- Liverpool have drawn with Luton and lost to Toulouse in their last two matches
- Klopp has rebooted his side but it hasn’t all been plain sailing so far this season
- Why Luton are the team that can stay up from promoted clubs: It’s All Coming Up
They say the second album is the most difficult for a musician to make, and movie sequels rarely live up to the fanfare of the original. ‘Liverpool Reloaded’, as Jurgen Klopp calls his team, is perhaps having the same problem in reproducing the mastery of his first blockbuster side.
In falling to a dismal draw at Luton and defeat in Toulouse, Klopp slammed his team for poor defending and a lack of aggression, saying that his new-look squad must learn quickly from their mistakes if they are to justify the praise many have given them so far this season.
Of course, those two sub-par results are just a minor bump in the road for Liverpool, who are still competing on four fronts. A win against Austrian side LASK Linz at Anfield in a fortnight will see them safely advance in the Europa League, while they are in the Carabao Cup last eight.
But aside from a couple of bad results, the more worrying thing for Klopp is the level of performances. ‘We cannot have what happened in Toulouse,’ he said after their 3-2 defeat. ‘We were not aggressive enough. We really have to defend better.
‘I want us to learn from this. We can lose a game. But we have to use it to learn the right things. I wish we would learn quickly. Generally we are in a positive situation and it is important to learn to deal with that.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been left frustrated at recent performances from his side
The Reds drew with Luton at the weekend before losing to Toulouse in the Europa League on Thursday evening
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‘There has been a lot of praise and comments, I am happy with that, but in these moments you have to be there. Luton is a real learning curve, and not just because we are away (from Anfield). It is part of the learning process but it does not feel great.’
Klopp made nine changes for the trip to France and the night highlighted a lack of cutting depth in his second-string XI.
Kostas Tsimikas was at fault for Toulouse’s first goal, though it would be unfair to single out the Greek for criticism. Not one Liverpool player reached their best level.
That includes the five substitutes that came on – Dominik Szoboszlai, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mo Salah, Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota – as Toulouse’s game-plan perfectly exploited the Reds’ weaknesses. They were sloppy in possession and ran out of ideas in attacking situations.
Through Klopp’s comments about a lack of aggression, he seems irked about midfield woes. ‘Let’s talk about six, baby,’ he famously said when Liverpool won their sixth European Cup, and it feels like we are there again. Now, though, we are talking about the lack of a No 6.
Replacing Jordan Henderson and Fabinho was a summer-long saga that culminated in them signing Japan captain Wataru Endo after missing out on Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia. Endo has barely played in the league, with Alexis Mac Allister operating in holding midfield.
When you look back at every team that has won the Premier League, a continual theme is a battling, deep-lying midfielder, from Claude Makelele to N’Golo Kante, Rodri to Fabinho at Liverpool. Can Klopp win another title with Mac Allister or Endo holding up the midfield?
Alexis Mac Allister and Wataru Endo have alternated in defensive midfield for the Reds since arriving this summer
Klopp has re-built his side, branding it ‘Liverpool Reloaded’, but is currently experiencing teething problems
Both are supremely gifted footballers but the Argentine World Cup winner is not a defensive midfielder by trade and Endo has not yet reached the elite level Liverpool require. Endo will play on Sunday with Mac Allister banned, plus injuries to Ryan Gravenberch and Curtis Jones.
But all these issues are just minor negatives in what has been a great start to the season for Liverpool. They are just three points behind leaders Manchester City going into the weekend, in which they play Brentford on Sunday.
It feels like there are clear problems to solve but they are not insurmountable and, when they are fixed, ‘Liverpool Reloaded’ could be just as good as Klopp’s original all-conquering side.
As he added: ‘We can be a really good team, we have shown what we can be. But I want it now.’