Bad results happen, bad runs happen, bad seasons even happen.
So no matter what anyone tells you, Liverpool aren’t in crisis yet.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned by a humbling from Manchester City on Sunday, the Reds’ third Anfield defeat on the spin.
Almost everything about the performance set alarm bells ringing. There was a lack of belief, a lack of cohesion, a lack of leadership and tempo and resilience and energy and everything that has made this Liverpool team so relentlessly good over the past two seasons. We’d be burying our heads in the sand if we didn’t address it, point fingers and ask questions.
Off the back of a two-year period that has seen the club scale the mountain and win the two most coveted trophies in English club football, though, it is equally important to maintain a sense of perspective.
Not two years ago, the Reds were starved of success to the point that Kenny Dalglish’s EFL Cup winners of 2011 were looked upon with envy. Look back to the days before Jurgen Klopp, when even qualifying for the Europa League was deemed a major win.
True crisis only occurs when periods like this go unaddressed. And that’s why Klopp and FSG must now be looking to the summer, and asking what needs to be done to get the club back into title contention.
Leaving the squad as it is and hoping things will sort themselves out isn’t really an option. They need to be proactive in dealing with the issues that will only become more clear as time goes on; many of which have already presented themselves in broad, clear terms.
The midfield, for example, is glaringly over-reliant on captain Jordan Henderson, who brings a discipline, energy and consistency to the engine room that has been sorely lacking since he was shifted back to cover in defence.
With the seemingly imminent departure of Georginio Wijnaldum, the only player who can match Henderson’s stamina and intensity, it’s a problem that is only going to deteriorate, and won’t be solved by simply expecting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Curtis Jones, or Naby Keita to pick up the slack.
The solution there may be a seismic shift in the way the midfield operates. We’ve seen a 4-2-3-1 used on occasion, and it may be that a change in tactics geared towards playing to the strengths of Jones and Thiago is the way forward.
But that will have to be complimented with some smart recruitment too, if the next phase is to withstand the test of time. There is no escaping that Henderson, Thiago and James Milner won’t be around forever.
Steps have already been taken to gradually regenerate the forward line, with the acquisition of Diogo Jota drastically offsetting the risk that could come with one of the fabled trio departing.
But even if Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are to stick around for the remainder of their long-term contracts, this season has highlighted that there needs to be more than one genuine alternative waiting in the wings.
While Salah continues to be the Messiah, Firmino’s form has been a genuine cause for concern, while Mane’s output has dipped substantially. Outside of Jota, the supporting cast don’t exactly inspire confidence, and unless one of Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi or Xherdan Shaqiri are preparing tor a surprise rise to prominence, a younger forward capable of chipping in with regular goals should be on the agenda.
So much has been made of Liverpool’s personnel problems at the back this season, but ironically, their defensive line is probably the position that requires the least work. With Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are back in the picture, depth is no major issue, and their recruitment here may hinge on how Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies develop in their first six months at Anfield.
Nonetheless, the time may be right to say goodbye to Joel Matip, for his own sake and for Liverpool’s. The guy’s injury problems have put his best days in the rearview mirror, and once he has recovered from his season-ending ankle problem, he may be better suited to a less intense environment.
Klopp has publicly scoffed at the idea that his team needs a ‘rebuild’, but whatever you want to call it. there is no denying that the squad needs some work in the summer if it is to survive as a genuine force.
It is worth remembering, though, that exactly the right people are in charge to oversee that change. After all, the club didn’t go from the brink of a Leeds United-level collapse to the top of the Premier League by accident.
It is possible to criticise Klopp and FSG, while remaining grounded in the reality that they are better placed than anyone to get things back on track.
So let’s call things as we see them, but do so with a sense of perspective and understanding. Things could be worse, and they will get better.