Paul Merson has claimed in his Sky Sports column that Liverpool are “not the same team” without Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum playing in midfield together.

The Reds stormed to their first title in 30 years last season, finishing 18 points ahead of Manchester City.

Liverpool suffer alarming dip in form

However, they have been far from dominant during the current campaign. Following Thursday’s 1-0 defeat to Burnley, the side find themselves six points adrift of leaders Manchester United.

The champions are without a win in their last five games. Many have tried to pinpoint the reason for their current slump.

Merson believes it is down to the constant tinkering of personnel in midfield.

“For all the good players Liverpool have got, when that title-winning midfield three of Henderson, Fabinho and Wijnaldum isn’t playing, they are not the same team.

“Those three are the unsung heroes of Liverpool’s recent success, they are engine that makes everything else happen,” he said.

 

Injuries force Klopp to rejig his midfield

Fabinho has played predominantly as a centre-back this season due to long-term injuries suffered by Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.

Captain Jordan Henderson has also had to slip back into defence on occasions. This has left Wijnaldum as the only one of Liverpool’s trusted midfield three to consistently operate in his favoured position.

Meanwhile, Thiago Alcantara has recently returned from injury to bolster the side’s options in the middle of the park. Many expected the Spanish playmaker to settle in seamlessly.

FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL-BURNLEY
Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp (R) reacts with Liverpool’s Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker (2R) at the end of the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Burnley at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on January 21, 2021. (Photo by Jon Super / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by JON SUPER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Thiago yet to make a positive impact

He is yet to have a major impact, though. Merson appreciates the quality that Thiago possesses but admits that his different characteristics have not helped Liverpool yet.

“Thiago is a top, top player and makes the game look very easy, but he’s not that kind of player.

“If you want to win the Champions League, then Thiago plays and dictates the game. But when you’re in the hustle and bustle of the Premier League it’s a different game,” he added.

Crunch clash awaits on Sunday

The side are certainly going through a tough period as they aim to retain their Premier League crown.

Things do not get any easier this weekend either. Jurgen Klopp’s men travel to Old Trafford on Sunday for a mouthwatering FA cup tie.

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