David James has called for calm amid talk of a crisis at Liverpool, following the Premier League champions’ shock defeat to Burnley that ended their incredible unbeaten run at Anfield.
And the former goalkeeper believes the club’s defensive injury crisis is having a much bigger impact on the team than many realise.
Liverpool’s unbeaten home record has gone. Have their title chances gone too?AFP
Almost four years after Liverpool’s last home defeat, a late Ashley Barnes penalty earned a stubborn Burnley side a rare 1-0 victory on Merseyside on Thursday night, as the Reds’ 68-game unbeaten Anfield run in the Premier League came to a surprise end.
It was the latest poor outing for Jurgen Klopp’s side, who look bereft of confidence and now sit fourth in the table, six points adrift of arch rivals Manchester United at the top.
The Reds have also now gone four games without scoring – for the first time since May 2000 – and are still waiting for their first league victory of 2021, with their form spiralling since their last win – December’s 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace.
Former Liverpool goalkeeper James admits ‘things aren’t great’ for his old club at the moment, with doubts beginning to creep in over Klopp.
But he believes the Reds’ injury crisis at the back is having a much bigger effect on the team’s form than people think – especially the performances of attackers Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
Goals have been tough to come by for Liverpool in recent matchesAFP or licensors
The front-three’s form has been a concern this season, especially when compared to their output last term as Liverpool were crowned champions.
But James believes they are suffering from not facing the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez in training, which means they struggle to perform against top defenders in real matches.
“Confidence seems to be an issue, and things are obviously not particularly great at the moment,” he said on Friday’s talkSPORT Breakfast.
“But I think one of the big problems for Liverpool is, because they have lost so many defenders, you have to ask the question whether in training Liverpool are getting the quality of defending against those strikers.
“Therefore, when you come into a real match you end up against top-drawer, well-drilled defenders who are not allowing you to do what you’re doing in training, you struggle.”
James also insists any of Liverpool’s recent poor results – draws with Manchester United, Newcastle and West Brom, and a 1-0 defeat to Southampton – could easily have gone the other way.
The Reds have had a total of 87 shots since scoring their last goal – Sadio Mane’s 12th-minute strike in a 1-1 draw with West Brom.
But James sees no reason to panic, saying the likes of Burnley’s Nick Pope and other goalkeepers have all played a blinder against them.
“Nick Pope had a great game yesterday, Karl Darlow had a great game against Liverpool for Newcastle and Sam Johnson had a great game for West Brom,” added the former England No.1.
“From a goalkeeper’s perspective, when your goalie is doing so well in stopping the goals , it’s not the strikers’ fault.
“Any of those shots go in, then we’re not talking about Liverpool in a dilemma situation.
Nick Pope was in fine form as he kept Liverpool at bay at AnfieldAFP
“In their last three games, Burnley have drawn two of them at Anfield; so it wasn’t so much of a surprise as they’ve been a bit of a thorn for Liverpool.
“You know what you’re going to get from Burnley, and if Liverpool won that game 1-0 we’d all talk about it not being a classic win but just doing enough, and great teams do enough – that coin flips so easily.
“But this time Burnley were fantastic. They played the perfect game.”