LIVERPOOL, England — It is each week, now, that Liverpool appears to lose one other little piece of itself. An unbeaten dwelling report that stretched again greater than three years disappeared in January, spirited away by Burnley. The sense of Anfield as a fortress collapsed quickly after, stormed briefly order by Brighton after which by Manchester City.
The golden afterglow of the long-awaited Premier League crown that arrived final summer time has been dimming for a while, however it darkened for good final week, with Jürgen Klopp conceding the Premier League title whereas nonetheless in the bitter grip of winter.
And then, as fireworks boomed and automobile horns blared throughout Merseyside on Saturday night, got here what could also be the most hurtful shift of all. Everton had not tasted victory at Anfield this century. It had not received a derby at all in additional than a decade. For Liverpool, the impotence of its neighbor and rival had been a supply of such unbridled glee that it had lengthy since been fused into a part of its self-identity.
But now, all of that, too, has gone. Richarlison put Everton forward after simply three minutes. Carlo Ancelotti’s staff held Liverpool at arm’s size with a level of consolation, ruffled solely in flurries, for the remainder of the night.
The solely trace that the Everton gamers knew they had been shut to making — or, maybe, ending — historical past got here of their celebrations when Gylfi Sigurdsson settled the sport from the penalty spot with 10 minutes to play, finishing the 2-Zero rating line. The reactions had been raucous and definitive, the sound of a curse being lifted. On the touchline, Duncan Ferguson, a part of the cloth of Everton for nearly all of that 20-year spell, first as a participant and now as a coach, bounced and roared.
Of course, Ancelotti and his gamers deserve reward and admiration for the precision and the poise of their efficiency, however the strategy that introduced them victory depends on a confluence of things. First, after all, is that your staff should be targeted and disciplined and arranged: not removed from good, in actual fact.
Second, you should be, if not fortunate, then at least not unfortunate: even the most finely laid plan will be undone by an unlucky bounce of the ball, an arbitrary deflection, a second of surprise.
And third, you want your opponent to be discovered wanting. A staff stuffed with confidence and power and concepts will, most frequently, decide a means via even the most masterful protection. Liverpool lacked all of these issues completely and completely.
It will not be desperately onerous to work out why Liverpool has toiled a lot this season. Klopp, definitely, doesn’t consider there’s any nice thriller right here. Liverpool has misplaced not solely Virgil Van Dijk, however Joe Gomez and Joel Matip to damage, tearing the base out of its protection, of its staff. Klopp has had little alternative however to dismantle his midfield to patch up his protection.
But that’s simply the begin. At instances, it has appeared as if every part that might have gone improper for Liverpool this season has gone improper. It is simpler to listing the gamers who haven’t spent at least a couple of weeks in the therapy room: Andy Robertson, Georginio Wijnaldum, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané.
Fabinho, the first midfielder drafted into protection, is at present absent together with his personal damage. Jordan Henderson, the second, limped off in the first half Saturday with a groin damage. Alisson Becker, extensively considered the considered one of the world’s greatest goalkeepers and the one reassuring presence in Liverpool’s make-do-and-mend back-line, made three evident errors in the defeats to Manchester City and Leicester.
If the root of the downside doesn’t require forensic investigation, although, the response to it would. Klopp has, at instances, appeared noticeably extra irascible than typical this season, clashing with tv reporters, snapping at journalists in information conferences, exchanging cross phrases with opposing managers.
When it emerged earlier this month that he had endured a private tragedy — the loss of life of his mom — it appeared as if that provided an evidence for the change in temper. Klopp, although, is adamant that he’s in a position to compartmentalize his emotions; those who work with him say there has been no real change. Klopp has always been prickly. What has changed is the perception. Terseness from a position of strength is a flexing of the muscles. From a position of weakness, it looks a lot like a tantrum.
Indeed, it is striking that, even as what started as a dip has become a slump and now, on the back four consecutive home defeats — the club’s worst run since 1923 — has the look of a spiral, Liverpool has not sought change of any sort.
That is true of the club as a whole — its failure to have a central defensive reinforcement ready to go on January 1 was the act of a club operating in the old world, not the new — and it is especially true of Klopp. The style has stayed the same. The system has stayed the same. “The only way I know is to try it again, and again, and again,” he said Friday.
It was a telling statement. Klopp is the archetype of what might be called a system coach: He has a way of playing that is baked into his soul. His counterpart at Everton, Ancelotti, is the opposite: a manager who once coached Andrea Pirlo but who is perfectly content, in a different time, to instruct Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey to punt the ball long and hopeful, over and over again, hoping to catch the right current in the wind.
Such pragmatism is anathema to Klopp. Changing his style, so integral to his identity, would mean changing himself. That is the trait that has brought him such success, of course; it is possible, though, that it might also be what limits it in certain circumstances, that his loyalty to the system is damaging when external factors mean the system itself can no longer work.
Klopp has experienced a run like this — a period when it feels as though nothing goes right — once before, in his last year at Borussia Dortmund. Then, too, his squad was ravaged by injuries. He had, in the previous seasons, dealt with the departure of a raft of key players, too. He refused to compromise his beliefs. Dortmund finished seventh, and he stepped down.
The echoes of that year grow stronger with every passing week at Liverpool, with every new and unwanted record that falls. Liverpool keeps doing the same things, expecting different results, a team banging its head against a brick wall. It keeps losing all those little pieces of itself, lost in the shadow of an identity that cannot countenance change.