Liverpool head to Ajax in Champions League with just ONE away win all season – so what’s gone wrong?

Liverpool’s puzzlingly poor start to the season has been summed up by their form away from home. 

Jurgen Klopp’s men head to Amsterdam on Tuesday night to take on Ajax in a crucial Champions League clash and desperately need to stop the rot. 

A win will confirm their place in the knockout stages but defeat takes it to the last day, where they may need a point against high-flying Napoli to progress. 

Coming off the back of a 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest will hardly fill fans with confidence, so how bad is their away form and what’s going wrong?

Mo Salah and Co have been struggling away from home in all competitions

Games played Wins Draws Losses Goals for Goals against Win %
2016-17 7 5 1 1 17 8 71
2017-18 7 2 3 2 10 15 29
2018-19 7 4 2 1 9 5 57
2019-20 7 5 1 1 11 5 71
2020-21 7 4 2 1 20 12 57
2021-22 7 6 1 0 25 6 86
2022-23 7 1 2 4 13 13 14

Rangers was the anomaly

The facts make for grim reading. Liverpool have only won one game away from home all season. 

They absolutely hammered Rangers last time out in the Champions League at Ibrox, routing them 7-1 but that result is a rare shining light. 

Other than the latest defeat by relegation-threatened Forest, Liverpool were downed by Arsenal in a game they were well beaten in, overcome by Manchester United at Old Trafford and comfortably put to the sword by Napoli. 

Roberto Firmino had a field day in Liverpool's only away win this season at Rangers

Roberto Firmino had a field day in Liverpool’s only away win this season at Rangers

Draws at Everton and Fulham underline the issues for a team almost unrecognisable from the one chasing a quadruple last season. 

Their win percentage away from home after seven games on the road is a pitiful 14% in comparison to 86% in 2021-22. 

That’s by far the worst record at the same stage of the season since Klopp took charge.

So what’s going wrong? 

No control from midfield

At Anfield, the Reds have tended to have a stronger grip of games. Lapses in concentration and an high line exploited by the opposition has led to occasional chances given up but by and large, there is a control of the match. 

Thiago is a huge part of this. He pulls the strings and offers a constant outlet to get up the pitch. 

With Liverpool bossing possession and teams content to sit deep at Anfield, they are happy dictating play. 

Away from home, teams are urged on by their fans to push higher up the pitch and Liverpool’s customary iron grip of the match has weakened or in some cases evaporated entirely. 

Jordan Henderson offers some solidity but the Liverpool midfield has been lacking

Jordan Henderson offers some solidity but the Liverpool midfield has been lacking

The 4-1 defeat by Napoli was perhaps the most glaring example of this. A starting midfield of James Milner, Fabinho and Harvey Elliott was overrun and overpowered. 

Napoli played through the lines like a knife through butter, exposing Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold in particular, who seemed bizarrely out on their feet. 

Liverpool’s ascendancy in midfield has been crucial to taking the emotion out of games away from home in the few years. 

But once a crowd sense blood and confidence rises in the opposition, it is difficult to claw back that authority in the middle.  

The worst form of Fabinho’s Liverpool career  

Integral to any away performance is the team’s defensive midfielder. At his best Fabinho is arguably the leading player in the world in his position. 

He has dominated the holding role ever since joining the Reds from Monaco but this season has been his worst spell. 

One key stat is telling. Over 90 minutes, his interceptions have more than halved since last term. 

Fabinho's drop in form is damaging for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp has benched him at times

Fabinho’s drop in form is damaging for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp has benched him at times

He’s averaging only 1.07 this season in comparison with 2.18 before. 

Part of the Brazilian’s lower output can be attributed to the team’s overall dip and inconsistent midfield partners. 

But there’s no doubt he’s far from his best and Liverpool need their midfield general back, especially away from home.  

Konate’s absence and Van Dijk’s drop-off

Ibrahima Konate ended last season playing like one of the world’s best central defenders. 

Rapid, assured on the ball and a huge physical presence, teams struggled to combat his partnership with Virgil Van Dijk at the heart of defence. 

But injuries have ruled the Frenchman out of almost all Liverpool’s games so far during this campaign. 

A knee problem at the start of August kept him out for more than two months but there is light at the end of the tunnel and he could be involved. 

Ibrahima Konate has been sorely missed

Virgil van Dijk's drop in form is a concern

Ibrahima Konate was brilliant last season but he has been out injured most of this term and Virgil van Dijk’s level has dropped from his usual high standards

He’s been sorely missed and even though Joe Gomez has returned to form, there have been occasional lapses from him. 

The Napoli game in particular stands out as one to forget. Joel Matip has also been battling niggling injuries and the lack of consistency at the back has hurt Liverpool. 

Van Dijk, usually so imperious, has also had wobbly moments and looks a level below his usual standards. His failure to close down Jadon Sancho for the opener at Old Trafford was a clear illustration that he is not quite himself. 

The ability is of course still there. Gomez and Van Dijk marshalled Erling Haaland incredibly well in the 1-0 home win against Manchester City, but they must find that standard on a more consistent basis, particularly away from home.  

Per game Home Liverpool all competitions 2022-23 Away Per game
8 Games played 7
6 Games won 1
2 Games drawn 2
0 Games lost 4
2.6 21 Goals 13 1.9
2.2 17.31 Expected goals 10.79 1.5
0.8 6 Goals conceded 13 1.9
0.9 7 Expected goals against 14.36 1.4
20.4 163 Total shots (including blocks) 109 15.6
7.3 58 Shots on target 43 6.1
7 56 Shots faced 82 11.7
3.1 25 Shots on target faced 36 5.1
NA 59.34 Possession 64 NA
11.5 92 High turnovers 66 9.4
42.5 340 Touches in opp box 246 35.1
14.1 113 10+ pass OP sequences 111 15.9
NA 39.37 Average start distance 33.24 NA

Drop-off in all areas compared to Anfield

A certain level of increased performance can be put down to the added motivation playing at home. 

But the difference between Liverpool’s numbers on their travels in comparison to Anfield is larger than you would expect. 

Expected goals is down from 2.2 to 1.5 and expected goals conceded is up from 0.9 to 1.4. 

Liverpool are conceding an average of 1.9 goals per game away from home, and while that’s higher than the expected number and should level out over time, it demonstrates just how leaky the defence has become. 

Klopp has plenty to fix ahead of a huge game between Liverpool and Ajax

Klopp has plenty to fix ahead of a huge game between Liverpool and Ajax 

The Reds were routed on the road against Napoli and Ajax might smell blood

The Reds were routed on the road against Napoli and Ajax might smell blood 

To average two goals against every game on the road makes life incredibly difficult and should be Klopp’s primary area to fix. 

To a certain degree, Liverpool accommodate Alexander-Arnold to enable him to make a difference in the attacking third, but that has always been the case and at times the defence has been sensational with him in the team over the last few years. 

The Liverpool press is also less effective away from home. 

They win on average 9.4 high turnovers compared to 11.5 at Anfield. And the opposition also average five more shots per game when Liverpool aren’t at home.  

Liverpool’s problems this season are well documented and the away form in particular puts those frailties under the spotlight. 

Ajax will be looking to expose those failings on Wednesday night in what is shaping up to be a huge test for last season’s losing finalists.  

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