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Liverpool must prove Alex Ferguson wrong and Carragher has the answer

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The manager who successfully defended a Premier League title on four separate occasions articulated it best.

"I believe that the cycle of a successful team lasts maybe four years and then some change is needed," Alex Ferguson told Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse in 2012.

Is change now needed at Liverpool Football Club?

Since they lost the League Cup and Europa League finals in 2016 this Liverpool team has been spectacularly successful.

A first Champions League since 2005, a Super Cup, a Club World Cup and the Holy Grail, a first league title since 1990.

But is the success cycle for this group of players coming to a natural end?

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A clearly concerned Jamie Carragher hinted as much in his post match analysis last night.

He said, worry etched across his face: "At this moment, this Liverpool side are a shadow of what they’ve been in the last three or four years. Normally after three or four years, there’s almost a moving on.

"I mentioned about Roberto Firmino on Monday Night Football and very rarely do you see the same players playing week in and week out. You actually go back to the Champions League final that Liverpool lost to Madrid, if you look at Liverpool’s team that night, it’s still the team today, really, with one or two exceptions.

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"Certainly the 10 outfield players, apart from Fabinho coming in, but it’s still the same front three, it’s still the same back four, virtually, it’s still Wijnaldum and Henderson, so there’s only been one addition, really, who you’d say is a nailed on start when everyone’s fit out of the 10 outfield players.

"That shows how much these players have done for Liverpool over the past few years with the intensity they play at."

That same group has largely been together for four years.

The team that kicked off the 2017/18 season at Watford included the current regular front three, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum in midfield, and Joel Matip and Trent Alexander-Arnold at the back.

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Is more change needed? Jurgen Klopp has shown his willingness to be as ruthless as he can be loyal.

Loris Karius was given every chance to prove his worth, indulged almost, until a pre-season meltdown at Tranmere Rovers underlined that his psyche had been damaged by his Champions League final experience - so Alisson was swiftly and successfully captured. Other recent additions have included Diogo Jota and Takumi Minamino. Thiago Alcantara has been an instant success.

And let's be clear, the reason for Liverpool's stuttering form this season is obvious. It's sat in the treatment room at Kirkby, with the club grappling with an unprecedented injury crisis. With Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Jordan Henderson on the pitch last night Liverpool aren't losing 1-0 to Burnley.

But the fact still remains, while Jurgen Klopp manfully tried to take the blame on his own shoulders, his players have to prove they have not reached the end of a natural success cycle.

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Their achievements over the last two seasons have been mythically magnificent - turning round an impossible semi-final deficit to win the Champions League, overcoming the disappointment of collecting 97 points and finishing second, to amass even more and become champions.

And they can still prove that their time is not yet up.

The final word, as it usually does in these situations, lay with Carragher again.

"They (the players) need to make sure they get Champions League qualification before they think of anything else and then see what the club and the manager do in the summer.

"There will be frustration for the supporters as it looks like it’s slipping away, but there’s still half a season to go. This team has been described as mentality monsters by the manager and it’s a fitting description given what they’ve done, but they’ve got to show it and more in the second half of the season if they want to claw that deficit to the two Manchester clubs back now."

And prove they aren't at the end of a natural success cycle.

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