Graeme Souness has laid into Liverpool by suggesting they have forgotten one fundamental rule and saying no-one is above a b*llocking”.
Liverpool were embarrassed by Napoli to start their Champions League campaign as the first genuine ‘Klopp out?’ questions were asked.
The Reds have been below-par in the opening weeks of the season, dropping nine points in six Premier League games to make a title challenge unlikely even before mid-September.
Jurgen Klopp has pointed to a spate of injuries as part of the problem but did recently concede that Liverpool “have to kind of reinvent ourselves”.
How Klopp can reinvigorate Liverpool: a back-three and wait for Bellingham
Reds legend and Sky Sports pundit Souness believes that there has been a drop-off in ‘intensity’ and pressing ‘closing down’.
‘You can talk to all the modern coaches and analysts you like, apply the latest buzz terminology and fill these sports pages with all the data you can lay your hands on – but the one non-negotiable part of winning football matches is being first to the ball,’ he wrote in his column for the Daily Mail.
‘At the moment, Liverpool are not doing that. And that’s why they are a mile off the team we have known them to be in Jurgen Klopp’s time at the club.
‘That intensity of being first to everything is the reason why they have become winners again. They and Manchester City are by far the best two teams in the country at doing this and no one else comes anywhere near their intensity. They can squeeze the life out of teams.
‘But they have gone from a team that can hustle and exhaust an opponent, from the first minute to the last, to a team suddenly second to everything. In doing so they appear to be vulnerable to every attack.
‘There are all sorts of reasons for this being offered by the people with the data and the big theories. They will tell you about the Liverpool high line. About Mo Salah not looking the same player he was. About Trent Alexander-Arnold appearing to jog back when two of Napoli’s goals went in, during that 4-1 defeat on Wednesday night.
‘But Liverpool just don’t seem to have the same energy.
‘I’ve certainly not been seeing the same Salah. He has signed the big contract he wanted and I really hope we are not seeing him getting semi into his armchair because of that.
‘The need for intensity is a collective thing. It has always been that way, going back to my time as a player at the club. They like to call it ‘pressing’ now but when I was playing we just called it ‘closing down’.
‘If one person is not doing it, the whole system breaks down and you might as well drop off and be a team that plays counter-attacking football.
‘No one is above the team. No one is above a b*llocking. I was talking recently about the afternoon at Coventry in 1983, when we were 3-0 down at half-time. It was just before half-time when I let my mate Kenny Dalglish have it.
‘I asked him: “Is there any effing danger you’re going to get hold of the ball and get started?” His reply came right back at me. “Is there any effing danger you’re going to win a tackle?”
‘We carried on that conversation in the dressing room at half-time and with every sentence, we got closer and closer, to the point that eventually we had to be kept apart.
‘Joe Fagan and Ronnie Moran calmly poured themselves a cup of tea and kept out of it. We were doing their team talk for them.
‘The point I’m trying to make is that you can’t put Wednesday night, or Liverpool’s average start to this season, on individuals. In the team I was a part of, we worked together, we hunted for the ball together and we won it back together.’