Liverpool have problem with ‘special’ player as draw with Man Utd proved

‘They came here not to lose’ | Jurgen Klopp reviews Liverpool’s draw with Man Utd

He’s a player with five goals – less than only four of his team-mates this season – but he’s also a problem for Liverpool right now. That man is Luis Diaz. He is not the only attacker out of form at Anfield but it is clear his threat level has dropped considerably since his first few months at the club.

Against Manchester United he was arguably Liverpool’s most dangerous forward. That, though, is not much of a compliment given how ineffective the hosts’ attack was. The Colombian has become too predictable and too consistently cuts inside instead of going on the outside.

That showed in the 0-0 draw with United. He is currently a far cry from the electric, and near undefendable, force he was when he first joined from Porto in January 2022. His first six months at Liverpool yielded six goals and five assists in his first 26 appearances.

Since then, he has added only another 10 goals and three assists in 41 games. That is not up to standard – even if he was always going to struggle to match his predecessor Sadio Mane. Certainly it is not what is required in an attack-minded Jurgen Klopp team that has ambitions to win major trophies again.

He remains a player capable of making things happen but Liverpool’s No 7 simply isn’t as menacing or as unpredictable as he previously was. A serious knee injury, one that saw him miss 31 matches last season, is a major factor.

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That injury came at a time when Diaz was arguably the Merseyside club’s best player. He started the 2022-23 season on fire. But he has not had the same spark since his return to fitness – though it must be mentioned he has also had to deal with the awful kidnapping of his father this season.

He has scored just once in his last 14 Premier League appearances, with zero assists in that time. And for a player Klopp rates so highly, that has to improve.

The German said of the 26-year-old wide-man back in May: “I love him, absolutely love him. It’s unbelievable. He’s so football smart, moving in the right areas, naturally defending from his position, goal threat, speed, cheeky. Very, very special player.”

But Liverpool are not seeing enough of those special talents. So what can they do? Perhaps a rearrangement of the front line might be needed, particularly with Mohamed Salah away for a month with Egypt soon at AFCON.

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Diaz might benefit more from playing with Cody Gakpo as the No 9 to drop deep and occupy defenders like Roberto Firmino once did for Mane and Salah. Diogo Jota could then start out on the right-hand side.

Perhaps when Salah goes to AFCON, Diaz could be even trialled as a centre-forward in a match or two given Gakpo, Jota and Nunez can all play wide left. The Colombia international is an excellent finisher when in one-on-one positions but does not often enough get into those areas.

And it was thought by those inside the club that he might be able to play centrally when he first joined. So perhaps Diaz might benefit from moving inside like Mane did in 2021-22 when his energy levels dipped. The switch helped the Senegalese become deadly once again.

Diaz clearly still has the capabilities to be a nightmare to defend against. But the draw with United underlined his recent underperformance. Liverpool really need their forwards to get back to form – and Diaz becoming more alike the player who arrived at Anfield 18 months ago would be a huge help to Klopp.

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