No one blameless at Liverpool but Klopp culpable for belief giving way to crippling doubt

Ian Watson
Jurgen Klopp watches Liverpool lose at Wolves.

If it wasn’t the case before their latest three-goal embarrassment, it certainly is now. Liverpool are in crisis. A full on, cracked-badge crisis.

It hasn’t been this bad for the Reds since 2015. Then, Jurgen Klopp breezed in and turned doubters to believers. He’s done it once, so it may be that he can do it again, But from the manager’s demeanour, it seems the first person he needs to convince is himself.

At the full-time whistle, Klopp looked resigned and forlorn. Beaten as badly as his side have been by Wolves, Brighton and Brentford. Those three-goal defeats represent the first time in over a decade that Liverpool have suffered three consecutive losses on the road.

Brentford was bad; Brighton was awful; Wolves was worse still. Since the first of those defeats just over a month ago, Klopp and the travelling supporters have been waiting for a reaction from their players but, each time, all they’ve witnessed is a new nadir.

They have their excuses. Injuries have hit Liverpool hard, perhaps not in volume but certainly in scale. Klopp is currently without his first choice centre-back pairing but both Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate were present and culpable at Brentford.

Still, Van Dijk on his worst day would be an upgrade on what Joel Matip and Joe Gomez offered up at Molineux. Matip went to Wolves in woeful form and his early own goal put Liverpool on the back foot. The manner in which the ball made its way beyond Alisson was unfortunate for the defender, but he – and his team-mates – cannot blame bad luck for how Hwang Hee-chan found himself in possession at the byline.

Gomez was dragged from the centre as Wolves were forced back in to the middle third. But to retreat to his post the defender took an eternity, the same length of time Wolves were granted to clip a ball into the space Gomez had vacated, with no Liverpool player concerned about cover. Matip belatedly got across, for some reason hesitating on the way, only to divert Hwang’s low cut-back past his own keeper.

Wolves vs Liverpool

Klopp labelled Liverpool as ‘passive’, which is the apt description of their defending from a set-piece seven minutes later. ‘Half-arsed’ would be appropriate too. Andy Robertson went through the motions while Matip was unwilling or incapable of closing down Craig Dawson’s space as the Wolves defender lashed home his first goal for his new club.

“It was a horrible start. The two goals cannot happen,” said Klopp, correcting himself twice that indeed they did, clearly still in disbelief at the surrender he had just witnessed. Liverpool did rouse themselves, but only as someone walking away from a car crash might. Then it was the strikers’ turn to highlight their wretchedness.

The manager was distracted in his post-match interview by the replaying in his eye-line of opportunities wasted by Darwin Nunez and Mo Salah. “These chances…” he muttered mid-stream, before clinging to an excuse offered to him about last season’s 63-game exploits catching up with them.

Liverpool certainly do look tired but to accept that as mitigation for their current woes would only serve to exacerbate the problems. Of which there are many.

There is culpability at every level at Anfield. The owners appear to have tuned out while they wait for buyers or investors to line their pockets. A lack of investment has tied the hands of Klopp’s back office, but not enough to stop them splurging on an expensive new forward when a midfielder was obviously the priority. If the idea was to wait for Jude Bellingham, they can only have misjudged the England star’s ambition.

The current players – the senior ones almost without exception – have wilted. In some cases, disgracefully. Then there is Klopp himself. The manager has preached of the importance of training over transfers but whatever he and his coaches are doing during the week clearly isn’t working. From any of the physical, mental or tactical perspectives.

“I have no explanation,” admitted Klopp. But regardless of the decay around him, it is on him to come up with a way through this mess. Assuming he still has the will.

Read more: Jurgen Klopp has ‘no words’ to explain Liverpool slump after ‘horrible’ start vs Wolves – ‘I’m sorry’