Liverpool’s sluggish start to the season has coach Jurgen Klopp deeply ‘concerned’ and the club desperately searching for answers.
Meanwhile a topsy-turvy Chelsea side faces Leicester this weekend in a huge clash between two sides needing to find some momentum after difficult starts to their respective campaigns.
And Arsenal is riding on the high of a first three-game perfect start in 18 years ahead of another juicy clash.
Here’s the biggest news from England in this week’s Premier League Late Mail!
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Just three months ago, Liverpool fans were dreaming of a historic trophy quadruple — the Premier League, Champions League, League Cup, and FA Cup.
Their marathon 63-game season (every single game on offer in all competitions) included just four losses — but those losses were enough to cost them glory in the two competitions that mattered most, the Champions League and Premier League.
Three games into the new Premier League season, the mood at Anfield is wholly different. After one of the most gruelling campaigns on history — since 2000/01 at least — the Reds are suffering something of a hangover.
After draws with Fulham and Crystal Palace, Liverpool’s defeat to Manchester United was galling — and left them mired down in 16th on the ladder after their worst start to a season in a decade.
“It’s not the nicest thing to look at, that’s clear,” said Klopp.
It was their first defeat in 31 domestic matches, a streak dating back to December last season, and it is too early to panic for last year’s league runners-up.
But the concern is genuine — and the problems are obvious.
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The primary ailment at Liverpool is an injury crisis that is unmatched by any Premier League rivals.
Goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, centre-backs Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip, right back Calvin Ramsay, and midfield trio Thiago Alcantara, Naby Keita and Curtis Jones were all absent against United.
Attackers Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Diogo Jota are also injured, while star signing Darwin Núñez was serving the first step of a three-match suspension.
If that line-up of absent players took to the field, you’d imagine they would give most Premier League teams a run for their money.
“I’m concerned about our situation, but that is how it is,” Klopp said. That is an understatement.
The midfield is the area of greatest concern, with regular defensive midfield linchpin Fabinho playing just 30 minutes off the bench against United — believed to be dropped to the bench based on form, his absence proved decisive as the Red Devils overran and picked apart Liverpool’s makeshift midfield.
36-year-old James Milner, who signed a one-year contract extension with a view to a bench role and a remit to mentor the next generation, came off the bench after Thiago’s unfortunate injury half an hour into the opener, and has started the last two matches.
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Against United, Liverpool’s midfield saw Milner line up with club captain Jordan Henderson and youngster Harvey Elliot. The trio were comfortably outplayed by United — even with their new big-money signing Casemiro from Real Madrid only sitting in the stands. Milner’s highlight reel from the game was mostly limited to an epic spray he delivered at centre-back Virgil van Dijk in the wake of Jadon Sancho’s goal, in which the Dutch defender stood statuesque as the attacker slotted home.
For years, Klopp and Liverpool have always shied away from transfer moves made in desperation, even when the club has battled similarly dire injury situations. But having signed no midfield reinforcements this window, and with the major departure of one of the key sources of attacking impetus in Sadio Mane (now at Bayern Munich), Klopp could be forced into the transfer market in the final week. He would surely have snuck a peek or two at Casemiro, wishing he would be pulling on a different red jersey this season.
Liverpool dropped just 22 points in the league last year (two losses and eight draws). This year, they have already dropped seven points in just three games.
The second key issue to address is the team’s poor starts in matches, having conceded the first goal in seven straight games and in nine of their last ten — a run dating back to last season.
“We’re giving every team a goal start, we can’t keep giving ourselves an uphill battle,” said defender Andy Robertson. “It is easy to talk about it in the changing room but we have to go out and do it. We can’t keep conceding goals. They started better than us today. It needs to change.”
Robertson said: “Things will get better. But we are far behind where we want to be.”
The third major issue is the poor performances from typically elite players. Centre-back Virgil van Dijk has made a series of unusual errors — known as a Rolls Royce at the back, one of the world’s finest defenders has looked more like a Hyundai Excel. However, he has been forced to play alongside a different centre-back partner in each of the first three matches.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, the most renowned attacking fullback in the game, has been well off his best and was targeted by United in defence.
“Liverpool were absolutely shocking defensively. They were not at the races at all,” club great Jamie Carragher said on Sky Sports.“Every time United went forward in that first half they looked like they were going to score. It was embarrassing. Liverpool were all over the place.”
There are problems across the park. From mistakes to slow starts — perhaps evidencing a tired mentality — Klopp has plenty to address.
Promoted Bournemouth awaits this weekend, a relatively ‘weak’ opponent. Will Klopp reshuffle his very limited pack? Fabinho is likely to return to the XI, but there is precious little he can do with his line-up elsewhere. Given the Reds’ poor form, victory will be far from a fait accompli.
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Arsenal urged to keep calm
As optimism grows in north London, Oleksandr Zinchenko has warned Arsenal not to get carried away by their surprising surge into pole position.
Ukraine left-back Zinchenko knows exactly what it takes to thrive in the Premier League after his successful spell with champions Manchester City.
Having made the switch to Arsenal in the close-season, Zinchenko and fellow former City star Gabriel Jesus have made an immediate impact on Mikel Arteta’s side with their wealth of title-winning experience.
Arsenal have won their opening three matches for the first time in 18 years. But after last weekend’s eye-catching 3-0 win at Bournemouth extended Arsenal’s perfect opening, Zinchenko was at pains to urge his teammates to keep their feet on the ground.
“It’s just the beginning of the season. There’s a lot of games ahead of us, there’s a lot of things to improve,” Zinchenko said ahead of Fulham’s visit to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
“We need to analyse what we have done well, what we should improve, what we should change and we know the manager is going to tell us. We need to show our best performance every single week.”
Tuchel’s Chelsea feeling the strain
From touchline rows with rival managers to blaming buses for defeats, Thomas Tuchel has cut an agitated figure during Chelsea’s chaotic start to the season.
Frustrated by Chelsea’s failure to kill off Tottenham in a stormy draw, Tuchel earned a one-game ban after twice clashing with Antonio Conte.
A week later, Tuchel was hot under the collar again as the German made the bizarre claim that a travel snafu which forced his coaching staff to travel to Leeds by bus was partially to blame for a dismal 3-0 defeat.
With only one win from their first three games — and that a narrow 1-0 success at struggling Everton — Tuchel is showing signs of cracking under the strain.
He risked dressing room discontent with a critical assessment of his team’s defending and keeper Edouard Mendy’s costly blunder against Leeds.
In the circumstances, Leicester’s visit to Stamford Bridge on Saturday could be perfectly timed as the Foxes have endured an even worse start.
Brendan Rodgers’ winless team are second bottom, with Wesley Fofana left out amid Chelsea’s attempts to buy the centre-back and James Maddison linked with a move to Newcastle.
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