IT’S obviously been a disappointing week for Liverpool FC on the pitch.
The Reds had the chance to gain valuable ground on their rivals and have twice failed to break down beatable teams who have come to Anfield with very little ambition to get anything from the game.
Though many have argued the toss about Jürgen Klopp’s rotation policy and refereeing decisions, the problem is that Liverpool have failed to create enough in terms of clear-cut chances in their last two home games.
It was more of an issue against Everton than versus West Brom given the difference in selection, but that, in part, is down to the drop off in quality between the first-choice striker and the backup options.
It wasn’t long ago that some supporters were questioning whether Liverpool needed a proper number nine, with the belief that Roberto Firmino didn’t do enough in front of goal. While many now seem to have warmed to the idea of Firmino being an instigator for Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, and chipping in with a few goals himself, there are still questions to be asked over the striker situation at Liverpool.
Dom Solanke was a surprise selection for the visit of Everton last Sunday, when most Reds expected to see the “Fab Four” getting a runout, despite three of them playing the full 90 against Spartak Moscow a few nights before.
Solanke was once again prominent, this time as a substitute, as it was his alleged handball that saw a potential winning goal against West Brom chalked off.
Neither of those scenarios are the 20-year-old’s fault, though his age seems to play a big part in the question marks surrounding him.
Solanke was brought in on a free transfer from Chelsea in the summer, with the belief that he would spend some time in the under 23s developing, though it was assumed that Klopp wouldn’t be averse to giving him game time here and there — which was part of the reason the youngster saw his future away from Stamford Bridge.
A strong pre season saw him move ahead of the almost forgotten Danny Ings and Divock Origi in the pecking order — the latter being loaned out to Wolfsburg for the season. Solanke’s early performances had only added to the excitement about his potential, as it became clear supporters would be seeing more of him sooner than was to be expected.
What most wouldn’t have banked on was a player who is yet to score a Premier League goal, and had made just one start in the same competition, leading the line in a Merseyside derby.
That can be probably be explained in part by injury to Daniel Sturridge, and also by an impressive display just a week and a half before at Stoke. But the reality is that Solanke remains inexperienced and Liverpool’s attack was not at its fluid best with him playing a central role.
Backup attacking threats were an issue last season when Mane went to the African Cup of Nations and seem to be a problem again now. Where there was an obvious drop off in quality between the Senegal star and whoever was called upon as understudy, there now seems to be a similar situation with Firmino.
Even the Brazilian’s most ardent critics would admit he slots into Liverpool’s system seamlessly, and those who are big fans would suggest he isn’t that far behind the highly-appreciated trio of Mane, Salah and Philippe Coutinho in terms of quality.
Should he miss out, the next in line for the central attacking role would be Sturridge. It feels too obvious to caveat that with “fitness permitting” as even Klopp himself suggested recently that he couldn’t rely on the striker to stay injury free.
The other problem is it’s quite clear that Sturridge doesn’t suit the system as well as the first-choice Firmino. While still being a very talented football player and deadly striker, injuries do appear to have taken their toll not only on his turn of pace but also on his ability to run the distance that is required in Klopp’s system — and it is usually clear to see when there is a weak link.
There are still times when he can be a useful commodity for Liverpool but all too often in recent times, he has left fans pining for Firmino or somebody who could do a similar job — if such a player even exists.
It’s not a surprise, therefore, that Sturridge is once again being linked with a move away from Anfield in the January transfer window.
As previously mentioned, an attacking option who often seems to be forgotten about is Ings. His surprise appearance on the bench, and brief cameo on the pitch, against Everton may have done little more than remind supporters that he was still a Liverpool player.
Ings’ name has also been appearing in the gossip columns as we close in on the January transfer window, with several Premier League clubs believed to be interested in a loan move for the 25-year-old.
That last part is important. What is the value in loaning out a player who isn’t far off his peak years? There is always the chance that he could score a load of goals and come back to the club match sharp and confident, but would he even get close to the first team?
The other alternative is that he could suffer, either from poor form or another injury, and then The Reds are stuck with a player with months off his contract, gradually reducing in value, and with potentially less suitors than there currently are.
Origi, meanwhile, appears to be enjoying his time in Germany so much — despite just five goals in 14 league appearances, with videos of a recent glaring miss going round social media — that he doesn’t want to come back to Merseyside.
On the question of his future, the Belgian said: “It’s difficult to say, what I can say is that I want to one day show my talent at a constant level. That comes from playing, learning, expressing yourself and going through good and difficult moments. That’s what I am experiencing now at Wolfsburg.”
What the future holds for some of Liverpool’s current attacking crop remains to be seen, but it is clear that the central striking role could do with more quality options.
Then maybe, just maybe, The Reds can start to turn more of these disappointing draws into glorious wins, with no complaints about rotation and refereeing decisions.