In the aftermath of Liverpool’s heartbreaking defeat in the Champions League final to Real Madrid back in June, Jurgen Klopp was adamant that the Reds would be back.
In fact, he was so confident that, speaking to the media after the match, he said: “Where is it next season? Istanbul? Book the hotel!”
And it seemed like the odds makers agreed with him. Online bookmakers like Bovada sports had made the German’s side one of the favourites for glory in both the Champions League and the Premier League this season. What a difference four months make.
Since that defeat in Paris, there has been one thing after another for the Liverpool faithful. The club had made a less than impressive start to the new English top-flight campaign, with disappointing draws against Fulham, Crystal Palace, Everton and Brighton dominating the headlines. Add to that the thumping 4-1 defeat away at Napoli in the Champions League and it’s safe to say that the club was in somewhat of a slump.
In recent weeks, however, it seemed like they had turned a corner. Goals from Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka’s brace meant that the Reds succumbed to a 3-2 defeat at the Emirates at the start of the month. But their performance impressed many onlookers, including Jurgen Klopp.
And the way they reacted to that defeat was even more impressive. A record-breaking 7-1 victory away at Rangers was a warning to the rest of Europe’s elite. Then back-to-back victories over Manchester City – the Blues’ first defeat of the new campaign – and West Ham announced to their domestic rivals that they were back.
But then, it happened. The lowest point in Liverpool’s recent history came this weekend with a trip to the midlands to face newly promoted opposition.
Nottingham Forest defeat shows that much work lies ahead
Liverpool travelled to the City Ground at the weekend as huge favourites to continue their recent upturn in form. The hosts sat rock bottom of the table, with eight defeats in their first 11 games and just the solitary goal in their last four. The visitors on the other hand hadn’t conceded in their last two and it seemed that an away win was a banker for coupons up and down the country.
Well, to those punters, the saying “never back the early kick-off” has never rung truer. Naturally, the shock of all shocks happened, with Forest managing to nick a goal early in the second half and hold on for a famous win.
And to make matters worse? The winner was scored by a Liverpool old boy.
Nigerian striker Taiwo Awoniyi came through the ranks at Anfield, however, he never made the step up to the first team. He went on a series of loan moves to the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, before securing a £7m move to Union Berlin last summer. And it was in the German capital where the target man would find his feet.
He bagged 20 goals in all competitions last season including 15 in the Bundesliga – good enough for sixth place in the German top-flight’s scoring charts. That prompted the newly promoted Forest to fork out £18m for his services in the summer. And a sizable chunk of that was repaid on Saturday afternoon.
Salah’s lack of goals a major worry for the Reds
One of the main worries for Liverpool this season has been the lack of goals from superstar Mo Salah. In recent seasons, the Egyptian’s link-up play with Sadio Mane has resulted in one thing – goals; goals in abundance.
At this stage last term our No.11 had found the net 10 times, including a run of nine goals in seven games. His partner in crime, our former Senegalese international, had netted six times. But this season, the Egyptian King has bagged just three.
There can be no denying that the departure of Liverpool’s Senegalese icon to Bayern Munich – who left for a cut price of just £30m in the summer – has hit the club hard. Many thought that Luis Diaz would be able to fill the void without an issue. The Colombian winger has shone since his arrival from FC Porto, but his style couldn’t be any different to that of Mane.
Whereas the former Southampton winger is a more explosive player, regularly getting beyond the opposition defense and into scoring opportunities, Diaz is more of a ball-to-feet kind of player. He prefers to receive the ball out on the left and cut inside with his skills and technique.
But that isn’t the way Liverpool have played in years gone by, and that has come to the fore this campaign.
A misfiring centre-forward
Another issue for the Reds has been the lack of goals from their new striker, Darwin Nunez. The Uruguayan arrived at Anfield from Benfica for an eye-watering £85m in the summer, but he has only just started to get into gear.
Bobby Firmino’s resurgence has been timely, however. The former Hoffenheim man has been back to his best this term, scoring six and providing three assists in 10 appearances. But at 31 years old, it’s unreasonable to expect the Brazilian to continue in the same vain for the rest of the campaign.
Whether it’s Salah finding form or Darwin Nunez, one thing remains clear – things need to change and Anfield and fast. Otherwise, those tickets to Istanbul that Klopp told his supporters to buy may end up being a waste of money.