The low point of Liverpool’s season should have been the 7-2 defeat by Aston Villa in October . As Jurgen Klopp’s team prepare for the reverse fixture at Anfield tomorrow, the fear is that the campaign has not bottomed out. The contemptuous ease with which Real Madrid passed the ball around a static Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday was worrying. Mohamed Salah’s away goal gives Klopp a lifeline but the 3-1 result could have been much worse. At times the English champions looked lost and confused. They lacked direction. That might seem strange. In the fanless void of Covidball, there appears to be less of a need for leadership on the pitch. Because there are no supporters in the stands, the shouts of managers and coaches can be heard ringing around stadiums. Tactical tweaks can be communicated more swiftly, errors addressed in real time and advice passed on immediately from the dugout. Except none of this helped at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano. Voices on the pitch are more important than the sounds from the sidelines. No panic at Liverpool after Villa rout – Reds have a history of recovering well from thrashings One of the key factors in Liverpool’s decline this season has been the lack of leadership in the team. Jordan Henderson has had his detractors throughout his decade at the club but his importance to the side has been underlined by his absence since February. The captain not only leads by example, running himself into the ground when necessary, but he urges his teammates on. When morale ebbs away, players like Henderson become vital. Virgil van Dijk was the other huge presence in the team. The centre back exudes calmness and confidence. Like Henderson, the Dutchman spreads belief. Their loss has left a massive gap that is as much psychological as physical. Klopp used the phrase “mentality monsters” about his team. They have lost this intangible element that lifted them to victory so often. Conviction is hard to restore once it has drained away. This is the manager’s job during preparation but once the game kicks off, responsibility shifts to the players. Where are the leaders in the squad? Alisson Becker has the charisma and experience but a goalkeeper can only have a limited impact. The centre backs are still learning their trade. They have enough to worry about and need help themselves. FSG has consistently undervalued Jordan Henderson, but the skipper is proving priceless in repairing the club’s tattered image Andy Robertson puts himself to the fore in every game and soaks up responsibility. The Scotland captain looks exhausted, though. He needs others to step up and carry some of the burden. There is a huge amount of pressure on Trent Alexander-Arnold . The 22-year-old is expected to be the creative engine of the team. He is required to supply quality crosses going forward and be strong defensively in a patched-up backline. That is asking too much. Perhaps the only midfielder with the personality to thrive and encourage others in difficult circumstances is James Milner. The 35-year-old has seen it all. The problem is that he is not worth his place as a regular first-choice. Georginio Wijnaldum had the armband in Madrid but gave anything but a captain’s performance. Fabinho is prepared to subvert his own game to help the side but has not yet developed a strong voice. Thiago Alcantara is still finding his feet in the Premier League. The short-term answer might be to get Milner into the team. A radical way to do this would be to start him at right back and push Alexander-Arnold into midfield The forwards have their own problems without worrying about what is going on behind them. They are – rightly – more concerned with the lack of service. The short-term answer might be to get Milner into the team. A radical way to do this would be to start him at right back and push Alexander-Arnold into midfield. Real targeted the space behind the Scouser and Vinicius Junior ran riot. Alexander-Arnold’s role has always involved an element of risk. It has been worth it because of his impact providing opportunities for the strikers. The danger of being hit on the counter-attack was significantly lower when Joe Gomez or Joel Matip were playing alongside Alexander-Arnold. Now, with Nathaniel Phillips in the right centre back position, opposition managers can see an obvious weak area. Zinedine Zidane attacked that zone from the start. Dean Smith and Villa will likely take a similar approach. They have long thought at Anfield that Alexander-Arnold would end up in midfield. His touch, passing range and game intelligence all point that way. His impact as a wing back has been so spectacular, though, that the idea has been put on the back burner. Now might be the moment to revive it. Desperate times need desperate solutions. Getting Milner on the pitch would add fortitude to the team. A more cautious right back might help the central defenders feel a little more secure. Putting Alexander-Arnold into a situation where he was freed from some defensive responsibilities would put him in more shooting positions and give him a chance to grow as a leader. The next six weeks will determine the direction of next season and the rest of Klopp’s tenure as manager. He has said he will leave in three years and if Liverpool fail to qualify for the Champions League it will require a period of rebuilding. Beating Villa is vital and takes precedence over next week’s second leg against Real. The top four in the Premier League is the target. Dropping points to Villa would be a deeper nadir than the rout in the Midlands. Someone needs to step up for Klopp. He needs a mentality monster now, much more than when Liverpool were winning.