Liverpool's hit-and-miss attack needs to find extra gear in title push

Are we all going to make it to the end of this season in one piece? Can our hearts really take much of this chaos?

Saturday’s 2-1 win at Crystal Palace was just the latest nerve-shredding Liverpool encounter to sit through, as they again threatened to drop sloppy points against inferior opponents.

These past few weeks have been a real grind for the Reds, with not a huge amount of quality on show against the likes of Fulham, Sheffield United and Palace.

Jurgen Klopp's men have still picked up maximum points from those games, however, due hugely to their elite mentality shining through.

They just never know when they're beaten, and there isn't even an ounce of luck involved.

READ MORE: Liverpool's points from losing positions this season shows return of 'mentality monsters'

For much of last season, it was hard to see Liverpool digging deep in any of these types of games, but this new-look team are made of far sterner stuff.

Better performances clearly lie ahead, hopefully starting at home to Manchester United on Sunday, and there are certain areas where the Reds need to improve.

Although much of the focus has been on Liverpool’s defence, not least because of Joel Matip’s season-ending injury, more is required from a number of attackers who have really struggled to get going during this winter period.

Mohamed Salah is Mohamed Salah, and you know that you will always get a constant stream of end product from him, even though his all-round performances have been lacking.

There are never really any concerns about the Egyptian King, who can easily throw in a stinker of a performance, yet still prove to be the match-winner.

READ MORE: How Mohamed Salah ranks all time after scoring 150th Premier League goal 

The same cannot be said of Luis Diaz and Darwin Nuñez, however, who are two brilliant footballers struggling to get out of second or third gear.

Liverpool fans have high expectations of their players, and while there has still been plenty to admire in their game, it hasn’t been good enough, if we’re being ultra-critical.

Diaz has a huge excuse, having gone through such a testing period away from the pitch this season, but even prior to the terrifying kidnapping of his father, he hasn’t quite looked like the same player since his knee injury at Arsenal last year.

Luis Diaz, ProShots

Luis Diaz, ProShots

That electric burst of pace past defenders appears to have deserted him, and there are chunks of games that can pass him by.

When you think of the Diaz who arrived at Anfield in January 2022 and completely resurrected Liverpool’s flagging season, this isn’t close to the same footballer right now.

That’s not to say that the Colombian hasn't enjoyed a positive impact at times, with five goals coming his way in all competitions, but he feels on the edge of the action too much and isn’t giving defenders the nightmares he once did.

The mental toil that the incident involving his father has had on him will no doubt have been great, though, and the hope is that he will enjoy a new lease of life in the second half of the season, once his life has settled down more.

As for Nuñez, nobody can fault the Uruguayan’s effort levels and love for Liverpool, with few players in the squad displaying more passion, whether it's him scoring or a teammate.

LUTON, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 5, 2023: Liverpool's Darwin Núñez his the ball over the bar during the FA Premier League match between Luton Town FC and Liverpool FC at Kenilworth Road. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Unlike Diaz, the eccentric 24-year-old forever feels at the heart of action, with his speed, power and movement making him a devilish proposition, not to mention the snide edge that he possesses.

That being said, the end product just isn’t there on a consistent basis at the moment, and his rash finishing has threatened to prove costly a number of times.

Four goals and five assists in the Premier League this season is far from a disastrous return, by any means, but he hasn’t found the net in eight games since the EFL Cup win at Bournemouth on 1 November, and his unpredictable nature means he struggles to link the attack effectively with hold-up play and Roberto Firmino-esque subtlety.

This is another issue when it comes to both Diaz and Nunez – at times, they feel too much like individuals, rather than part of a perfectly in-tune attack. The same can even be said of Salah, in truth, who has been quiet by his standards in recent weeks.

Whereas the legendary trio of Sadio Mane, Salah and Firmino felt beautifully balanced and effective as a unit, there isn't that same relationship with the current attackers, and it is showing in the hit-and-miss aspect of Liverpool’s performances.

Cody Gakpo is someone who arguably possesses more natural footballing intelligence that Nuñez, so him leading the line could gel things together more, but the Dutchman has also been guilty of not doing enough to warrant regular starts.

Cody Gakpo, ProShots

Just two league goals is a disappointing tally, and the former PSV Eindhoven man doesn’t have the explosiveness of a Diaz or a Nuñez.

Now, this all may sound a little on the negative side for a team who are currently top of the Premier League, but we should be allowed to be critical even when results are still good.

Liverpool have done superbly to reach the summit heading into Christmas, putting themselves in a good position to go all the way, but if the attack doesn’t start firing more consistently, it is easy to see them coming unstuck in games.

There are no concerns about Salah, having become just the fifth Reds player to reach 200 goals in the club’s history, but Klopp is crying out for more from Diaz, Nunez and Gakpo.

They are performing at around a six or seven-out-of-10 level at the moment, but if Liverpool are to go all the way in the title race, that needs to become eight or nine between now and May.

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