Jamie Redknapp says Liverpool’s injuries and their drop-off in confidence and performance levels makes a top-four finish tough – but expects them to roar back next season.
The defending champions’ Merseyside derby defeat at home to Everton on Saturday made it six defeats in their last nine games and with captain Jordan Henderson the latest centre-back option to be struck by injury, Liverpool’s hopes of a Champions League qualifying spot are in doubt.
Speaking on the latest Pitch to Post Preview Podcast, Redknapp believes Liverpool’s “fear factor is gone” and there will be no quick turnaround in their fortunes, with the 9jabase Sports pundit predicting more setbacks for Jurgen Klopp’s side between now and the end of the season.
However, he says Liverpool supporters can be optimistic of a return to form in 2021/22 when fans are back at Anfield, and Virgil van Dijk is fit again, and belief is back in the team.
Listen to the Pitch to Post Preview Podcast for more from Redknapp on Liverpool’s situation, Ozan Kabak’s tough start, and their Super Sunday clash with Sheffield United; plus the show features further analysis ahead of Chelsea vs Man Utd and Tottenham vs Burnley.
“Teams have found a way. I remember when West Brom came to Anfield, they sat back and let Liverpool get crosses into the box and because they haven’t got that focal point of a big striker you end up crossing the ball for the sake of it, not working little balls into the front man, getting runners from midfield… And they have struggled, especially when they go a goal behind, to find the answer.
“It will come, of course it will come, but right now everything Liverpool do feels difficult. When you’re in a team struggling for form, even the basics, simple passes, crosses, normally they’d find a man but they’re not quite happening for them now. They have to get their confidence back.
They might not finish top four. It wouldn’t be a surprise – it’s actually more of a surprise if they did finish top four in the form they’re in.
“They might not finish top four. It wouldn’t be a surprise – it’s actually more of a surprise if they did finish top four in the form they’re in.
“But they’ll have to look at this as an exercise. It’s not gone well for them but how can they do in the Champions League? Can they win the Champions League and upset the odds and do something incredibly special on that front?”
“One thing you can’t deny is the levels have dropped. If you were to go through the team, the ‘keeper has not been as good, Trent Alexander-Arnold, last year and the year before, his levels have been so high – the best right-back in the world we were talking about – he’s not been the same player this year.
“That can be through a number of reasons – is he thinking, ‘I’ve cracked it?’ All I have to do is turn up and play’ and maybe not do the basics of what made him one of the best right-backs, which was great defending, great going forward, working hard to stop the opposition first and foremost…
“I have seen a drop off and if he’s honest he’ll look in the mirror and say I’ve not been as good this year.
“When you get a bit of criticism, what you’ve got to do is look at yourself and think can I do better? And there’s a number of players who can do better, make no mistake. Individuals have to do better. They’ll know that. They have to work harder.”
“I don’t know what they’re going to end up with as their centre-back pairing at the moment. Henderson could be out for a couple of months and it’s terrible news. They’re not a team who can keep going through these partnerships.
“You’re trying to work in a system but confidence is low. You can talk about the team playing higher up the pitch, all these little factors, but if you’re conceding goals all the time, and that fear factor is gone, it doesn’t really matter what you do because Liverpool are just struggling for confidence.
“Everton went there and as soon as they scored that first goal you could see the players’ shoulders start to go, they started to lose belief in what they were doing and it is inevitable you end up losing games.
“And that back two, right now, whoever they end up with because of the personnel they have at their disposal, is a team which would struggle. That’s not a good back four in any team in the Premier League, let alone Liverpool who are the title-holders.
“There’s nothing to be scared of about Liverpool right now. This is a team you can get after, certainly defensively, make sure you don’t give away silly mistakes or let Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino or Sadio Mane do something special, and you’ve got every chance of winning it because the midfield and defence is decimated.”
“The Anfield factor is huge. We talk about home and away – they’re just playing on a pitch right now.
“When you used to play at Anfield – and I played there for Liverpool and against them – when you walk onto that pitch and you hear ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ you look at people and you can see they’re scared, they don’t want to go there.
“Of course, your Man Utds, your big players, that doesn’t bother them but a lot of teams will have gone there and thought this is a nightmare. They wouldn’t want to play out from the back with five minutes to go.
“But because there’s no pressure of the crowd they’re just doing it and it’s easy to play against Liverpool right now because the players aren’t at the level they were last year and there’s no crowd making them anxious.”
“This isn’t a short fix. Liverpool’s results up until the end of the season are going to be up and down.
“They’re going to have some good results because they’ve got Salah, Firmino and Mane to do incredible things but they’re also going to have some really poor results, that is a fact. Because you can’t change what’s in front of you right now.
This isn’t a short fix. Liverpool’s results up until the end of the season are going to be up and down.
“Jurgen Klopp can’t get a special formula or recipe to go, ‘I’m going to change this, I’m going to be so bright and so clever and change it to a back three’, it isn’t going to change a thing.
“Klopp has got the hardest job at the moment because he hasn’t got a partnership, none of them have played together, you’ve lost your captain for three months… he’s got a really tough job.
“It will come, of course it will come, but just right now everything Liverpool do feels difficult. When you’re in a team struggling for form, even the basics, simple passes, crosses, normally they’d find a man but they’re not quite happening for them now. They have to get their confidence back.”
“Losing Virgil van Dijk – people don’t want to hear it. ‘Losing Van Dijk’ it can’t be that easy [to explain Liverpool’s problems].
“But pre-Van Dijk for Liverpool was where they are now. Not a lot different. Win games, great. Lose games. Van Dijk came in and all of a sudden they looked like a proper team.
“One player can make that much of a difference. Look at Ruben Dias at Man City. They’re not playing any better than they were last season, Man City. They were having the same amount of possession but they’d lose a goal, with a minute to go, because they weren’t quite as good and teams thought ‘we can get at this back four’ because they were playing a midfielder at centre-back.
“Dias-Laporte, Dias-Stones and all of a sudden it’s like ‘wow, they can win anything they want’. But it isn’t that much different in terms of personnel going forward.”
“Jurgen Klopp had an easy job last season to a certain extent because all he had to do was keep them going out onto the pitch. The confidence was high and the fans were in the stadium. Everything they did, people believed it.
“But right now he’s up against it. It’s his first challenge at Liverpool. He’ll come through it but it won’t be now.
“It will be, I think, next season, once things start to get back to normality. Next season will be a complete change. You’re going to get back to normality, not just on the playing staff, as you start to get your key players back, but with the crowd in the stadium.”
Pitch to Post Preview – Jamie Redknapp’s Liverpool verdict. Plus: Chelsea v Man Utd build-up, and Tottenham’s tricky Burnley test
On this week’s Pitch to Post Preview Podcast, Jamie Redknapp joins Peter Smith to assess where Liverpool stand right now. The 9jabase Sports pundit explains why he thinks it would be a surprise if they make the top four and the reasons why he expects them to get back to their top level next season.
We also hear from 9jabase Sports football writer Jack Wilkinson, who assesses Chelsea’s start under Thomas Tuchel, Man Utd’s talk of the title, and gives his verdict on why the next couple of months could be key for the future of Jose Mourinho and Tottenham. Plus he shares his Pitch for the weekend!