Opinion – Liverpool need more goals from midfield

As Liverpool struggled to break down Manchester United at Old Trafford, Jurgen Klopp cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines.

Anyone who has watched the German will know he is an animated character at the best of times. Even when things are going well for Liverpool, he’s all energy. When things aren’t going well, those energy levels go through the roof.

Screaming, shouting and gesturing are all part of the course for him. Anger usually isn’t. On Old Trafford’s touchline, though, that changed. Liverpool’s manager was not frustrated with his team’s performance; he was angered by it. His forward line, in particular, was receiving the brunt of the criticism.

Mohamed Salah had his worst game this season on the right wing. Marshalled superbly by Luke Shaw, he cut a peripheral figure before substituted off.

Sadio Mane had a likewise terrible afternoon. The Senegalese forward has been brilliant in recent weeks but hit rock bottom in Manchester. His passing, movement and everything else between was far off the mark.

Manchester United v Liverpool FC - Premier League
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 24: Jordan Henderson of Liverpool and Xherdan Shaqiri of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford on February 24, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

In the middle, neither Roberto Firmino nor his replacement Daniel Sturridge could make any contributions of note. Sturridge’s performance can be best described as absent. If he had not been there, few would have noticed.

Liverpool’s dangerous front three has not hit the heights they achieved last season that much has been noticeable. This was another display that they are struggling to recapture that old magic. The problem for Liverpool is that when they do struggle, there is nobody in this team to ease the burden.

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The lack of goals from midfield is a particular issue. When Liverpool once had the likes of Philippe Coutinho scoring, they no longer have such a presence. Xherdan Shaqiri has seven goals in all competitions but hasn’t scored since Boxing Day.

James Milner has added five but hasn’t found the back of the net since the 5th December. Georginio Wijnaldum and Fabinho have three between them. Naby Keita and Jordan Henderson are yet to score this season.

Liverpool’s five midfielders have just two more goals than Mane has managed all season. Compare them to Manchester City, and it’s worrying. They are equally reliant on a front three of Aguero, Sterling and Sane. Yet, they also have midfielders chipping in across the board.

Manchester United v Liverpool FC - Premier League
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 24: Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool reacts at full time of the Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford on February 24, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

David Silva has nine goals to his name this season. Namesake Bernardo Silva has eight, and Ilkay Gundogan has chipped in with five. Phil Foden has five to his name and even Kevin de Bruyne, who has missed most of this season through injury, has four. The difference between the two sides is staggering.

It’s an issue that must be bugging Jurgen Klopp. He wanted his team to be more defensively resolute this season, and they are. The problem is, it’s also hindered his side’s most prominent ability; scoring goals.

They’re heavily reliant on that front three of Salah, Mane and Firmino. When they aren’t at their best, they struggle. That was on display for everyone watching the draw at Old Trafford.

Klopp won’t want to throw caution to the wind, but his midfield needs unshackling. Their lack of goals is threatening to ruin their title hopes. If they are to end the season as champions, it’s a problem that must be addressed.

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