Since Liverpool Football Club’s mid-season break, the table-topping, defending European and world champion, all-conquering Reds have a record two wins and three losses in all competitions—and the two wins, by narrow margins against Norwich and West Ham, were hardly impressive.
As a result, they now find themselves out of the FA Cup and preparing for the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie down to Atletico Madrid and without an away goal to show for their first leg efforts.
It may not be a proper crisis, but for a side that remains 22 points clear in the league and still has a solid shot at advancing in Europe, it’s about as close to a crisis as you can get. At least if you listen to the fans. The message from the players, though, is clear: now isn’t a time to panic.
“Obviously we’re not happy to be out of the [FA] Cup and it was a tough game,” was Virgil van Dijk’s reaction. “I think at times we played some good football but we lost so we’re not happy with that. But it is how it is and we will recover. You want to win games but tonight we worked hard and played some good football.”
Liverpool have struggled, at least compared to the high standards they have set for themselves, since the winter break. The performance against Chelsea in the FA Cup, though, was much improved.
Even if the result wasn’t there, the play was better than it had been in their first league defeat of the season to Watford on the weekend. There were signs, as least, of a side working to rediscover their best form after a difficult month.
If they can do that, and if the results follow—first against Bournemouth on Saturday as they return to league action and then next Wednesday against Atletico Madrid when the La Liga side come to Anfield—then these past few weeks will quickly be forgotten.
“I think we played well and created chances but we need to be more clinical,” noted Sadio Mané. “I think this kind of moment happens. It’s not the first time and won’t be the last time. We have another important game on Saturday then on Wednesday and I think this team will be ready.”