John Gibbons: 5 concerns I have about Liverpool’s early-season form

It's only a couple of games, but Anfield's red machine hasn't looked quite as smooth as 2018/19's. What does the Anfield Wrap's John Gibbons make of it all?


Liverpool are now UEFA Super Cup Champions. Or, as Liverpool Fans have started calling it, Super European Champions. “The Champions Board” on display at Melwood needs changing again. After very little to do for years, suddenly the person in charge of changing it is overworked. World Club Championship in December, mate and we don’t even have a space for that one yet. Someone google what the trophy looks like, quick.

But we have to be honest as Reds and say the Super Cup wasn’t top of our list of priorities for the season. Sure, it was a fun night and a nice bonus, but this team is far too talented to limit its ambitions at winning one-off exhibition games, no matter how prestigious they are. The big one we want is a first league title for 30 years. Can Liverpool do it this year? Or will Manchester City prove too strong again? Only time will tell. But these are the five concerns I have about Liverpool at this stage of the season.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY – AUGUST 14: Adrian of Liverpool celebrates Sadio Mane of Liverpool scoring his team’s second goal during the UEFA Super Cup match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Vodafone Park on August 14, 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

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The goalkeeper situation

It’s not great, is it? Allison played every minute of every league game last season, then managed to get injured in the first half of the first game. I’d describe the calf injury sustained from slipping taking a goal kick as a “freak incident”, but then I’m not sure where that would leave me trying to describe what happened to Adrian. If you’ve missed it, apparently an overly eager fan ran on to the pitch to join in the celebrations after the penalty shootout win, slipped and managed to completely clean out Adrian, bruising his ankle.

Now he’s a doubt for Southampton and having sold Simon Mignolet and sent Loris Karius to a cave to think about Kiev for the rest of his life, Liverpool face the very real prospect of having to play a fella who spent last year at Rochdale. Which probably isn’t an issue facing Barcelona any time soon. Liverpool have played down the seriousness of Alisson’s injury, but then once spent a whole season telling us Nathaniel Clyne would be out for “2-3 weeks more”, so who knows really. Let’s hope for the sake of our title challenge he is back sooner rather than later, or we might be pulling David James off Strictly Come Dancing.

A suddenly suspect defence

Liverpool had the meanest defence in the league last season. I’m not sure what they’ve been doing over the summer, but we seem to have been working on letting attackers run right through the middle of us. Bold strategy, let’s see if it pays off. There were warning signs against Manchester City, but then that was written off as a glorified friendly against an attacking side who can cut anyone open.

It happened again against Norwich, but we were 4-0 up at half-time and it was Friday night so we were all drunk, so everyone just kind of forgot about it. But again on Wednesday Chelsea made a tonne of chances against Liverpool and there seems to be a new way of defending that not everyone seems comfortable or familiar with yet. There seemed to be a consensus amongst Liverpool fans that our defensive line was dangerously high at times, yet after the game, Jurgen Klopp said we were falling too deep, so God knows how high he wants us to be. We’ll sort it out eventually, but maybe not before someone has capitalised on the uncertainty.

A lack of squad depth

Liverpool shuffled the pack defensively on Wednesday, but that only succeeded in highlighting how short of options we seem to be there now. Joe Gomez seems to have ended up our second choice centre back, right back and left-back. I mean he is very talented, but he might struggle to be in three places at once should it be required. Aside from that at the back we have Dejan Lovren, who we are currently trying to sell to Roma, and a load of teenagers.

Exciting teenagers, but teenagers who Jurgen Klopp seems surprisingly reluctant to throw in, considering he is letting more experienced players go.

I’m looking forward to the manager complaining about having to play Fabinho or Jordan Henderson in defence in November, as if the whole thing couldn’t have possibly been avoided. By December I might be pining for Alberto Moreno.

A lack of star midfielder

One area of the pitch we are actually very well covered is central midfield, and they are all very good too.

It’s really nice to have a belter though isn’t it?

We saw the benefit of that on Wednesday night when Kante absolutely ran the show for Chelsea. Liverpool haven’t had a belter in the middle since Phil Coutinho left. Naby Keita was meant to be the replacement, but he doesn’t seem massively keen on actually playing football and so the jury remains out on whether he can add that magic spark to Liverpool’s talented but rather workmanlike midfield. In comparison, Manchester City have got loads of them. The greedy gets.

Over-reliance on the front three

It’s an old classic, but we saw it again on Wednesday night. That Firmino, Salah and Mane work so well together is brilliant, but the problem of being “more than the sum of your parts” is that if you take one out, you can become less than the sum of your parts.

So, against Chelsea, we weren’t just missing Firmino, but getting a weaker Mane and Salah into the balance. Divock Origi had huge moments last season, but there are still question marks of whether he fits into our all-round style of play and might just be an impact sub. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain was tried there on Wednesday, with less than minimal success and the manager remains a Xherdan Shaqiri sceptic.

Unless Mane, Salah and Firmino can start 60 games over three continents this season, we are going to have to find a plan B eventually.

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What do you think?