Points Tally: 7 / 15 points (1 / 3 Europa League Group Winners, Semi Finals of Capital One Cup)
The managerial honeymoon period for Jürgen Klopp is well and truly over, after a testing festive period again bringing out the worst in this current batch. Qualification for the League Cup semi finals has at least given the Reds a shot at a trophy this season, but inconsistency in the league looks to be more difficult than ever to eradicate.
A couple of slim victories against teams at either ends of the table, along with a score draw at home to a ‘lesser’ side have been punctured by heavy defeats at Newcastle and Watford. Whereas one week the Reds look to be turning the corner, the next produces another shock to the system as Klopp tries to find the right formula to bring out the best in this squad he has inherited.
Player of the Month: Dejan Lovren (average rating: 7.0)
The Reds’ most expensive defender is finally proving his worth with a run of consistent performances in the league during the past month. Having seemed to recovered his confidence in November – Klopp first full month as Liverpool manager – the Croatian defender has been one of the more consistent lights during an astonishingly inconsistent month for the Klopp’s Reds.
Lovren starred in the huge League Cup thrashing at Southampton as well as the narrow league win over high-flying Leicester City at Anfield, while he was sorely missed during the heavy defeat at Watford after getting injured in the previous match against West Bromwich Albion.
finally living up to his reputation
Whether deployed on the right or left side of defence, Lovren has looked more composed than he has ever been at Anfield, with his jittery moments seemingly behind him. Lovren is now seen as more secure than fan favourite Mamadou Sakho, while Martin Skrtel’s place in the side looks to be in doubt with Lovren and Sakho starting to form a stable central defensive partnership.
Flop of the Month: Roberto Firmino (4.8)
And as one expensive signing is starting to prove his worth, albeit a year and half on since signing, another has continued to decline into an abyss during December. Firmino was the worst performing individual during the league defeat at Newcastle and the draw at Sion in the Europa League, as he produced and did little to link up with the attacking players around him.
A poor first touch and slow decision-making has hindered the Brazilian’s ability to make an impact in games, though he did start show some improvement against Leicester and Sunderland at the end of the month. The Brazilian international really needs to step up his game soon or face the prospect of sitting on the bench for an extended period of time. The only reason why an off-colour Firmino is getting so much game time is due to the injuries that have continued to decimate Klopp’s squad.
The biggest highlight of December has to be the massive victory at Southampton in the Capital One Cup quarter finals. Despite going a goal down within a minute, Klopp’s side turned on the style and fired six past the Saints, with Divock Origi bagging his first goals and hat-trick – the Belgian’s achievement itself a highlight of the month. Origi then bagged his first league goal, albeit a fortunate one, which salvaged a draw against West Brom at Anfield.
red joy has been few and far between this month
The other highlight in an otherwise poor month is the league victory over then-league leaders Leicester City. With the Foxes flying high in the league, the Reds produced a magnificent high-energy performance to keep Claudio Ranieri’s men out and secure a narrow victory.
Areas of Improvement:
Having begun Klopp’s reign with his gegenpressing style of play, the Reds seem to have returned to their old selves, a team loaded with weak players – physically and more importantly, mentally. The team lacks any real leaders at the moment, and this weakness was very apparent as the Reds meekly succumbed to bruising defeats at Newcastle and Watford.
The players are constantly being outmuscled by opposition teams who start fast and get right into their faces. Klopp and his players have to work together to find a way to eradicate this problem and in turn get more cunning, devious and stronger – both on and off the ball.
still tough to believe this happened
Another area of concern is the lack of ruthlessness in front of goal. Having scored the fewest goal in half-a-season for decades, the likes of Christian Benteke, Philippe Coutinho and Firmino will have to take the bulk of the blame. Benteke had two golden opportunities late in the games against Leicester and Sunderland to wrap things up, but the Belgian striker spectacularly blew them as he had too much time while bearing down on goal. Coutinho has taken so many shots towards goal, but did not find the target once in December.
With all these problems and inconsistent performances, at least one thing has come about – revealing the deadweights of the current squad. Even the likes of Simon Mignolet, Martin Skrtel, Lucas Leiva, Adam Lallana and even Benteke and Daniel Sturridge will have to show they deserve a spot in Klopp’s squad next season.
The Reds have dropped a few places down since the end of December, with the gap to fourth being extended by a couple of points and the points gap to the league leaders into double digits. Klopp’s men will at best have to contend with the likes of Crystal Palace, West Ham United and Manchester United (even Leicester City) for the last Champions League qualification spot.