Liverpool have been put out of their misery after Manchester United replaced them at the top of the Premier League on Tuesday night.
Paul Pogba’s deflected volley secured the Red Devils a 1-0 win at Burnley, moving them three points ahead of Liverpool with the two rivals meeting at Anfield this weekend.
United are top of the Premier League, replacing long-time rivals Liverpool on Tuesday night
Liverpool are in a rut right now with a series of poor results
Losing top spot to a rival club will sting but it should also be considered a weight off the shoulders to the Liverpool players and fans. It was coming.
Man United are in great form having not lost any of their last eleven Premier League matches, winning nine of them.
It’s been a different story for the champions, however.
They went into a rut during the Christmas period – the worst time to hit bad form with the fixtures coming thick and fast.
Two wins in six Premier League matches is not good for a side looking to retain the title, but why have Jurgen Klopp’s side been so lacklustre lately?
Klopp made a big mistake which has contributed to Liverpool’s recent bad form
The obvious diagnosis would be their troubles at centre-back; long-term injuries to your best two players in that position would hurt any side, with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez likely to be out for the remainder of the season.
However, they’ve been able to digest Van Dijk and Gomez’s injuries since October and November respectively, but Liverpool’s woes begun midway through December.
And their defensive stats aren’t even that bad, conceding four goals in their last six league matches. This is a decent effort without Van Dijk and Gomez, and Liverpool haven’t conceded more than one goal a match during this period.
What their poor form canbe traced back to, however, is the injury Diogo Jota sustained during Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at FC Midtjylland in the Champions League – a match that had no bearing on Liverpool’s ability to qualify as group winners.
Jota is one of many Liverpool players to have been sidelined with injury this season
The pain of losing Jota for up to two months didn’t immediately set in – a win against Tottenham and a 7-0 spanking of Crystal Palace suggested it was business as usual.
But a draw with Fulham four days after being held at Midtjylland, later draws with West Brom and Newcastle, and a defeat at Southampton earlier this month, show Jota has been missed.
Liverpool even had an uncomfortable last Friday night against a youthful Aston Villa side in the FA Cup, struggling to break down their highly inexperienced opponents until scoring their second goal on the hour.
The depths of Liverpool’s attacking options make it even more of a mystery they were unable to beat Fulham, West Brom and Newcastle, but it’s clear to see why they lacked that bite when you analyse the impact Jota was having on Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah before the injury in Denmark.
Jota’s arrival in the summer gave the trio, who had naturally entered a comfort zone after having their place in the starting XI guaranteed for the best part of three years, the shot in the arm they needed.
Jota was good cover for the likes of Firmino but his injury has seen Liverpool’s front three slip back into bad habits
It even got to the stage where Jota was starting ahead of Firmino in November, prompting the Brazilian to fight his way back into the side.
Klopp had even found a way to work all four players into the team too, before Jota was sidelined.
Jota’s impact in similar matches show he would have been very useful against Fulham, West Brom, Newcastle and Southampton.
The Portuguese scored the winning goals against Sheffield United and West Ham in October, both matches in which Liverpool’s opponents scored the opener before happily sitting back to protect their lead.
But Jota isn’t available and having been absent for approximately half of his projected lay-off, expect Liverpool to experience similar struggles over the next month. It’s unlikely Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi will step up the plate like he has.
Liverpool signed Jota last summer hoping he would play a key role in the title race – and it’s quite clear he is having a huge influence.
Unfortunately for the Merseysiders, it’s actually Manchester United he’s helping due his possibly season-defining injury.
Klopp must regret playing Jota in that dead rubber in Denmark