Steve Nicol has rather surprisingly suggested that Liverpool missing out on European football completely this season could benefit Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Following back to back defeats against Nottingham Forest and Leeds United, the FA Cup champions are ninth in the table and find themselves eight points behind Newcastle who occupy the final Champions League spot.
Finishing in the Europa League or Conference League spots would be an extreme disappointment for the club who finished as runners-up in Europe’s premier competition last term and ex-Red Nicol has questioned wether missing out on qualification for all three European competitions would be a bad thing for the Anfield outfit.
“I was sitting thinking, you know what, it didn’t do Chelsea any harm not to be in Europe the year Conte came,” said Nicol on ESPN (via the Liverpool Echo). “It didn’t do Chelsea any harm at all. I was thinking would it do Liverpool that much harm, for that one year, not to be in Europe?”
Liverpool have aspirations of signing Borussia Dortmund teenager Jude Bellingham in the summer and missing out on Champions League qualification wouldn’t reduce Klopp’s chances of securing the services of the England international according to Nicol.
The former Kop favourite spoke about Chelsea and how they managed to attract Antonio Conte to Stamford Bridge in 2016 shortly after finishing 10th in the Premier League.
“I don’t believe that for a second because when Chelsea didn’t get into Europe they managed to get Antonio Conte, who was one of the most sought after managers,” he added. “I’m just thinking if you’re not going to win the Champions League, I absolutely loathe that conference nonsense and then I’m asking myself do I really want to be in the Europa League – Thursday and Sundays? If you’re out for one season it’s not going to change an awful lot.”
Nicol explained that the attitude and work rate of Klopp’s players cannot be questioned but believes a lot of things have unfortunately gone against the Merseysiders this season.
He also spoke about the defending that allowed Leeds to stun Anfield last night meaning Liverpool have now lost four of their opening 12 Premier League games.
He added: “Absolutely everything is going wrong. You can start with form, basically, almost everybody is out of form. The one thing you can’t have a go at is the desire, but unfortunately that desire is turning into turning the ball over. Desperation. They are trying so hard that there is no control. The passes are either too long or too short…I mean even the chances, they had plenty of opportunities, Nunez had a couple of opportunities. Meslier made a couple of great saves as well, Salah got his goal.
“Every single little thing is going wrong, and regardless of what it is, right now they are getting it wrong. I could go through every single thing you do on a football field; your starting positions, decision-making. I mean Liverpool just keep getting everything wrong, particularly at the wrong time.
“Van Dijk for the last goal, he doesn’t move his feet at all. Summerville gets it and he moves two different ways, the ball moves, and then he toe-pokes it into the goal.
“During that whole little spell, which I understand is a short time, Van Dijk doesn’t move his feet or his body. He just stands there and watches. Not only Van Dijk, but a couple of years ago that whole back-four would have had Leeds camped in their own half. Two years ago Liverpool defended as a unit. Today, Liverpool don’t defend whether it’s the top, the middle or the back.”
“I heard Klopp talking the other day about it will be different after the World Cup, I would love to know what’s going to change because it doesn’t seem like the personnel is going to change an awful lot. But I tell you what there’s an awful lot that has to change.”
Graeme Souness has explained that Liverpool’s sluggish start to the season is a result of the midfield being ‘bullied’ by opponents and it’s hard to disagree with his comments.
We appear to be weak all over the park at the moment and a lot of our players are struggling to perform at the level we know they’re capable of.
Fabinho is one of the players that has been criticised for his performance against Jesse Marsch’s side but it’s the group as a whole that is struggling.
Let’s hope we can put four strong performances in before our season is disrupted by the Qatar World Cup next month.