summer as that fourth year is always a challenge. Man City needed that year off last year when Liverpool won the league comfortably and maybe this is what it is for Liverpool. With fans returning, Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez returning it means they will be more confident over the summer but at the moment it’s desperate for them.
“I have not seen any change or a difference in what Liverpool do. Everton picked the right moment and if they were not going to show belief in that game then they never were. It was a brilliant moment for Everton. They look like they have more belief under Carlo Ancelotti in big matches. It should give the players confidence that they could have their best season for quite a while.”
The injury to Henderson, forced to move from midfield to centre-back this season in the absence of alternatives, now adds to lengthy injury list which includes Fabinho in addition to long-term absentees Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip. “It’s not good,” said Klopp of the 30-year-old’s injury afterwards.
Nat Phillips came on in Henderson’s place, joining new signing Ozan Kabak at the heart of Liverpool’s beleaguered defence as they became Klopp’s 18th centre-back pairing of the season.
Klopp talked about having to “rebuild the team” every three days in an interview with Sky Sports and Neville thinks the Liverpool boss should consider giving more protection to his defence by picking players with some defensive knowhow in front of them.
He said: “At Manchester United I played as a makeshift centre-back when there were injuries – or Roy Keane did. But then Phil Neville and John O’Shea would play in midfield or Ronnie Johnson or Nicky Butt. Yo would play like a box in order to protect the centre-backs being got at. Sometimes vs Arsenal we would play Darren Fletcher and Anderson in front as they were better defensively than Paul Scholes.
“Liverpool are still pushing up really high – why not protect them more? Maybe they need to drop deeper for a game and try something different. I know it’s not in Klopp or Liverpool’s DNA but if you have got two central midfielders at centre back or two untried players there you have got to protect them.
“I think they have to try something different otherwise they will end up in a really bad drop off. From going from Champions League and Premier League winners to fifth or sixth. They cannot afford that. Liverpool need the financial might of the Champions League so they need to win it or get in the top four.”