Sam McGuire: No time for sentiment - these Liverpool players are PAST THEIR BEST

A number of Liverpool players may have gatecrashed Jurgen Klopp's farewell tour.

The Reds suffered a shock 2-0 defeat to Everton on Wednesday evening to further derail their title challenge. Klopp's men are now three points off the top and could be five behind the leaders if Manchester City win both of their games in hand. 

The humbling defeat to the Toffees is the latest disappointing result in what has been an April to forget

Liverpool were comfortably knocked out of the Europa League by Atalanta and their title hopes were dealt a blow when they drew with a poor Manchester United side before losing at Anfield to Crystal Palace. 

The decision to reveal that Klopp would be leaving Liverpool at the end of the current campaign is now looking extremely naive. 

At the time, the surprise announcement during yet another unlikely quadruple challenge was supposed to give the players that extra incentive to get over the line and complete a remarkable season for a manager who has given them, and the fans, so much. 

But, with the Reds in a bit of a rut, it appears to have had the opposite effect. 

As soon as their momentum came to an abrupt halt in the FA Cup loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford, there's been a noticeable shift in the application of players and the way in which the manager is handling certain situations. 

The manager is dialling it in

Everyone appears to simply be going through the motions. Whereas previously, there would've been a reaction to right a wrong, there no longer seems to be the same desire. It is natural, I guess. 

Why would you give your all for someone who is leaving? 

Even the manager has dialled it in. 

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool vs Atalanta

Db Bergamo 18/04/2024 - Europa League / Atalanta-Liverpool / foto Daniele Buffa/Image nella foto: Jurgen Klopp PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxITA

Look at the changes he made during the derby. They weren't substitutes to get the Reds back into the game. The German tactician wasn't looking at ways to pin the hosts in before a late onslaught. Instead, he made prearranged substitutions designed to manage the loads of players. With four games of the season to go. It felt unnecessary. 

Obviously, you want to avoid injuries and the absence of both Diogo Jota and Cody Gakpo limited what the former BVB boss could do, but he had options on the bench. 

Jayden Danns has looked bright when given an opportunity. Bobby Clark couldn't have done any worse than those already on the pitch. Harvey Elliott, inexplicably, was only given 27 minutes off of the bench.

Ryan Gravenberch impressed on Sunday against Fulham, netting his first Premier League goal for the Merseyside club, but didn't even get onto the Goodison Park pitch despite all three starting midfielders having arguably their worst games in red. 

With his last two substitutions, Klopp brought on Joe Gomez and Kostas Tsimikas for Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson. 

These decisions by the manager dictate the mentality of the players on the pitch. There's no escaping that. 

If he's not looking to throw everything at Everton trying to get back into the game, why should they? It may sound petty but what message does it send when you're 2-0 down and your manager is simply looking to keep legs fresh rather than scheming and plotting in a bid to find a way to turn things around?

These players are no longer what they once were 

While some of the blame lies squarely at the feet of Klopp, and that is often an elephant in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge, this defeat was also an eye-opening one, especially with change on the horizon. 

Some of those who have helped Liverpool conquer Europe and dominate domestically are no longer the players they once were. And this is no doubt going to be a topic of conversation for Michael Edwards and Richard Hughes this summer. 

They're going to want to arm the new manager, likely Arne Slot, with a squad capable of competing on all fronts. Not only do the players need to be mentally up for this transition, they need to be prepared to be pushed physically. 

These players will have to start again under a new manager. What they have previously won for the Reds won't matter. The fact they are club legends should and likely will be irrelevant. 

Sentiment can't come into this

Edwards and Hughes need to freshen things up for Slot. And the performances over the past month may have made their decision a little easier. Sentiment can't come into this. 

The club won't want to make wholesale changes but they will want to ensure key areas are addressed. It'll likely be an uncomfortable conversation within the club because it is an uncomfortable topic to even write about, but Robertson could be on the chopping block. 

Robertson has struggled with injuries this term but since returning to the first team picture his lack of technical ability in the final third has stuck out like a sore thumb. He spurned a great chance at Goodison Park and his final ball was awful. The Scotland captain also struggled without the ball, winning just two of his 10 duels against the Blues. 

Mohamed Salah Liverpool

Liverpool v Crystal Palace - Premier League - Anfield Liverpool s Mohamed Salah dejected following the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture date: Sunday April 14, 2024. EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or live services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUKxIRL Copyright: xPeterxByrnex 75883937

Given the full-back area is integral to most systems these days, and Slot does make them a key part of the way his teams attack, he's going to want a reliable outlet on the left and you have to wonder if Robertson stills falls into that category. On current form, you would have to say he doesn't. 

Another who might've played his final Merseyside derby is Mohamed Salah.

Has Salah played his final derby?

This will no doubt divide opinion as the three time Golden Boot winner has a lot of credit in the bank. However, since returning from a spell on the sidelines, his first real period out injured for Liverpool, he's looked like a shell of his former self. His touch is off, his influence is waning and his confidence looks completely shot. 

He isn't just missing chances. That wouldn't be a huge concern given it happens to all attackers. The worry with Salah is there's no technique or conviction when he's striking the ball now. He looks so wooden and stiff. This is impacting his shot selection and execution. He finished with an Expected Goals haul of 0.67 from a total of seven shots. That is an xG per shot average of 0.09. This isn't a one-off either, it is becoming a bit of a pattern.

It is better to sell too early than it is too late. There's an argument to be made that now is the right time to part ways with Salah.

Time to talk about Darwin Nunez

I've defended Nunez’s missed chances. At one stage of the season, he was probably the unluckiest forward in Europe. He missed a big chance against Everton when he smashed an effort straight at Jordan Pickford. In some ways it felt like the one he missed in the defeat to Crystal Palace. He worked the keeper on both occasions but a more reliable finisher probably finds the back of the net.

The issue here isn't the missed chances. It is the fact he went missing in one of the biggest games of the season for Liverpool. One thing he's often lauded for is his ability to create his own chances as well as opportunities for others, even when the team isn't playing well. This is genuinely what helped separate him from others out there. 

The Reds needed something from him in this game and he failed to step up.

Darwin Nunez Jurgen Klopp

Darwin Nunez Jurgen Klopp

This is a £64million striker earmarked as the future of this forward line. Having been rested on Sunday, this was an opportunity for him. He was fresh. Yet his touch was loose, he looked lost on the pitch and he was easily bullied. The complete opposite of the player he's supposed to be. He had just 19 touches and won zero of his five duels.

If he's not pulling his weight without the ball, what he's doing with the ball is going to be further scrutinised. Liverpool aren't going to want to rebuild their attack this summer but given Edwards and Hughes know the value of having a functional forward line and Diogo Jota is prone to a spell on the sidelines, they might be forced into big changes in the final third. 

There could well be a serious squad overhaul this summer with some club legends and fan favourites being shown the exit door. 

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