Scrambling for answers
Liverpool’s Premier League title defence is in tatters after a 4-1 humbling at home by Manchester City, with Jurgen Klopp facing an uphill task to stop the champions’ season imploding.
The bedraggled red-shirted players trudged off the pitch at Anfield on Sunday after their third consecutive home defeat left them 10 points behind Pep Guardiola’s men, having played a game more.
Goalkeeper Alisson Becker made two costly blunders after Mohamed Salah had cancelled out Ilkay Gundogan’s opener, before Phil Foden blasted home a fourth at an empty Anfield.
It means after a run of 68 league games unbeaten at home, Liverpool have now lost three consecutive league games at Anfield for the first time since 1963.
Former Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane, now a Sky Sports pundit, gave a withering assessment of Liverpool’s efforts to retain their title.
“They are making a lot of excuses,” said Keane, who won the Premier League seven times at Old Trafford. “To me they’ve been bad champions and I don’t just mean today.
“You can lose a game of football but there is a way to get beaten. I don’t see that and I think maybe they have all believed the hype over the last year or two.”
A stubborn Klopp defended his side’s performance up until Alisson’s first error allowed Gundogan to restore City’s lead 17 minutes from time, with his second of the match.
“We scored our goal and in that moment it was possible the game goes in our direction, but Alisson made two massive mistakes,” said Klopp.
“Apart from that the game ends 1-1. The performance was good enough at least to draw, and that’s it.”
The figures make grim reading for the Liverpool hierarchy.
After 23 games this season, Liverpool have 40 points -- 27 fewer points than they did at the same stage last season.
That is the biggest drop by any reigning champion at this stage of a campaign in English top-flight history.
Despite his upbeat words, Klopp knows he has a monumental task on his hands to repair the shattered confidence of a team who just months ago romped to their first English top-flight title for 30 years.
Instead of the title, which now appears to be City’s to lose, Liverpool are glancing nervously over their shoulder as the race for Champions League qualification becomes their priority.
Chelsea and West Ham are only a point behind, with Everton, who have two matches in hand, just three back.
Tottenham and Aston Villa are also within striking distance. Liverpool have a few days off this week to regroup as they are not involved in FA Cup action. - AFP