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Premier League: What next for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool?

With 18 games of the Premier League season gone, it's somewhat strange to see Liverpool languishing down in ninth place below the likes of Fulham, Brentford and Brighton.

Yes, there have been key injuries to the squad, but performances are a big concern for not just the fans but also Jurgen Klopp, who admitted that he "couldn’t remember a worse performance" after Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Brighton.

There are certainly some big questions to be answered…

Can the Reds still salvage a Champions League spot this season? 
Will Klopp see out the campaign? 
Will they buy again before the January transfer window closes?
 

WhatLiverpool v Chelsea, Premier League
WhereAnfield, Liverpool
When12:30, Saturday 21st January
How to watchBT Sport 1
OddsLiverpool 17/20, Draw 11/4, Chelsea 3/1 

Anfield squad feeling the strain

Tiredness is a well-used excuse in football, but this Liverpool squad would be within their rights to say that fatigue has set in.

Last season they fought for trophies on all four fronts and eventually played 63 games, as they went on to lift the EFL and FA Cups. They lost out in the final of the Champions League - which they are 9/1 to win this season - and missed out on the league title on the last day.

It’s fair to say that some of the squad don’t look like the same players they did 12 months ago, when the energy and desire was there for all to see, as they almost overturned a 13-point gap to Manchester City.

Add to that the high-pressing, high-octane football that Klopp demands and you can see why some of the Reds stars, particularly the older players, are looking like they are struggling.

Key absences hitting Anfield hopes

A lot of the talk from the pundits has been about how much Liverpool are missing striker Sadio Mane, who left last summer to join Bayern Munich.

There is no doubt Mane is a big miss, but injuries to other key players have been even more significant, with Luis Diaz a major absentee.

The Colombian winger had scored three goals in eight Premier League games and was having a big impact on the Reds, but a knee injury suffered at Arsenal back on 9th October has left him sidelined until at least February.

Couple that with a calf injury for Diogo Jota - who scored 15 league goals last season - and you can see why the Merseysiders have struggled going forward.

The absence of that key duo has also piled more pressure on summer signing Darwin Nunez - 5/1 to score first against Chelsea on Saturday - who has struggled to adjust to the intensity of the Premier League.

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Defensive concerns for Klopp

More of a worry for Klopp will be Liverpool’s defensive record, with the Reds having kept just four clean sheets in the league this season.

In fact, five teams have a better defensive record that Klopp’s men this term and opponents have felt they can get at the Reds backline.

With Virgil van Dijk now sidelined for a spell, their talisman is not there to steady the ship and a lot will now depend on whether Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip can stay fit.

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are still posing a threat on the flanks, but their need to cover in behind is leaving them to question whether they should push on and join the attacks.

This issue is not solely a defensive problem, with many Liverpool fans questioning the decision not to bring in a midfielder during the summer.

With Thiago Alcantara, Jordan Henderson and James Milner now all over 30 and with 29-year-old Fabinho still feeling the effects of the last two seasons - when he’s played in several different positions - at least one pair of fresh legs was needed in the middle of the park.

Klopp had faith in Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho, but neither have shown the consistency and neither are central midfielders, while Naby Keita is another who’s had his injury issues.

Jude Bellingham looks to be their main target this summer, with Liverpool 15/8 to be the England international’s club on 1st September 2023.

Klopp plays down seven-year itch

There has been mounting talk that this could be Klopp’s last season as Liverpool boss and some have even speculated that he might leave during the campaign.

That was put to the German at his midweek press conference and he was keen to play down those suggestions, saying "as far as I am concerned unless someone tells me I will not go".

Comparisons have been made with his time in charge of Borussia Dortmund, where he enjoyed great success both domestically and in Europe.

In his seventh season in charge at Dortmund, Klopp saw his team lose 14 of their 34 Bundesliga games and they eventually finished seventh.

This is now his seventh campaign in charge at Anfield and Liverpool find themselves in a similar slump and are now 7/4 to finish in the top four.

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