Jurgen Klopp has bigger transfer problems to worry about than departing Liverpool stars

Klopp makes title race admission after Liverpool lose at Leicester

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Liverpool’s promising title bid has been seriously hampered in more ways than one in recent weeks.

The Reds lost more ground in the Premier League title race after they were stunned by Leicester City on Tuesday night. And to make matters worse, the Anfield outfit are set to bid a temporary farewell to two of their key stars in Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah when the Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in under a fortnight’s time.

But Jurgen Klopp has a far more pressing concern than the absence of Salah and Mane right now.

Liverpool’s stunning Premier League triumph in 2020 was built on a robust and sturdy defence. Marshalled by the imperious Virgil van Dijk, the Reds conceded, on average, less than a goal a game; no team in the league conceded fewer than Liverpool’s tally of 33.

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Last year was a different story. The Reds’ rearguard was ravaged by numerous injuries – including the long-term loss of van Dijk.

It’s understandable, taking into account the circumstances, that Liverpool looked vulnerable defensively as they surrender their Premier League crown.

But that defensive instability has subtle seeped into their title bid this season – and it may have already derailed it.

Following Tuesday night’s shock 1-0 loss at Leicester City, Liverpool could head into Sunday’s crunch title clash against Chelsea nine points behind leaders Manchester City if Pep Guardiola’s side can negotiate a tricky trip to Brentford on Wednesday night.

And with Liverpool and Chelsea – both currently tied on 41 points – set to take points off each other at the weekend, the initiative in the race to reach the pinnacle this year has been handed back to the champions in recent weeks.

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Although Salah spurned a penalty and Mane missed a golden chance, it was once again defensive frailties that cost Liverpool dearly against the Foxes.

Ademola Lookman netted the only goal of the game at the end of a well-worked move with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, but the way the young duo waltzed their way through the Reds would have been unimaginable just two short years ago.

Joel Matip was caught in no-mans land when Lookman struck and Trent Alexander-Arnold decided to inexplicably saunter back towards goal after allowing Lookman to surge away from him.

Alexander-Arnold has been on a different planet in terms of creativity this season. But it was his defensive frailties that sent him and Liverpool crashing back down to earth in midweek at the King Power Stadium.

Perhaps the most alarming thing for Klopp, given just how shaky Liverpool have looked all season, is that it’s hard to pinpoint anyone to solely take the blame. The truth is, everyone has been caught out at least once already this term.

Even van Dijk, perhaps understandably, hasn’t looked the commanding figure he once was amongst the chaos in Liverpool’s backline.

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Taking all that into account, it’s been a baptism of fire for Liverpool’s sole summer signing, Ibrahima Konate. The powerful defender was signed as the long-term heir to Matip’s spot alongside van Dijk, but the Frenchman has had sporadic game time in his maiden Premier League season.

Klopp has always been meticulous when introducing new players into his side, but perhaps he needs to nudge Konate’s integration into the side along a bit considering Liverpool’s current vulnerability at the back. Because right now, it’s that which looks set to prove terminal to their hopes of regaining their Premier League crown; not losing Mane and Salah for a month.

A rare off-night for Liverpool’s misfiring forwards shouldn’t mask that in the wake of the defeat to Leicester – something that Klopp will be more than aware of.

He’s already indicated that he isn’t likely to dip into the transfer market for attacking reinforcements, and rightly so. Divock Origi has been amongst the goals from the bench and Diogo Jota has shown enough to hint that he can step up and be Liverpool’s main man in January.

It remains to be seen if the same can be said in other areas for Liverpool – although it may already be too light to salvage their title hopes this season.

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