Former Liverpool winger John Barnes believes the club can still win the Premier League and called for calm amid growing criticism of Jurgen Klopp’s approach.
Four draws in the last six league matches have handed the initiative to Manchester City, with Klopp’s midfield coming in for most of the scrutiny after failing to create scoring chances.
Since Boxing Day midfield has accounted for just one of the 22 goals Liverpool have scored in the league – Georginio Wijnaldum’s strike in the 3-0 win over Bournemouth a month ago.
It is why so many Liverpool fans are desperate for the return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who played his first 45 minutes of competitive action for the under-23s at Derby on Friday.
However, Barnes insists critics should be looking at the bigger picture.
“With regards to the lack of creativity and negative perception of Liverpool – we are one point off the top so therefore much better than we were last year when we weren’t being criticised,” he told Press Association Sport at a Show Racism the Red Card event at Anfield.
“People have to keep calm. We can still win the league. Maybe we are defending better, which is why we are not being more creative.
“We were more creative last year, but we were conceding more goals.
“The balance is important, the balance is right. If we stay calm and stay together we still have a chance.”
Manager Klopp, meanwhile, is prepared for a tough test at Anfield on Sunday against a Burnley side who made life very difficult for them in the 3-1 win at Turf Moor three months ago.
It was a game which was notable for the physicality of the Clarets players – something Klopp remarked upon afterwards.
Having watched Burnley beat Tottenham last month Barnes is wary of the threat they will pose.
“They are so consistent with what they are doing,” he added.
“Burnley stand for a specific way to play: very physical, very intense, really well-organised, set-pieces brilliant, chasing each ball.
“The game at Turf Moor is not the most important for us to analyse. We need to create, we need to have ideas, be lively but patient as well.
“Historically against Burnley it is always difficult because they have a high motivation level and they are always fighting in a game.
“When you analyse the last three or four games you have to say, ‘Respect’. They beat Tottenham and that doesn’t happen too many times in the year.
“I am sure they are looking forward to Sunday’s game as they feel they have a chance and we have to make sure that does not happen.”
Liverpool midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s return to competitive action after 11 months out with a knee injury ended prematurely.
The England international was scheduled to play 45 minutes in the under-23s’ Premier League 2 match at Derby but was taken off four minutes before half-time as a precaution.
Oxlade-Chamberlain had been holding his right hamstring a few minutes earlier and, Press Association Sport understands, Liverpool were not prepared to take any risks in his return from serious knee ligament damage sustained last April.
The 25-year-old had shown some nice touches during the time he was on the pitch, especially one low crossfield ball to the left wing with the outside of his right foot and another 50-yard diagonal with his left which was instantly controlled by Ben Woodburn.
However, it was very much a performance of feeling his way back in as he kept himself out of any trouble and there was little in the way of driving runs from midfield for which he is associated with.
Having been taken off just before the break, he took the five-minute walk back to the changing rooms with a physio during which time he happily posed for photographs with fans.
When asked how he was, Oxlade-Chamberlain said: “Yeah, all good.”
After the 3-1 victory Liverpool’s Under-23s coach Neil Critchley said of the midfielder’s problem: “He obviously had a bit of an issue but hopefully it is nothing major.
“The bonus for him is it is not his knee, he is delighted there are no problems with that. He was enjoying himself and was happy to be back playing.
“What was good was he was sensible and came off quickly. I think he handled that situation well.”
Critchley praised the influence Oxlade-Chamberlain brought to the game in the short time he was on the pitch.
“I’ve never met him before and you can see he is a bubbly, positive person and you could see he was enjoying playing again and he brought a calmness and maturity to our play,” he added.
“The lads were delighted to play with someone like that. We sometimes forget they just love playing football and I think it was exciting for Alex to put his boots, shin pads and kit back on, feel like a kid again and it was great to see him out there playing.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain is likely to be assessed by Liverpool’s medical staff on Saturday but manager Jurgen Klopp had already moved to play down his comeback before he even took to the field, saying he was unlikely to feature until after the international break at the very earliest.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes stability will be key in the title run-in.
The Reds’ destiny is no longer in their own hands after a goalless draw in Sunday’s Merseyside derby allowed Manchester City to regain top spot in the Premier League with a one-point advantage.
Despite criticism over their lack of creativity, things at the other end of the pitch remain the same with five-successive clean sheets in all competitions and a Premier League-best 17 shut-outs this season with just 15 goals conceded in 29 matches.
“We are positive – how couldn’t we be positive?” Klopp told liverpoolfc.com.
“There is a lot to come and a lot of games to play. What brought us here was the stability the boys showed.
“We are difficult to beat, which is very important in football. And we created, still, in difficult games, which is very important in football.
“Then you have to finish them off, which we did very often but not (at Everton).
“The dynamic (at the top of the table) changed a little bit – now we are second, they (Manchester City) are first. The season is not over and we will not give up.”