Neil Humphreys: Soft Liverpool can't win
Soft Reds must develop a mean streak to save season
Chelsea had a song about Steven Gerrard. Every club did.
The lyrics varied, but they usually involved that slip costing Liverpool the title back in 2014.
Rival supporters were equally belligerent about Luis Suarez.
On a cold Anfield night in January 2013, Sunderland fans booed the Uruguayan's every touch. The hate was palpable. So was the fear.
They taunted because they were terrified and with good reason.
Suarez scored twice. He silenced their singing whenever he was on song.
But Juergen Klopp's Reds aren't particularly loathed.
When they host Tottenham tomorrow morning (Singapore time), Spurs fans won't be directing chants towards Roberto Firmino or Adam Lallana.
No individual will be targeted with a nasty sing-along because no Liverpool individual is nasty enough to warrant his own song.
Earlier in the week, Lallana spoke, rather feebly, about his side's lack of "winning" experience, pointing out that only James Milner owns a decent-sized trophy cabinet after his stint at Manchester City.
Lallana's lame defence for the Reds' failure to win a Premier League match in 2017 doesn't hold water any more than their back four can hold a high line.
As professional sportsmen, the Reds can grasp the concept of winning the odd football match.
What they do lack, however, are monsters: Ugly, snarling, vein-bulging beasts of aggression and endurance.
Title winners rarely leave home without one.
Statisticians have pointed out that Klopp now shares a similar win-loss record with Brendan Rodgers over the same time frame, perhaps suggesting a re-evaluation is in order for both managers.
But Rodgers had Suarez.
The combustible striker was certainly a double-edged sword. But at least he had a sharp, pointy end.
Liverpool's current side are filled with nimble dancers who can dazzle like a Broadway chorus line when they're all in sync.
But, at Hull last week, they raged like a teddy bears picnic. Cute and cuddly, they presented no threat to anyone.
Klopp's histrionics on the touchline can no longer mask the lack of physicality on the pitch.
While it's true that the German's ceaseless gegenpressing has taken its toll in an uncompromising league with no winter break, Mauricio Pochettino's men have sustained a similarly relentless approach to games.
A superior defence undoubtedly helps, particularly when Tottenham's countering can leave them exposed at the back.
But they also have a streak of nastiness that runs through the side like a block of granite.
Toby Alderweireld, Dele Alli and Harry Kane offer a hard, totemic presence at opposite ends of the field, but Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele are the real meat in the sandwich.
Jordan Henderson imposes himself around the centre circle, but his cultured game doesn't quite match the muscularity of Spurs' central duo (or Man City and Chelsea for that matter).
Indeed, the Anfield faithful might begrudgingly accept that they now share more than just a jersey colour with Arsenal.
It's not a question of size and physical stature - Chelsea's N'Golo Kante is just 1.69 metres tall and patrols his territory like a piranha - it's the execution.
Liverpool are lumbered with a softness, a psychological flakiness that has rarely existed at the club.
They miss the mean streak that previously characterised the club through Tommy Smith, Graeme Souness, Jamie Carragher, Gerrard, Javier Mascherano and Suarez among others. The list was long.
Now it could be written on the back of Sadio Mane's hand.
The Senegalese forward displays an eagerness to chase and irritate opponents with the persistence of a hungry mosquito.
His full return to Liverpool's line-up will be pivotal in the coming weeks, but particularly against Tottenham.
Leading sides need alchemists with aggression, malevolent types who can turn anger into silver.
Apart from Spurs' terriers, there are also Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, Diego Costa, Nemanja Matic and even Zlatan Ibrahimovic. In the top six, Liverpool are surrounded by merchants of menace.
Along with Arsenal, they are the odd ones out. The nice-guy routine no longer plays. Klopp barks, but the Reds don't bite.
If Liverpool are going to finish in the top four, then they've really got to get nasty.
By the numbers
26: Juergen Klopp has an identical record as his predecessor Brendan Rodgers after his first 54 EPL games — 26 wins, 16 draws and 12 losses.
Klopp: We look for solutions, not excuses
After a miserable start to 2017, Liverpool are in a sorry state ahead of Tottenham Hotspur's visit in the Premier League tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
They have won only one of their last 10 matches, were knocked out of both domestic cups in the space of four days and slipped out of the top four after last weekend's 2-0 loss at strugglers Hull City.
It has been some fall for Juergen Klopp's side, who briefly topped the table in November but now find themselves 13 points behind leaders Chelsea and four adrift of second-placed Tottenham.
The embattled German remains convinced that his work at Liverpool is a long-term project as he jokingly addressed his side's form ahead of the Spurs clash.
BATTERY NOT FLAT
As a journalist's device bleeped next to him at a pre-match press conference yesterday, he warned the watching media that someone's phone was struggling for battery, but then claimed: "Ours are not!"
"We are still convinced that this is a long-term project," he said. "The players learn, but it's my job to bring them into the right situation.
"I don't question everything (after a defeat). Everything is easier when you win a game, but the job is still the same.
"My job is never easy, but it's always easy to enjoy.
"It's football, every situation is a challenge. If you are in a good place you have to stay there, if you are not you have to solve problems immediately.
"We don't look for excuses, we look for solutions. Just because you aren't flying, it doesn't mean you can't win the next game.
"You always have to win the next game. The next game is Tottenham."
Liverpool have taken 13 points from a possible 21 against top-six teams, a record Klopp is keen to improve against a Spurs side who are unbeaten in nine Premier League games.
"Our record should be better," Klopp added.
"We know we can do a lot of good things still, but we have to show it on the pitch.
"Against a team like Tottenham, we need everything.
"If we play like we did in the first half against Hull - no chance. If we play like we did in that second half, then (we have a) better chance, but we want better.
"I don't think too much about other teams. Things like this (Spurs' good run) happen."
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino is aware of the need to keep picking up points in the hope that Antonio Conte's Chelsea falter, but he is not taking Liverpool's poor run for granted.
"If we win, it will be important, to help us keep putting pressure on Chelsea," he said.
"It's not decisive, but it's important. I'm not thinking about the top of the table. That's not the problem today.
"They are not in a good run, but they have very good players, one of the best squads in England and Europe.
"They will be motivated as this is always a big match. It will be a very tough game. We are not the only realistic challengers.
"We are a contender, but there are a lot of contenders. A nine-point tally is a massive gap, but it's not decisive." - WIRE SERVICES