7 key moments which saw Liverpool lose their grip on the Premier League title

When Liverpool triumphed in the Premier League last season, they won a club-record 18 top-flight games in a row, lost just three times and ended the season 18 points clear of their nearest rivals.

This campaign, the Reds’ longest winning run stands at three games, they have lost nine times and over 30 points separates them from leaders Manchester City.

The demise of Jurgen Klopp’s champions is undoubtedly one of the most stark declines in Premier League history.

Once the self-proclaimed “mentality monsters”, Liverpool unravelled in the face of injuries and a drastic loss of home form.

They have been reduced to scrambling for a top-four finish as they look to salvage something from a miserable campaign.

Here, Mirror Football takes a look at the key moments which saw Liverpool’s defence of their Premier League crown fall apart.

Calamity at Villa Park

Villa stunned the champions in the fourth game of the season

Liverpool threw down the gauntlet to the teams vying for their title with impressive victories over Leeds, Chelsea and Arsenal in their first three games.

The Reds were confident of extending their 100 per cent record as they travelled to Aston Villa in early October.

Dean Smith’s side had avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth only months earlier – but produced one of the most stunning performances of any team this season against the reigning champions.

Ollie Watkins scored a first-half hat-trick, Jack Grealish grabbed a brace, and Ross Barkley and John McGinn were on the scoresheet as Liverpool were overpowered and outplayed in the Midlands.

Adrian had a nightmare as he filled in for injured No. 1 Alisson and the only Reds player to emerge from Villa Park not totally humiliated was Mohamed Salah, who scored twice – perhaps setting the tone for the rest of the season.

Injuries strike in Merseyside derby

Van Dijk suffered a season-ending knee injury after Pickford's lunge
Van Dijk suffered a season-ending knee injury after Pickford’s lunge

With an international break to clear their heads after a disastrous trip to Aston Villa, Liverpool returned to action in mid-October against their local rivals.

And although they emerged from Goodison Park with a point, this game was arguably even more damaging for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

The Reds were twice pegged back by Everton and saw a last-gasp winner chalked off by VAR for the finest of offside infringements.

But, more importantly, Liverpool saw talisman Virgil van Dijk hobble off in the first half after a reckless challenge by Toffees goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, with scans later showing the Dutchman had suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.

To add insult to Van Dijk’s season-ending injury, Thiago also sustained a knee injury which would rule him out for months following a red-card tackle by Richarlison.

Gomez’s freak injury as treatment room overflows

Van Dijk was soon joined on the sidelines by Gomez
Van Dijk was soon joined on the sidelines by Gomez

It was far from plain sailing, but Liverpool managed to beat Sheffield United and West Ham and draw with Manchester City in their first three league games without Virgil van Dijk.

But November’s international break brought more agony at Anfield, with Joe Gomez suffering a freak injury while training on his own at England’s St George’s Park base.

Given Joel Matip’s persistent injury problems, the Reds soon found themselves without any of their senior centre-backs available, wishing Dejan Lovren had not left for Zenit St Petersburg that summer.

Fabinho filled in at the back, leaving Liverpool sorely lacking bite and intensity in midfield as they slipped to disappointing 1-1 draws with Brighton and Fulham in the build-up to Christmas.

The injuries were not only defensive, either, with Diogo Jota suffering a serious knee injury in a Champions League dead rubber with Midtjylland.

Up to that point, the Portuguese forward had been in scintillating form, compensating for Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino’s lack of form with his steady string of goals.

Reds knocked off perch at St Mary’s

Ings scored an early winner to knock his old club off top spot
Ings scored an early winner to knock his old club off top spot

Despite their wave of injuries, Liverpool rose to the top of the table with a 2-1 victory over Tottenham before smashing Crystal Palace 7-0 in mid-December.

That’s why it was somewhat surprising to see them held to a 1-1 draw by West Brom and a goalless stalemate with Newcastle in the frantic period between Christmas Day and New Year.

The champions seemed to have been drained of their confidence and they suffered their second defeat of the season at Southampton in early January.

Once considered “mentality monsters”, the Reds had no response to Danny Ings’ second-minute opener as defeat on the south coast knocked them off top spot in the league table – and they haven’t been back since.

Clarets breach fortress Anfield

Barnes beat Alisson from the spot to seal a famous victory for Burnley
Barnes beat Alisson from the spot to seal a famous victory for Burnley

Even though their away form was mixed at best, Liverpool could always rely on picking up at least a point at home.

But Burnley had other ideas when they came calling at Anfield in late January.

In one of the most eye-catching upsets of the season, Ashley Barnes converted a late penalty to bring Liverpool’s 68-game unbeaten home run in the top flight to an end.

What followed was a complete collapse of Liverpool’s form and confidence at home, with Jurgen Klopp watching on helplessly as his side suffered five more defeats in a row.

This run featured a 4-1 hammering by Manchester City in which world-class goalkeeper Alisson committed two disastrous blunders, and a 2-0 defeat by Everton, who clinched their first victory at Anfield in the 21st century.

Liverpool’s overall form between early January and early March stood at eight losses from 12 games as they sunk as low as eighth in the table.

Inaction in January

The Reds left it until the last minute before addressing their centre-back frailties
The Reds left it until the last minute before addressing their centre-back frailties

Liverpool’s glaring weakness in central defence was on show for all to see, so you may have thought signing a centre-back as soon as the January transfer window opened would be of the upmost importance.

Staggeringly, however, it took until deadline day at the start of February for the Reds to act.

Ben Davies moved to Merseyside from Preston North End and is still yet to make his Liverpool debut three months on.

In contrast, Ozan Kabak has cemented himself in the starting XI since he arrived on loan from Schalke, with the Turk often freeing up Fabinho to play in central midfield, to the Reds’ overall benefit.

But by the time Kabak had adapted to his new surroundings and brushed off his early nerves, the damage had been done with Liverpool’s disastrous run of form in January and February.

Draws dent top-four hopes

Willock struck at the death as Liverpool let their lead slip last weekend
Willock struck at the death as Liverpool let their lead slip last weekend

Liverpool ended their losing run at home by edging out Aston Villa last month, adding to victories at Wolves and Arsenal to make it three wins from three for the first time since the start of the season.

This put their bid for a top-four finish back on track, but it has since been derailed by damaging 1-1 draws with Leeds and Newcastle.

In both of these games, the Reds threw away their lead late on, and their hopes of Champions League qualification now rest on those above them dropping points during the run-in.

Given the way the season has unfolded – with a string of major injuries and a disastrous loss of home form – ending the season in the top four would mark an achievement for the Reds.

It would have been unthinkable to suggest that back in June.

Sign up to the Mirror Football email here for the latest news and transfer gossip.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button