Here are two indisputable facts about Liverpool’s current form.
After a goalless draw in the Carabao Cup with Arsenal on Thursday, the Reds have won just one of their last six matches without the need for penalties.
The result means that Jurgen Klopp’s side have now lost just two of their last 40 matches in all competitions.
It is increasingly difficult to find perspective in modern football between the knee-jerk and myopia that sometimes makes it difficult for people to look beyond the past 24 hours, let alone the last game.
Ian Doyle: Jurgen Klopp worried about Liverpool players as Arsenal conspiracy theories were silenced
Paul Gorst: What Arsenal fans sang at the last minute when Liverpool’s long-term planning was revealed
However, as impressive as the latest stats are undoubtedly impressive, it is the precedent that will worry Reds supporters.
Having worked themselves in a position to take on the challenge for four honors in the new year, hopes for titles on at least one front are in danger of collapsing quickly.
The absence of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane was one of the obvious reasons why Liverpool floundered in the face of Arsenal’s stubborn and violent guard, despite Arsenal playing three-quarters of the match with ten men.
However, other factors also play a role.
Get the latest Liverpool breaking news, team news, transfer rumors and injury updates plus analysis of what’s next for the Reds.
You’ll also get the latest transfer talks and analysis straight to your inbox every day with our free email newsletter.
Register here – it only takes a few seconds!
Klopp insisted after Thursday’s game that Liverpool were not better prepared to lose Salah and Mane, who together with midfielder Naby Keita will spend most if not longer January in Cameroon for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Certainly, there was never any chance the Reds would move in the transfer window this month to provide front cover.
What was unexpected was Divock Origi’s injury that over the past five weeks has robbed Liverpool of their most unpredictable attacking option, something that could have benefited from a pumped-up defense coupled with the Belgians’ physical presence.
Origi has always been a player with confidence, and after back-to-back encounters at Wolverhampton Wanderers and AC Milan – leading him to score five goals in 10 games this season – it’s clear he’s in a groove to contribute.
Klopp expects the striker to double his training next week. His return couldn’t come soon enough.
The latest outbreak of the coronavirus is also having an effect. It is no coincidence that the six-round run of just one win in regular time, which began with a 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur, came just days after the first set of positive cases appeared in the Liverpool squad.
All of these reasons combined to expose the main problem that Klopp has not been able to fully tackle this season – midfield.
Once again, injuries and a lack of presence played a role, not least the absence of Thiago Alcantara, who has not been involved in a month. Liverpool have not lost any of the 19 matches they have started since March of last year, winning their last 14.
In addition, it did not go unnoticed that Keita was chosen as the best player of the match in each of Guinea’s two matches in the African Nations Cup so far, the last of which was a goalless draw with Mane Senegal on Friday.
Despite this, Klopp still has five big options at his disposal. The problem is finding the right combination that can also boost the temporary attack.
After taking a hit at Chelsea where both Mane and Salah scored, the sporadic contribution from Jordan Henderson and James Milner against Arsenal has caused constant concern, whether it’s because of form, fitness or both.
By contrast, there have been fan appearances off the bench by Curtis Jones, who rediscovered his sharpness two months later, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose forward thrust has appeared on every second crossbar of the last 21 games.
The engine room would undoubtedly benefit from some younger legs and more power, along with the different skill set that at least one Jones and Oxlade Chamberlain could provide. A visit to Brentford on Sunday could be the perfect show before the return leg in the UAE next Thursday.
January has always been a difficult month. The truth is that Liverpool still managed to find a way to navigate safely through him. This is much more than just Salah and Mane.