Liverpool are without their top three centre halves, with Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, and Joël Matip likely out for the rest of 2020-21 due to injury. Fabinho, one of the game’s best defensive midfielders and fourth choice at the position this season, has also been struggling with injuries.
Now midfielder, captain, and fifth choice centre half Jordan Henderson is out injured. In addition, midfielders James Milner and Naby Keïta have struggled with injuries this season, as has goalkeeper Alisson Becker and forward Diogo Jota, while Coronavius has ruled out a number of others for brief spells.
In short, it’s been a very, very bad season for the Reds on the fitness front. The kind of season that can’t reasonably be prepared for, no matter how much money a club has or how many signings they make—witness Manchester City’s stumble last season when they lost Aymeric Laporte.
Still, if there’s one things fans and pundits alike aren’t especially known for, it’s being reasonable. And so the result of Liverpool’s struggles to deal with all those injuries has been for many to rather daftly ask why Jürgen Klopp wasn’t snapped his fingers and magically kept the Reds in the title race.
Or at least that’s been the response for many. For others, the response has been to find a scapegoat, be it Roberto Firmino’s cold run of finishing or Thiago Alcantara’s struggles to instantly and while recovering from coronavirus adjust to the pace of a new league or to blame the club’s medical team.
After bearing the brunt of some fans’ ire at the club’s injury record, then, club physio Chris Morgan responded by reminding everyone there are as many as 20 employed in the club’s medical department—that this isn’t a case of one person perhaps failing at his job—and to not confuse correlation with causation.
One person is not a medical/performance dept— CMo (@ChrisMorgan10) February 23, 2021
3 Soft tissue therapists
1 rehab coach
1 head of recovery
1 sports scientist
1 head of fitness
3 fitness and conditioners
1 head of nutrition
**2 just happen to run on the pitch ♂️
Or, in short, sometimes shit happens you can’t prepare for. Especially when you’re talking about the many impact injuries suffered by the club’s players this season, injuries that aren’t the result of over-use or poor recovery practices but injuries that do, as they add up, make it harder to keep the rest of the squad fit.
All of Van Dijk, Gomez, and Matip were downed by injuries that were the result of impact injuries on the pitch—but those injuries in turn have meant an increased load placed on other players that has at times resulted in non-impact injuries through overloading said players.
It’s complex and multi factorial mate...the ones we can’t prevent (and we’ve had lots) then impact the ability to try to prevent others..we still have to put 11 players on the pitch every 3-4 days after all..— CMo (@ChrisMorgan10) February 23, 2021
It’s something of a vicious cycle—as the injuries pile up it increases the odds of further injuries. And it’s something that, for all the need many have for a comfortable narrative that explains how and why simply and in a was that can be easily solved, largely could not have been planned for.
It is, to use an overused sports cliche, what it is. Now Liverpool just have to hope that they can see out this season, find some measure of success in it—however one defines that at this stage—and go again next year when they’re hopefully a little more fit and rested collectively.