Rating Liverpool's season so far: From Darwin's difficult start to vulnerable Van Dijk

Liverpool 2022-23
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So many Liverpool players are underperforming right now, from their big summer signing to their star centre-back.

A temporary blip or something altogether more concerning? That is the question being asked of Liverpool right now, after what could best be described as a ‘mixed’ start to the new campaign.

Eight games in, Jurgen Klopp’s side have won only three, two of them courtesy of late goals, and the manner of their two defeats – a meek surrender at Old Trafford and a Champions League thrashing in Naples – mean that the optimism which followed July’s rousing Community Shield win over Manchester City has swiftly evaporated.

Indeed, there is a school of thought that the postponement of games against Wolves and Chelsea prior to the international break may actually have helped the Reds’ cause, sparing them further disappointment and enabling them, they hope, to nudge key players back towards fitness.

Klopp certainly hasn’t been amused by what he’s seen so far, speaking after the 4-1 loss at Napoli of the need for “reinvention” at Anfield. Victory over Ajax a week later, at least, represented a step in the right direction in that regard.

So how do you assess the opening weeks of the season? Who are the standout performers, the ones who need to lift it, and what does the rest of the campaign hold for the men from Merseyside?

GOAL takes a look below...

  1. Best player
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    Best player

    It has to be Luis Diaz. The Colombian has been an all-too-rare shining light in a struggling side, providing four goals and tons of endeavour from the left of Liverpool’s attack.

    It was Diaz who stepped up to rescue a point against Crystal Palace in August after Darwin Nunez’s red card, and it was he who set the Reds on their way to their first win of the campaign with an early goal in the rout of Bournemouth. Amid the Naples debacle, he was the one who kept plugging away, albeit too late to impact the result.

  2. Best performance
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    Best performance

    Only one winner here, the record-equalling 9-0 battering of Bournemouth at the end of August.

    It was Liverpool’s biggest-ever Premier League win, and the first time they had scored nine in a competitive game since 1989.

    The Cherries may have been willing opposition – they sacked their manager, Scott Parker, soon after – but they were taken apart, with Diaz scoring twice, Roberto Firmino sparkling and Fabio Carvalho emerging from the bench to score his first Reds goal.

    And hey, it must have been a good display if Mohamed Salah didn’t manage to score or assist!

  3. Best goal
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    Best goal

    Diaz again, for this one. His solo strike against Crystal Palace had the Kop on its feet and dragged 10-man Liverpool back into the game.

    He does have a tendency to cut inside from the left flank, but when he gets it right the results can be spectacular. Vicente Guaita had no chance.

  4. Best new signing
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    Best new signing

    Not much to go on here, but Fabio Carvalho’s early-season cameos suggest he will have a lot to offer in the coming months and years.

    The former Fulham man emerged from the bench to open his Anfield account in the Bournemouth riot, and then four days later he blew the roof off the place with a late, late winner over Newcastle.

    With Darwin Nunez’s start disrupted by that red card against Palace, and with Calvin Ramsay yet to feature at all due to injury, Carvalho is the only newboy in credit, for now.

  5. Biggest disappointment
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    Biggest disappointment

    The defeat to Manchester United stands out, not just in terms of its meaning but in the way it came about.

    Erik ten Hag’s side were at rock bottom after their beating at Brentford, yet Liverpool played straight into their hands with a timid, lifeless first-half display, in which they seemed unnerved by energy and physicality.

    They deserved to lose, whatever Klopp said afterwards, and while that can happen at a place like Old Trafford, the fact is that it not only ruined the mood around Liverpool, but lifted spirits at United.

    Ten Hag’s side have won every league game since, and have renewed hope. The Reds of last season would have held their rivals’ heads underwater.

  6. Biggest positive
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    Biggest positive

    Well, if we are to suppose that all teams will go through a tough spell at some point, then the best thing to be said is that at least Liverpool’s happened nice and early.

    As it turns out, the damage is not too bad – although a gap of eight points to Manchester City at this stage, game in hand or not, is pretty alarming – and the return of influential players from injury (and suspension) should ensure that performances, and therefore results, improve in the coming weeks.

    Thiago Alcantara, Joel Matip, Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez are all back, while Andy Robertson, Jordan Henderson and Ibrahima Konate should be available after the international break. Curtis Jones isn’t far behind, and the lesser-spotted Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are due back in October.

  7. Surprise package
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    Surprise package

    Not so much a surprise, but Kostas Tsimikas has done well filling in for Andy Robertson at left-back, with his delivery providing three assists including the late winner for Joel Matip against Ajax in the Reds’ last outing.

    The Greek international is popular with fans and team-mates alike, and his presence at least enables Klopp to manage Robertson’s workload.

    He could perhaps do with Ramsay hitting the ground running on the other flank, so he can do the same with Trent Alexander-Arnold.

  8. Could do better
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    Could do better

    Plenty of names in this section, with several of Liverpool’s big guns failing to fire so far.

    Virgil van Dijk has endured a tough start, conceding two penalties already and looking shaky against the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Jadon Sancho and Victor Osimhen. Klopp will want his Dutch star back on top form ASAP.

    The same goes for out-of-favour England full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has been targeted defensively, and for Mohamed Salah, who has not been at his best. 

    And then there’s Nunez, who scored off the bench in the Community Shield and at Fulham on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, but whose biggest impact since was on the chin of Crystal Palace’s Joachim Andersen.

  9. Cause for concern
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    Cause for concern

    It has to be the way the mood around the club has darkened so quickly, and the damage that might do in the long term.

    Liverpool have set such high standards in recent years that any dip in form will cause ripples, but they have looked unrecognisable from the side which chased a remarkable quadruple with such gusto last season. The energy has dropped, the quality has dropped and the optimism of supporters has vanished.

    Many of them had fears heading into the new season. The absence of a new, high-class midfield signing left the club exposed to a situation like the one which developed in the early weeks of the campaign, where injury-prone players get injured, and there is a growing feeling that this is a team that is reaching, or has already reached, the end of its shelf life.

    The likes of Nunez, Diaz, Jota, Carvalho, Konate and Harvey Elliott represent the future, and a bright one if we are talking talent and potential, but will the present suffer in the meantime?

  10. Klopp's job
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    Klopp's job

    It’s been a strange few weeks for the manager, who, to his credit, has not attempted to mask his side’s failings or sugar-coat their disappointments, but who has also appeared more than a little frustrated with goings on, both on and off the pitch.

    Generally, he has not had too much to work with in terms of selection. Already he has had to field Nat Phillips in a Premier League game, for example, while James Milner and Elliott have played more than they would have expected. His bench, meanwhile, has regularly featured the likes of Luke Chambers, Sepp van den Berg, Bobby Clark and Stefan Bajcetic.

    There have been a few questionable decisions – leaving out Fabinho at Manchester United, for example, or the short-lived experiment of Milner at right back against Everton – but injuries have, pardon the phrase, hamstrung him in these opening weeks, and he will hope that a clean(er) bill of health will lead to an upturn in fortunes.

    He and his side have shown themselves more than capable of dragging themselves out of a dark or indifferent period in the past – now they must back themselves to do it again.