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An analysis of Liverpool's problems in front of goal

An analysis of Liverpool's problems in front of goal
© Reuters
Burnley became the first visiting team in 69 games to win at Anfield.

Liverpool's imperious 68-match, 1,369-day unbeaten home record finally fell after Burnley's 1-0 victory at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp's side once again paid for their lack of a cutting edge as a fourth league match without a goal cost them dearly.

Longest unbeaten home runs in English top-flight history
Liverpool saw the top flight's second-longest unbeaten home run ever ended by Burnley (PA graphic)

Here the PA news agency takes a look at the issues facing the defending champions.

What has gone wrong?

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp bends double with his head in his hands
Liverpool's goalscoring problems are causing manager Jurgen Klopp a major headache (Phil Noble/PA)

Put bluntly, not scoring goals. The Premier League drought now stands at seven hours and 18 minutes. It is their worst run without a league goal since May 2000, when they failed to win their last five matches of the season and did not score for seven hours and 56 minutes. Yet they still finished fourth.

They must be playing badly then?

Well, not quite. They are still creating chances: against Burnley they had 27 shots (but only six on target), had 12 corners to their opponent's none and enjoyed 72 per cent possession. The issue is their radar is well off. Against the Clarets Sadio Mane made nine key passes – no player has made more in a Premier League match this season – but Liverpool have not scored from their last 87 attempts at goal, 60 shots more than any other top-flight side.

So the forwards are at fault?

Liverpool forwards Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane celebrate a goal
Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have all fallen out of form at the same time (Michael Regan/PA)

Incredibly Mohamed Salah is still the Premier League's leading scorer with 13, one better than Tottenham duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min. It is a month since the Egypt international came off the bench to score twice in the 7-0 demolition of Crystal Palace. Since then his only goal in six matches is his strike against Aston Villa's youth team in the FA Cup. Roberto Firmino, who also scored two against Palace to make it three in two matches, is six games without a goal. Mane is the last player to score for Liverpool in the league in the 1-1 draw with West Brom on December 27.

What about the dynamic duo at full-back?

Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrate on the pitch
Liverpool's full-backs Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have been a key creative force in previous seasons (Laurence Griffiths/PA)

In their title-winning season Trent Alexander-Arnold (13) and Andy Robertson (12) contributed 25 assists between them. The previous campaign it was 23 combined. Currently Robertson is the team's leading creator with five, Alexander-Arnold has just two and is another looking woefully short of confidence. Against Burnley he attempted 18 open-play crosses – no player has made more this season – with a zero success rate, becoming the only player in the the last five Premier League seasons to not complete a single cross with 12-plus attempts in a game.

What can Klopp do to change it?

The problem the Liverpool manager has is he cannot rely on the current back-up to his front three who, bizarrely, have all fallen out of form at the same time. Divock Origi, who has looked like he has been heading for the exit door for 12 months now, has scored two goals – one against League One Lincoln – in his last 26 matches in all competitions. Injury-affected duo Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Xherdan Shaqiri have one in 15 and two in 37 respectively. Take away Salah, Mane, Firmino and September signing Diogo Jota and the rest of the squad have contributed just six in the league. With a January transfer unlikely the return of the injured Jota (eight in his last 11 games) cannot come soon enough.

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Burnley's Ashley Barnes celebrates scoring against Liverpool in the Premier League on January 21, 2021
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