Klopp must make Thiago call

Things were an awful lot different for Thiago Alcantara when Liverpool last met Chelsea.

Back in September, the excitement over the new arrival from Bayern Munich was at fever pitch as the Reds travelled to Stamford Bridge.

Thiago, thrown on for a debut after half-time due to Jordan Henderson’s injury, helped guide Liverpool to a 2-0 victory over the 10-man Londoners that had everyone salivating over what was to come from the Spaniard.

Except, of course, it hasn’t panned out as expected, Thiago returning from injury into a Liverpool team rather different to the one he had been bought to play in.

Great players, they say, find a way. But right now it just isn’t happening for the midfielder.

It isn’t entirely his fault, Thiago being forced to rely more heavily on his defensive attributes than he could have anticipated.

That was required here as Chelsea found it far too easy to play through a midfield in which Curtis Jones struggled and the fact Gini Wijnaldum isn’t a number six by trade began to show.

However, Thiago is clearly being affected by the general malaise, his self-belief dented by another difficult evening.

Serious consideration must now be given by Klopp not just over whether the team needs restructuring to make the most out of the player’s undoubted talent, but if such an endeavour will ultimately prove worthwhile.

Fabinho needs to move

Compared to the season-enders and other serious setbacks, it hasn’t merited anything like the same attention.

But there’s no doubt Liverpool badly missed Fabinho, the Brazilian having sat out seven of the previous eight games with a muscle issue that was supposedly only minor.

His return, then, was timely given Nat Phillips, impressive at Sheffield United, became the latest centre-back to be absent.

It meant a 19th different partnership at the heart of defence for the Reds this season, with Ozan Kabak retaining his place in the starting line-up.

And while the lack of continuity didn’t help, Liverpool were more greatly hampered by their infuriating insistence on playing a high line that only rarely functioned as intended and made it criminally easy for Chelsea to find a route to goal.

Poor Fabinho’s ring-rustiness was evident when left trailing by Mason Mount for the winner shortly before half-time, although he may have expected a bit more support from those around him.

However, the alarming issues in midfield must surely now see Fabinho moved back into his rightful place the moment Phillips or the increasingly mythical figure of Ben Davies are ready to feature.

The player assistant boss Pep Lijnders refers to as Liverpool's lighthouse’ needs to be on the lookout again.

Jota the great hope

Those who believe Anfield has lost its fear factor couldn’t be any further from the truth.

But while opponents seem unperturbed by playing in front of the Kop, instead it’s Liverpool who are being weighed down by the power of the stadium.

And should they miss out on a top-four place it will be down to their dreadful form at a venue where, until January, they had been unbeatable in the Premier League for almost four years.

“I am pretty sure Liverpool miss their fans,” said Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel earlier in the week. “I know from experience the impact the Anfield crowd has on their team.”

But that alone cannot explain how Jurgen Klopp’s side are now utterly unable to rouse themselves convincingly the moment they suffer a setback on their own turf.

And those pointing to the VAR shocker that somehow saw N’Golo Kante not concede a penalty for handball second half shouldn’t forget the ridiculous decision to rule out a first-half Timo Werner strike for half-time.

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There was one genuine sign of hope amid the incessant doom with substitute Diogo Jota bright on his return after three months on the sidelines.

If Liverpool are going to salvage anything from this season – be it at Anfield or elsewhere – the Portuguese may have to replicate that blistering start to his Reds career. No pressure, Diogo.