The former Anfield favorite doesn’t think the Reds are themselves since losing such a key player to long-term injury
The absence of Virgil van Dijk is having a ‘psychological’ effect on Liverpool and the summer signing Thiago Alcantara is slowing down their game, according to John Barnes.
Liverpool made a stuttering start in defense of their first league title in three decades, recording nine wins, seven draws and two losses in their first 18 games.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have already lost more points than during the entire 2019-2020 campaign, with their last loss to Manchester United on Sunday.
The Red Devils retained the top spot in the table after holding the champions to a 0-0 draw at Anfield, and could even have escaped with the three points if Alisson hadn’t been at his best to turn down Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in the later stages of the game.
Liverpool have now gone three straight games without finding the back of the net for the first time in 16 years, as they continue to face a defensive injury crisis that has seen several key players sidelined.
Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip were also unavailable for the Reds, leaving Klopp with no choice but to deploy midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson to the core of the defense in the last few matches.
Van Dijk left the most gaping hole in the starting XI, with the talismanic center-back being out of action since October with a cruciate ligament injury in his knee, and Barnes doesn’t think his former club are the same formidable strength without the 29 -Age.
“When you’re so used to playing a particular style with a particular way with three hard-working midfielders, you have Van Dijk at the back giving you that confidence, which allows the full-backs to move forward with conviction. and be creative, ”said the Liverpool legend talkSPORT. “All of a sudden, the psychological effects of Van Dijk’s absence affect the whole team.
“So it doesn’t necessarily physically affect the team in terms of what they do, but if you look at Trent Alexander-Arnold, for example, or even Andy Robertson, when Van Dijk is there they know they can move forward with conviction knowing. that they are safe in the back.
“I don’t think they’re that creative.”
Barnes also believes the presence of Thiago, who moved to Anfield from Bayern Munich in September, disrupted the Reds’ usual system with figures like Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino now struggling to find space in the last third because the Spaniard is holding onto the ball for too long.
“Thiago, who was in charge and was the best player in the first half, I don’t think that necessarily helped the top three,” he added. “With Henderson and Fabinho in the midfield they just got the ball moving and are much more direct so that the three powerful forwards can grab the ball and attack, Thiago slows down the game.
“When he’s slowed down in tight areas, it’s not Mane’s game, it’s not Salah’s game. So we are getting used to a new system, but at the moment it is not working.
“In my opinion, with Man City, we are still favorites [for the title]. “