THE dress rehearsal phase is well and truly over. This is now a live situation for Jurgen Klopp. You don’t just roll into town with the billing he’s enjoyed without facing a swift day of reckoning. Liverpool have won just three matches in 13 games this season, against Stoke, Bournemouth and Aston Villa. That’s rubbish. We need to see a winning football club again.
A victory over Southampton on Sunday would calm all the nerves. The draw against Tottenham Hotspur in North London last week was achieved with a style that so refreshed and was so replete with hints of better days to come that the paltry return of one point — for all that endeavour — barely seemed to register. The draw a fortnight before that (at Everton) was nothing to be ashamed of either. Yet quietly a season is passing us by.
Klopp has been parachuted in to set a bomb off beneath an underachieving but talented squad of players. The positivity of the men-as-machines performance against Tottenham was deflatingly encored by an all too familiar face of this modern Liverpool in the midweek home draw against Rubin Kazan. It was a showing that belonged to another age. An era that we hoped had ended when Brendan Rodgers was finally rendered from his misery just three massively long weeks ago.
Yet the death of hope is far from upon us. The Anfield crowd were frisky and ready to co-operate on Thursday night. They just needed any kind of encouragement. An early goal or two on Sunday and the roof could come off. We’re Jurgen’s believers and and remain in a highly suggestable state. If this Liverpool team wants it enough it will find an audience that is more than receptive and ready to be swept along.
In some senses, competent and omni-dangerous Southampton are just the right challenge. Not so good that a dominant Liverpool couldn’t suffocate and squash them but not so fragile as to diminish any achievements. All kinds of a win will more than do against this opposition.
In recent weeks, Liverpool have faced a procession of opponents who could be comfortably typecast as lambs to the slaughter. Norwich, Villa, Carlisle, Sion and Rubin Kazan should all have been put down with a quiet ruthlessness. Minimum two-goal cushions should have been being hurled around everywhere. Yet just one of these theoretical make-weights were actually beaten at Anfield (Aston Villa by a 3-2 scoreline).
There is no doubt Southampton will offer a significant threat, but that should suit. Their boss Ronald Koeman is no bus parker, and sides lacking edge and confidence in front of goal (like Liverpool right now) need room to work in.
Just like Liverpool, the Saints have taken 13 Premier League points from nine games, topping the Reds in the table on goal difference having scored seven more goals (15 versus just eight).
Very recently they looked sublime, as Jose Mourinho and Chelsea would witheringly testify having been on the end of a 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge. Make no mistake, Southampton could seriously expose and embarrass Liverpool this weekend given any encouragement.
Yet a heavy defeat to Everton on home turf, and draws with Newcastle, Watford, West Brom and Leicester, when the Saints threw away a two-goal lead, should give Liverpool hope in their hearts.
Lose though and Klopp could well be facing his most difficult start to a Liverpool week come Monday. The soul searching may need to begin in earnest.
But let’s not dwell on this scary prospect longer than is necessary. We all want this honeymoon party to get started and to last forever. No better time. No better place. Although the draw with the Russians in the week was dispiriting, ardour is not necessarily dampened. The team should be getting stronger. Strikers, goals scorers, star players are readying themselves just off stage.
We all hope (and pray) that Daniel Sturridge is not back on that injury-brief-hope-of-recovery-then further-setback cycle that has so blighted his recent career. We need to see him looking bouncy and box fresh after a week off with what the medical experts call “a bit of a sore knee”. Sturridge is the key, he’s the pivot and talisman for this nervy Liverpool side. News of some fluid on said knee joint has nerves jangling again though.
Also vying for starts and reboots of nascent Liverpool careers are the summer’s showcase signings, Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke. Both have been missing for a few weeks now. Without particularly exciting any one, it has to be conceded, neither looked too ring rusty in their comeback cameos in midweek either. There were signs of better days to come.
In a fantasy sense, it remains hard not to get excited about the potential of a Liverpool side that could harness the simultaneous energies of a front four of Coutinho, Firmino, Benteke and Sturridge. If it were up to us humble punters, surely the temptation to throw the four of them in together on Sunday would be irrestible (doubts surrounding Sturridge not withstanding).
One of the things that will come to be missed about Brendan Rodgers is that there was always a suspicion that his inner child could never ever resist the prospect of throwing all the forwards in. Big pictures and tactical pragmatism be damned.
His successor, Klopp, talks the emotional game that Rodgers usually defaulted to walking. Klopp will look to channel the excitement of his first league home fixture and encourage a display of attacking verve that has only been hinted at so far this season.
Perhaps this is not the occasion for a tenth-placed Liverpool side to cut loose, but more one about bringing home those precious three points safe and sound, with the minimum histrionics. To this end it seems likelier that we will again see solidity in central midfield, with Lucas Leiva, Emre Can and James Milner again forming the base of Klopp’s Christmas tree formation.
Ahead of this steady pack it gets more interesting. Coutinho and Firmino getting all Brazilian behind a Benteke shaped battering ram is a sexy prospect. Having said that, Adam Lallana was Liverpool’s best performer in midweek, and he would be surprised to be culled for players who have only shown for 20 minutes in the last month or so.
The option remains for Klopp to abandon the security of the 4-3-2-1 and opt for a 4-2-3-1, and permit himself the luxury of another forward. This would be a riskier strategy against no-mugs Southampton, but it would allow the accomodation of all his best fit attacking players, and potentially provide the platform for this side to finally show its creative and goal-scoring teeth.
If Jurgen is feeling bolder still he may look to the pace and unpredicatability of either/both of Jordon Ibe and/or Divock Origi. The manager tellingly refused to rule out a twin striker approach. Partnering Origi and Benteke feels synergistic on a couple of levels. The boys have worked together before for Belgium, but they also have differing but complementary skill sets. Crudely speaking, they look a perfect nippy and large combination.
All this said, there has been a degree of conservatism in Klopp’s first two selections as he seeks to feel his way into his new role, and it would be something of a surprise if things were suddenly shaken up just for Southampton’s sake. When the push comes to the shove expect this starting 11: Mignolet; Clyne, Skrtel, Sahko, Moreno; Lucas, Can, Milner; Coutinho, Lallana; Benteke.
INJURIES: Henderson (foot, November 21), Flanagan (December), Gomez, Ings (ACL, unknown), Rossiter (hamstring, unknown).
LAST MEETING: Southampton o Liverpool 2 (Coutinho 3, Sterling 73), Premier League, February 22, 2015.
MATCH DETAILS: Kick-off 4.15pm, live on Sky Sports 1. Tickets: Sold out.
ODDS: Liverpool 10-11, Draw 5-2, Southampton 3-1.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo
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“Lose though and Klopp could well be facing his most difficult start to a Liverpool week come Monday”
Yeah right – how long has he been at the club now? Two weeks? Yeah…..two fucking weeks or was that line some sort of satirical dig at the lack of patience in the modern game?
Tight game – 1-1 full time. No one that disappointed or thrilled. Everyone waiting for Sturridge to get back.
Agree Mike. The guy should face no difficulties after 3 games. What do people expect him to be able to do with Rodgers dispirited, nervous lop sided squad in a couple of weeks? As Jurgen said don’t call him Jesus then complain that he can’t walk on water. A win would be great tomorrow, but just accept that we might get beaten and see where we are after the January window and a chance for the man’s ideas to have some tangible effect.
The guy must be given more than three games surely. Not the brightest piece I’ve read on the Wrap.
Very impatient from you here, Rob…which I find disappointing and frustrating.
Klopp isn’t going to make this squad (a squad that has underachieved for well over a year now) suddenly magical. We might need the rest of this calendar year to see any kind of steady change in our results. This side (the players) can’t score goals…and it will take a lot of time to make it so. We have lot of players injured and many just now coming back from injury (not close to match fit) as well. Oh, and about 1/4 of the squad is brand new as of this year…and another 1/4+ is just starting its second year.
Please…please…let’s give this a serious amount of time before we even hint at people starting to lose patience.
Ugh, this article has really stuck in my craw such that I’m back for a second comment.
Klopp comes in (what about 10 days ago now?!)…having asked for some patience…and for doubters to turn into believers (and then saying he’ll bringing a title…which we all know we believe). And then after two draws where our team look much more confident, solid, and energized…and here you are sowing old seeds of doubt… I’m fuming…
Here’s to real belief.
I’ve read the article twice now and I’m not sure what the moaning is about. I didn’t find the article overly positive, but that’s okay. A sober piece among all the hysteria does feel a little out of place, but it’s not unhealthy.
I read this, “Lose though and Klopp could well be facing his most difficult start to a Liverpool week come Monday,” as Klopp will have a job on his hands to motivate a tired, thin squad for another two big games, a tricky midweek clash (how serious do you take it? Who do you rest?) before the big game on the weekend.
If BR got three years, barring an inconceivable collapse of Hodgeesque proportions, Klopp will correctly get the time he needs.
Given what we’ve endured over the last 18 months, I think we’re all a little edgy, and sadly too happy to quarrel.
I don’t think this is a particularly negative article. Klopp will be given as much time as he needs, but both he and we should expect to see some progress in this game, even if we get beat (I think there is a good chance of that happening. The bookies certainly make betting against a home win tempting, with those odds).
We have good attacking players, but they need to step up and start making things happen now. As things stand, none could complain if they were shipped out in January. Ings showed the right attitude, before he was cruelly injured. He played like he was being given the chance of his lifetime and the others need to follow that lead.
They all have the opportunity to be part of Klopp’s revolution, at Liverpool. If they mess this up, most will spend the remainder of their careers at clubs like Villa, Swansea, Norwich, Sunderland or clubs across Europe with a similar stature. They’ve got to show that they really want this, like Ings did.
There is nothing in Rob’s article that suggests Klopp is already putting himself under pressure. He’ll be in no danger, even if results don’t improve a great deal between now and January. The players (particularly those that are established) need to understand that if they don’t start doing it now, they will be replaced by others that will though.
Sturridge is really starting to wind me up. A knee that’s a bit sore? It doesn’t even sound related to the problem that’s kept him out for most of the last year.
He’ll be expecting to waltz back into the first team, score the type of goal we should be relying on him to deliver week-in-week-out, do that stupid dance, pick up some other DarrenAndertonesque knock and enjoy another fully-compensated Playstation holiday.
6 league goals, since 2013-2014. Next time he scores, I’d like to see him grab the ball out of the back of the net and run back to the halfway line with it while he is still ‘fit’ enough to give us another. Show some recognition that his thin-blooded constitution has contributed hugely to the mess we are in.
Day of reckoning? I will be generous and assume it’s a piss take
For a man that thought Rodgers was Shankly in disguise , you have turned the screw on Klopp after 2 games ! Rob your suppose to win back some credibility after the last 3 seasons not to lose even more!
Haha. So maybe I overreacted a little? :) I forgive you Rob…it is less negative than I first read.
I still detect quite a bit of impatience and impracticality seeping in to the article though… It’s all good. We are going to batter Southampton anyway…
Sturridge is also winding me up as well (comment above). I love him, but I’m getting worried that we will need somebody to replace him. We need a striker that can be consistent and play 25-30 or more league games. Sadly, I don’t think Sturridge will ever be that guy.