Graeme Souness has given his take on Liverpool’s poor start to the season, suggesting there is one particular ‘non-negotiable’ demand of football the team are not fulfilling.
The Reds finished last season just one point behind Premier League champions , while they tasted defeat in the final against .
The 2022/23 campaign has not gone to plan so far, with just nine points collected from their opening six league matches.
Their first match in European competition this season offered the opportunity to bounce back, but they suffered a damaging 4-1 loss to Napoli in midweek to continue their difficult start to the campaign.
The intensity which has seen Jurgen Klopp’s side enjoy so much success has been visibly missing in recent weeks.
Liverpool legend Souness thinks there a number of reasons why performances have been sub-standard, but first and foremost, a ‘non-negotiable’ is not being met.
‘You can talk to all the modern coaches and analysts you like, apply the latest buzz terminology and fill these sports pages with all the data you can lay your hands on — but the one non-negotiable part of winning football matches is being first to the ball,’ Souness told the .
‘At the moment, Liverpool are not doing that. And that’s why they are a mile off the team we have known them to be in Jurgen Klopp’s time at the club.
‘There are all sorts of reasons for this being offered by the people with the data and the big theories. They will tell you about the Liverpool high line. About Mo Salah not looking the same player he was. About Trent Alexander-Arnold appearing to jog back when two of Napoli’s goals went in, during that 4-1 defeat on Wednesday night. But Liverpool just don’t seem to have the same energy.
‘I’ve certainly not been seeing the same Salah. He has signed the big contract he wanted and I really hope we are not seeing him getting semi into his armchair because of that.
‘The need for intensity is a collective thing. It has always been that way, going back to my time as a player at the club. They like to call it ‘pressing’ now but when I was playing we just called it ‘closing down’. If one person is not doing it, the whole system breaks down and you might as well drop off and be a team that plays counter-attacking football.’
‘It’s certainly my view Liverpool need another battle-hardened, experienced midfielder at the core of their team, to pick the pass and capitalise on the movement of the strikers,’ Souness added.
‘Klopp said he didn’t need that big-name addition this summer. He listed the young players he says can step up and do a job for him. It’s good to hear that he has faith in lads such as Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones.
‘That’s great news for every young player at Liverpool. But this is a hard and unforgiving environment we are talking about. It’s a big jump from midfielders like Thiago, who’s 31, Jordan Henderson, 32, and James Milner, 36, to those young ones.
‘There’s no doubting the quality of Liverpool’s latest addition, Arthur Melo, but will he be able to deal with the intensity of the English game, given that Liverpool play games of cup final intensity every weekend and everyone always has to be at it?’
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