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Eye On EPL

It's high time for 'Angry' Klopp to find a leader and a goalscorer

If you ask a Liverpool supporter or any football fan to name a star player at Liverpool at the moment, he will struggle to find one.

This is because there is no outstanding player in Juergen Klopp's team presently, someone you will instantly name when you think about the Reds.

When Klopp took over from his predecessor Brendan Rodgers in October, the German inherited a team short of world-class quality and there is not much he can do with that since the transfer window was closed then.

To worry the Kop even further, the German manager is an ace when it comes to motivation. His passion and personality spurred his low-budget Borussia Dortmund side to two Bundesliga titles.

But it boggles me to see that Liverpool were fantastic in those convincing wins over Manchester City and Chelsea and the next minute, they were bullied in those defeats by Crystal Palace, Watford and West Ham.

In the past, Steven Gerrard was a symbol of the club and Luis Suarez's 31 goals took Liverpool to the brink of winning the English Premier League trophy just two years ago. But both players are gone now and they have not been replaced.

Those big wins over City and Chelsea should have given the Reds the fear factor but the team switched off instead, even with the manager screaming and shouting on the sidelines. I can only conclude that mentally, many of the current Liverpool players are simply not strong enough to fight against abrasive opponents like Palace, Watford and West Ham.

These players are like what Roy Keane and Wayne Rooney are to Manchester United, and Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry to Arsenal. They are leaders who can help to lift the team's spirits when the players are down and they are a great influence on and off the pitch.

More of a flop than a good signing is Christian Benteke, a £32.5 million (S$68.1 million) buy from Aston Villa. He has scored just six goals in 17 league appearances but more worrying is how the burly striker is unable to fit into the team's style of play and work hard to regain possession.

The Belgian provided glimpses of his worth when he netted a pair of winners in narrow 1-0 wins over Leicester City and Sunderland to please the critics briefly.

But I have watched him play and he hardly impressed me, and I believe fans are neither convinced nor confident that he is a reliable scorer.

The biggest worry facing Liverpool is their defence. The back four of Alberto Moreno, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne and Mamadou Sakho are disorganised and they get exposed too easily.

No wonder Klopp is angry with his sleep-walking side, not just because of their 0-2 loss to West Ham over the weekend, but also after their victory over Sunderland.

Those big wins over City and Chelsea should have given the Reds the fear factor but the team switched off instead, even with the manager screaming and shouting on the sidelines.

I can only conclude that mentally, many of the current Liverpool players are simply not strong enough to fight against abrasive opponents like Palace, Watford and West Ham.

Daniel Sturridge is probably one player who can make a difference but he is so injury prone that Klopp publicly questioned the striker's willingness to play through pain.

But the Reds host leaders Arsenal and bitter rivals Manchester United next week, and these two high-profile matches are golden chances for Sturridge and his team-mates to shine.

While the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea look set to spend big during this transfer window, Klopp has been quiet so far.

But I hope he can see the gaping hole in his team. Liverpool need leadership and goals. They need someone who is willing to run till he drops and has a never-say-die attitude.

I see that in Leicester's Jamie Vardy. He can make the difference. The question is, will Klopp break the bank to sign the Englishman?

Until then, I feel that Liverpool - on eighth spot in the standings and 12 points adrift of leaders Arsenal - will remain an average mid-table team.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2016, with the headline 'It's high time for 'Angry' Klopp to find a leader and a goalscorer'. Print Edition | Subscribe