In the wake of Liverpool’s Community Shield penalty shootout loss to Arsenal, there’s been plenty of unrest within the Liverpool fanbase about the manner of the defeat – which some have argued has been unwarranted.
While there’s always been a general consensus amongst Liverpool fans that the Community Shield is more or less a glorified pre-season friendly (though this pejorative label may or may not be borne of our relatively low Shield count), it will have been the nature of the defeat that will have some shifting in their seats as the new season approaches. For long periods of the game Liverpool looked utterly toothless in the final third, with a giant Trent Alexander-Arnold-shaped hole inadequately filled by a flustered Neco Williams.
And if you go further back, Liverpool’s form since February is arguably even more damning. The English Champions have won just nine of their last 18 games. Admittedly, there are a few caveats to factor into this alarming statistic, including the fact that friendlies constitute five of these eight games. The drop-off in quality from February could also be attributed to the title becoming more of an inevitability with every passing game; Players are human, and it’s difficult to maintain the same intensity when your efforts are likely to be inconsequential.
However, anyone with experience in competitive sport will tell you that that insatiable desire to win isn’t something you can just turn on and off like a switch. Having not truly flexed their footballing muscles in months now, the Reds will likely have to overcome a mountain of inertia in order to return to the standard we saw in that December to January period, where winning was a stubborn habit. And while these are certainly the right men for the job, everyone would be a lot more confident had a certain level of impetus been maintained over the last few months.
Yet, mentality and stamina might not be the only departments culpable in this recent performance dip. Liverpool do have a very specific system, and it has paid dividends thus far. They say that you shouldn’t fix what isn’t broke, but it’s easy to from there lapse into stagnation. The fact of the matter is that teams are gradually growing wise to Klopp’s tricks, even if they are usually unsuccessful in usurping him – such is the quality of the players that run the system.
As I discussed in another piece three weeks ago, Klopp might have to tweak his system, as he’s done more or less every year since his arrival, if this Liverpool team is to reach another level. Whether he opts to do that by signing a midfield maestro like Thiago or by adding dynamism to the bench, Liverpool fans simply want us to captalise on our favourable position in world football right now. Because judging from the fervour with which the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United are building, the Reds may just have to improve if they are to avoid regressing.
Ultimately, there’s little reason to be pessimistic about the upcoming season. We are witnessing a team that will etch itself into the Liverpool history books. But, Liverpool fans have waited a long time for this degree of success, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting us to maintain and build on it. Hopefully, the best is yet to come.