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What Part Has Anfield Played in Liverpool's Poor Title Defense?

What Part Has Anfield Played in Liverpool's Poor Title Defense?

After amassing almost 100 points per season for the past two years, the demise of Liverpool's title defense this year has surprised pretty much everyone. As the antidote to Man City's success, The Reds were considered the club to challenge The Citizens for the foreseeable future.

It wasn't to be, with the current champions languishing in the table and struggling to make the Champions League qualification places. There are several reasons why this campaign hasn't gone well for them, but a shocking factor is Anfield, a ground that is usually the team's fortress.

The Short End of the VAR Straw

The introduction of the Video Assistant Referee hasn't gone down well with everyone. The belief among fans and pundits is that soccer is a worse sport for it, especially in the English Premier League where the game appears to be clunkier and slower than normal. A yougov.com survey from February last year reports that 60% of supporters feel the current system works poorly.

For Liverpool, the use of VAR is made worse by the fact that they are the biggest net losers this season. According to punditarena.com, Jürgen Klopp's men have missed out on game-changing goals. At the same time, they had goals inflicted upon them to the point where the team's net VAR gain stands at –5 this year. These stats make them the most affected side in the Premier League, below the likes of Man City, Everton, and West Bromwich Albion.

What makes the situation even worse for Liverpool is that the majority of the incidents have occurred at Anfield. Typically, the top teams get away with more at home since the occasion and atmosphere can influence referees' decisions. This isn't the case any longer as matches are no longer left to only human decisions. Big verdicts are checked by technology, which in numerous instances at Anfield this season, has left the former champions leaving points on the table.

A Heavy Burden to Carry

Anfield has been the home to The Reds for more than a century. During that time, it has been the venue for remarkable games and comebacks that have ensured the stadium will go down in soccer folklore. Talksport.com said, back in 2019, that Pep Guardiola went as far as calling it the world's best atmosphere due to the closeness of the crowd and intensity of the chants.

It's for this reason that FSG decided to extend the existing Anfield Road End and not move to a new site, something footballgroundmap.com reported on in February 2020. Whether it's the Champions League group stage victory against Olympiakos that led to the Miracle of Istanbul or the stunning 4-3 win against Borussia Dortmund in 2015/16, the expectation of the supporters has always been high. Of course, most recently Klopp and his boys overcame a 3-0 deficit to Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals to reach the final. And it isn't only Europe, as Liverpool's form over the past two seasons meant they hadn't lost since April 23rd, 2017, until this year, a run that espn.co.uk said stretched to 64 matches.

However, the good times don't last forever, and when the first card falls, the entire house can come crashing down. This is what happened to Liverpool after being beaten by Burnley last January. With the pressure of expectations weighing heavily on them, the champs didn't win in five games in the Premier League, losing to some average opponents that they would normally destroy.

Targets on Their Backs

While Anfield has played a significant part in Liverpool's poor title defense from a psychological and VAR standpoint, the club's iconic home ground isn't the only reason why they have struggled to challenge for the blue-riband events this campaign. Something that shouldn't be underestimated is the target on the players' backs after accumulating 97 points and 99 points respectively in 2018/19 and 2019/20.

When squads dominate title races like Liverpool and City have done for the last couple of years, it forces their rivals to dig deep and improve. To be fair to the chasing pack, they have made considerable strides this season in an attempt to peg back the soon-to-be ex-champions. For example, Manchester United FC seems set to finish second and reach the Europa League final with the possibility of winning it. Chelsea under Thomas Tüchel should land fourth place and potentially face Man City in the final of the Champions League. Platforms such as 90min.com have reported how Klopp foresaw the difficulty of regaining the Premier League because of the teams mentioned. Plus, there's the fact that the EPL is an incredibly competitive league, and winning it back-to-back is increasingly challenging. This is pointed out by asiabet.org when the site says the Premier League isn't like many other European divisions where the same side wins it regularly, citing the example of Leicester City, the minnows that shrugged off their 5000/1 odds to shock the soccer world in 2016.

Betting markets for Liverpool's challenge next season shows how this campaign has been a freak one for the club, particularly as they were the heavy favorites pre-season and for the early parts of the season. Metro.co.uk backs this up with an article involving ex-player Jamie Carragher who believes his former team will be the main challengers in 2021/22. Still, it's hard to deny the impact of the other EPL sides. They won't go away without a fight when the league resumes in the summer.

There's no doubt that Anfield has played a role in Liverpool's stuttering title defense. The club and its fans will be hoping it's only a one-off, and that The Reds will be back to their scintillating best when they step out on hallowed turf next season.



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