Premier League Champions Liverpool have had a weird season so far. I call it weird because they have beaten Arsenal and Chelsea, two teams expected to challenge for the top four, but were humiliated 7-2 by Aston Villa before the international break.
The signs of shakiness at the back have been there this season as the Reds conceded three goals on their opening win against newly-promoted Leeds United, and have played a ridiculously high line to maximise their opportunities in attack.
Although they haven’t struggled for goals, the high defensive line has resulted in the Reds conceding more chances, and more goals in the process. Despite the risky set-up, it would be too obtuse to blame everything on the tactics and not some of the players.
The Reds have been consistent for nearly two years, and have set high standards at the back. Consistency has been the key, but some of the players at the back have not hit the same standards this season.
We take a look at three such players who will need to step up after the international break.
3 Liverpool players who will need to step up
#3 Roberto Firmino
Perhaps a bit harsh considering the amount of work Firmino does in attack, but his form is a bit worrying. His link-up play with the rest of the attackers has not been the best, and his lack of goals is an issue as well, even though he is not in the side for putting the ball in the back of the net.
Although Firmino has picked up two assists this season, he is yet to open his goal-scoring account, and the sooner that happens, the better for Liverpool in an uncertain time.
Sadio Mane is expected to return after the international break, but Firmino needs to show more ruthlessness in the final third to maybe score some goals this season.
#2 Joe Gomez
The England international perhaps had his worst game in a Liverpool jersey against Aston Villa as he was off pace, wayward with his passing, and couldn’t close down attackers well enough.
Gomez is still only 23, something that is forgotten many times because of his usually high consistency levels, but he is bound to have bad patches considering his age. Having said that, he can ill-afford to repeat that performance against Aston Villa.
Joel Matip is close to making his return from an injury, and he could very well replace Gomez if the former Charlton ace doesn’t step up and improve his performances.
The goalkeeping area remains an issue for Jürgen Klopp, when first-choice custodian Alisson Becker is unavailable. The Reds do not have a good alternative and it’s pretty clear as Adrian has failed to shine in the Brazilian’s absence.
The Spaniard’s error started the rout suffered at the hands of Villa in the previous game, and it if he doesn’t step up, he could be replaced by 21-year old Caoimhín Kelleher, or possibly even a new goalkeeper (Jack Butland has been linked).
Adrian is likely to make the team for the derby against Everton, but if he puts a wrong foot there, it could be the end of his run in the first team.
The former West Ham man needs to be more authoritative at the back in set-pieces situations, and his distribution and decision-making skills need drastic improvement.