While the reactions among the Anfield faithful to Liverpool’s 2-1 loss to Paris Saint-Germain in Wednesday’s crucial Champions League group stage faceoff have been predictably over-the-top, it is no secret that Jürgen Klopp’s side are—shall we say—creatively challenged at the moment, particularly in midfield.
With Philippe Coutinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lyon’s Nabil Fekir and even Emre Can either injured or playing for other clubs, the Reds have lacked a consistent dynamism in the center of the park and someone capable of picking up the ball and making things happen.
The burden to pull the strings from midfield has fallen on Xherdan Shaqiri, the winger brought in under little fanfare from Stoke City for £13m over the summer. With £56m signing Naby Keita still yet to completely bed in, the onus has been on the Swiss international to provide the creative spark, often times from the bench as he did at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.
All this means that despite sitting on a club record 33 points through 12 games in the Premier League and their European destiny in their own hands when they welcome Napoli to Anfield in two weeks’ time, one poor result in this most crucial of campaigns is all it takes to have Liverpool supporters wringing their hands. With Sunday’s Merseyside derby against a streaking Everton looming, club legend, Jamie Carragher openly counted himself as one of these worrying Red faithful, recently revealing the request he made of Shaqiri following the PSG loss:
“I mean there’s not some big speech [tell the non-local lads] you give them just constantly tell them that at Everton you can’t lose,” the 40-year-old admitted speaking to Merseyside Derby Special of the All Together Now Everton podcast.
“I pulled Shaqiri over last night [Wednesday] on the way out, yeah, I was in the mixed zone last night.
“He came out and came over and said hello and I said the derby on Sunday, you have to win, have to win and he said I know.”
The mental fragility that has characterized Liverpool sides of the recent past, and would have rightly concerned supporters following such a tough result in midweek, is no longer feature of the squad Klopp has forged this season.
Everton have been decent so far but Liverpool’s league-best defense and passable attacking form should give fans confidence that the Reds have what it takes to keep marching on.