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Alisson Becker has identified a clear Liverpool problem that four players can solve



Liverpool are currently in a personality crisis, but the Merseyside derby is an opportunity to address the issue

It is an attribute that cannot be quantified by any statistic or metric. But no successful party has ever done without it.
And an absence has hurt Liverpool in recent weeks as they continue to slide down the Premier League table.

Big teams need big personalities and too many of The Reds’ most prominent figures have vied for a place in the treatment room this season rather than compete for a place alongside Jurgen Klopp.

Alisson Becker admitted that when, in the wake of last weekend’s dismal 3-0 defeat at struggling Wolverhampton Wanderers, he was asked about the Cavalry’s imminent arrival due to their respective injuries. “This will help the team with the confidence and personality of these players,” noted the goalkeeper. “Football is also a mental game.”

While Liverpool are far from the mentality monsters of previous years, it is perhaps unsurprising given the appeal of those who have been absent from the starting lineup in recent weeks, either through injury or an alarming lack of form: Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate from defence, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson from midfield, and Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz and Roberto Firmino from attack.

Personality comes in many different forms and only in rare cases, like with Van Dijk, is it fully realized when you first join a team. Thiago Alcantara and Andy Robertson have taken on additional responsibilities of late – the latter reclaiming the captaincy in his last two games – but young players like Stefan Bajcetic and Harvey Elliott cannot yet be expected to take on a similar task, while newcomers Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo are still getting their feet under the table.
For example, Firmino provides skilled forwards, Jota is an annoying presence that often agitates opponents, while Konate’s physicality gives him a certain aura. These are the inspirational figures of the team, the ones who set the standard. Not every player needs a strong personality – indeed, too much can cause problems within a team – but every team needs one. It shapes their identity, which for Liverpool usually means intensity. Not currently, however.

Club captain Henderson has long been dubbed the ‘General’ in this regard by his manager, and a dip in form – coupled with utter burnout after 91 appearances for club and country since the start of last season – have contributed to not make him start the last four games. In terms of on-field performance, there might be few complaints. However, Klopp is right to point out that the shortcomings in terms of personality are collective.

“If you missed something from Hendo, but everything else was there, we wouldn’t miss it as much,” says the Reds boss. “Like everyone else, like Virgil van Dijk (an inspiring figure).

“When he’s at his highest level, we miss him like crazy from his highest level. But even Virgil didn’t play all the games sensationally.
“This is a team story and, if you will, a coaching story. Nothing else. No single player or single staff or anything. This story doesn’t work, it certainly doesn’t.” That’s all.”

Few games require hearts and minds as big as the Merseyside derby, with Everton making the short trip through Stanley Park on Monday night. Jota could be in contention after almost four months, Henderson is pushing for a recall. Van Dijk and Firmino are not too far behind.

In tough times, teams need their biggest personalities. And while Klopp will welcome the return of some, this time could mark the emergence of the next generation of Liverpool leaders. After all, they are necessary.