It has been a month full of negatives for Liverpool. 2017 has seen dark clouds hover above Jürgen Klopp’s project, and with one more match to play in January, it isn’t inconceivable that Liverpool’s entire season could fall apart in a mere 31 days.
It all started with a 2-2 draw at Sunderland where the Reds conceded a late equaliser. A loss at Southampton in the EFL Cup followed a draw against lowly Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup before another league game ensued where Liverpool conceded a late equaliser, against Manchester United.
An FA Cup replay against Argyle followed which ended in a narrow 1-0 win for the Reds. Thereafter, disaster transpired.
Three home games, three defeats. Out of the cup competitions, hanging barely in the league title race.
“We have to use it. In this moment, it’s not the right time to talk too much about being positive and optimistic,” said Klopp after the Wolves defeat.
Liverpool have now played eight games this month, losing four, drawing three, and winning just one. That they are in and around the top four places is testament to the start they had, when their machine felt well-oiled and running at full speed.
Chelsea visit Anfield tomorrow evening with a view to stretch their lead over the Reds to 13 points: surely an insurmountable mountain for Klopp’s men.
Bookmaker promotions for the game favour Chelsea, albeit narrowly. Liverpool being at home naturally skews the betting odds in their favour, and a good offer for a Reds win is also available.
Despite the gloom, Liverpool are still in the top four. However, a defeat to Chelsea is all that is needed for them to drop out of the Champions League places.
In times like these, morale boosters are hard to come by, but should the Reds manage to beat Chelsea at home, which is entirely possible, there isn’t a bigger fillip in English football at the moment.
Liverpool’s ambitions, though, have lowered to the point that making the top four this season is sort of a last-chance saloon to salvage something out of it.
“Let’s go to the end of the season, we could qualify for the Champions League,” Klopp keeps hope as talk of the title around his club evaporates far quicker than anticipated.
Will Champions League qualification amount to a good first full season for Klopp’s Liverpool?
On the recent matches’ evidence, the club would happily take the fourth position. But making the Champions League is no child’s play, at least this season when the top end of the Premier League is more competitive than ever.
Furthermore, Liverpool have qualified for the Champions League only once since 2008, a damning indictment of the most-decorated English club in Europe.
Despite Liverpool having their best first half of a season in 25 years, their wretched January run could see them equal a 94-year-old record for Anfield’s worst run of games should they lose to Chelsea.
One thing Klopp will have learned in light of his team’s recent struggles is how a season can end in a week. Before facing Swansea, Liverpool were fighting on three fronts. A week later, they are facing a fight to stay in the top four race.
A feature of Klopp’s teams is to rely more on chaos than control to overwhelm opponents. It remains to be seen how he picks his players up from the chaos they are currently in.