Over the past five years, Jürgen Klopp has transformed Liverpool from an emaciated sleeping giant into a footballing powerhouse once again. After last season's long-awaited Premier League triumph, things could not be better. A squad in its peak years, exciting new arrivals and a yearning for more success; nothing could stop them now.
However, a handful of injuries seem to have unravelled some underlying issues within the team. Liverpool's limited squad depth has finally caught up with them, currently leaving only three fit centre backs for the immediate future. Moreover, a lack of frontline rotation, partially down to Diogo Jota's injury, means that attacks have become predictable and stale.
As a result, the Reds could soon slip to eighth in the league table and five points off the top four, if nearby teams win their games in hand.
Somewhat remarkably, the man who made this Liverpool side so great may well pay the price for this abysmal form. So, is Klopp the right man to guide the Reds out of this predicament or is his time up at Anfield?
This is not the first time Liverpool have made a slow to start to a calendar year under Klopp. Cast your minds back to early 2017.
On New Years Day, the Reds sat second in the table, within touching distance of runaway leaders Chelsea. However, six points throughout January and February shattered title dreams and seriously questioned his future at the club.
Crucially, Liverpool went on to finish fourth that season and, as they say, 'the rest is history'.
Over his managerial career, Klopp has developed a knack for proving critics wrong. In only three years, he turned Borussia Dortmund from mid-table under-achievers into back-to-back Bundesliga champions.
He also took Mainz to the Bundesliga, only three seasons after they had finished 14th in the German second tier.
Klopp was able to turn things around for Liverpool after their woeful form in early 2017; why would he not be able to do so now?
Would It Be The Right Time?
As we approach the business end of the season, it is a risky time to replace managers. In hope of avoiding relegation or securing European football, such a gamble often exacerbates teams' problems and leads to worse results.
The summer is often a shrewder time for these changes since it allows new managers a full transfer window and preseason to establish themselves.
Let us not forget, Liverpool are in pursuit of a top-four finish and the next round of the Champions League - there is still a lot to play for.
Realistically, could anyone else get more out of these players than Klopp? Not only is he one of the best coaches in world football, but there is already an understanding, mutually-engrained between him and the squad. He knows how to maximise their output, whilst they recognise his tactics and philosophy.
Another manager may initially encounter a honeymoon period, but would they achieve as much this season under his management?
Is This Just a Dip in Form?
For three years, Liverpool have been operating at the highest level - week in, week out. Arguably, a slump in performance levels was bound to happen at some stage.
However, it seems there is more to the Reds' issues than just a poor run of form. They have won only seven points out of a possible 27, so far in 2021. Besides, wins at Tottenham and RB Leipzig (Champions League) have come due to individual errors from opposition players.
In reality, Liverpool look out of ideas in all areas of the pitch and injuries can only obscure bad performances for so long. The attack is looking a shadow of its former self as shown by January's barren run of over 400 minutes without a league goal.
Has Klopp just run this team into the ground? It may explain multiple injuries Liverpool have suffered this campaign; many of which are down to muscle strain instead of impact.
The German's intense system has become his blueprint and he may not have a plan B. The same thing happened at Borussia Dortmund in the 2014/15 season, where Klopp managed only four wins in the opening 19 Bundesliga matches. Despite finishing runners-up in the DFB-Pokal and a subsequent change of form, the fact still remained: his strategies had taken their toll on the players.
Therefore, Liverpool's current dip in form may be a more permanent issue than originally believed.
The German Head Coach's current contract expires in 2024, allowing another three and a half seasons at the helm. If Liverpool were to not secure a top 4 finish, that could have detrimental effects in the summer's transfer window. Considering the world's best players demand Champions League football, this could potentially entail big departures and lesser arrivals.
In that scenario, Klopp's future could be in doubt. Considering it took years to reach the top, would he have the time and resources to revive a weakened and ageing Liverpool squad? Would upcoming managers like Steven Gerrard and Julian Nagelsmann be better long-term options?
Importantly, the season is far from finished and the table will realistically look a lot different in May. Plus, replacing Klopp midway through the campaign would all but consign Liverpool to a fruitless season.