Liverpool’s weaknesses have been highlighted by Ray Houghton, with the former Reds star pointing out that Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have not been at their best of late while inspiration from the middle of the park has gone missing.
Jurgen Klopp’s once dominant side have seen lofty standards slip over recent weeks, with five Premier League games coming and going with no victories picked up.
Mohamed Salah and co have failed to find the target in four of those fixtures, with issues at both ends of the field hitting the Premier League champions hard.
Injuries have been a concern throughout the 2020-21 campaign, but uncharacteristic dips in form have also been posing plenty of problems to a side that have been unaccustomed to experiencing such struggles.
Full-backs Robertson and Alexander-Arnold have not been as productive as they were during a period of trophy collecting, while questions are being asked of the likes of Thiago Alcantara and a lack of impetus in the engine room.
Houghton, who won two titles with the Reds in his playing days, has told RTE Sport of Liverpool’s issues: “If you lose [Virgil] van Dijk and you lose [Joel] Matip and [Joe] Gomez, which is the heartbeat of the central defence, what you do then is you bring back Fabinho from central midfield to centre-back and likewise with Jordan Henderson and that might weaken the midfield slightly.
“And one of the areas where Liverpool aren’t quite doing as well is that they aren’t breaking from midfield into advanced positions. That’s something they were doing with the three forwards coming a little bit deeper, leaving the gaps to move into.
“Two of the full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, were two of the best going forward and producing opportunities. But their final ball isn’t of the best quality at the moment, hence the reason they aren't getting those clear-cut opportunities inside the 18-yard box.”
While picking faults in Liverpool’s class of 2020-21, Houghton believes one morale-boosting victory – potentially in an FA Cup fourth-round clash with Manchester United – will get a star-studded side back on track.
He added: “Based on what happened when I was at Liverpool, I remember going through seasons where in the first half you weren’t quite at it as much as you should have been and then you galvanise and you come together.
“I’ve heard James Milner and one or two of the other Liverpool players saying it’s time the players stood up, we’ve got to put it right on the pitch, and he’s absolutely right.
“This will test the Liverpool players because the last two-and-a-half seasons they’ve been fantastic, winning the Champions League, winning the league.
“I think there’s enough quality in this Liverpool side, once they start winning again and get that winning feeling back, they’ll go on a very good run.”