John Barnes believes his former club Liverpool are ‘psychologically’ missing the injured Virgil van Dijk.
The Reds have been without their star defender since he suffered a serious knee injury in a 2-2 draw with Everton last October.
Van Dijk has been a huge miss for Liverpool this season, according to BarnesAFP or licensors
While Liverpool’s defence have coped well during his absence, they have failed to score in each of their past three Premier League games.
The Reds’ latest blank came in Sunday’s goalless draw with Manchester United, which leaves them three points behind the league leaders.
Liverpool legend Barnes believes Van Dijk’s absence is affecting his former club’s style of play.
Speaking on Darren Bent’s Boot Room on talkSPORT, Barnes said: “When you’re so used to playing a particular style with a particular way with three hard-working midfield players, you’ve got Van Dijk at the back who gives you that assurance, which allows the full-backs to go forward with conviction and be creative.
“All of a sudden, the psychological effects of Van Dijk not being there affects the whole team.
“So it doesn’t necessarily physically affect the team in terms of what they do.
Paul Pogba missed a huge chance to win it for Man United late onAFP
“But if you look at Trent Alexander-Arnold, for example, or even Andy Robertson, when Van Dijk is there they know they can go forward with conviction knowing that they’re safe at the back.
“I don’t think they’re being as creative.”
Thiago Alcantara, who was making his first appearance at Anfield since his summer switch from Bayern Munich, played in a defensive midfield role with makeshift centre-backs Jordan Henderson and Fabinho behind him.
While admitting he was the best player in the first-half, Barnes claimed Thiago slowed the game down.
He added: “Thiago, who was running the game and was the best player in the first-half, I don’t think that necessarily helped the front three.
This is Thiago’s first ever season in English football at the age of 29Getty Images – Getty
“With Henderson and Fabinho in midfield, they just get the ball forward and are much more direct for the three strong-running strikers to get on the ball and go on attack, Thiago slows the game down.
“When he slowed the game down in tight areas, that is not Mane’s game, that is not Salah’s game.
“So we’re getting used to a new system, but at the moment it’s not working.
“In my opinion, along with Man City, we’re still favourites [for the title].”
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