JÜRGEN Klopp’s team selection for Saturday’s match versus Wolves was much discussed this weekend, with Gary Lineker’s tweet providing the springboard for much of the debate.
I’ll defend The FA Cup with the best of them; some of my most enjoyable moments as a Red have been in the competition: beating Everton in 1986, the unlikely Michael Owen-led late comeback in Cardiff in ’01, Stevie’s wonder strike versus West Ham in ’06.
On the other side of the coin, when the lows of loving Liverpool are raked over, FA Cup final defeats to Manchester United in 1996 and Chelsea in 2012 are definitely among them.
Did we all bounce out of Wembley after an Andy Carroll-led comeback proved to be too little too late in the most recent of our final defeats and say, ‘Ah well, it’s only the FA Cup’. Of course not.
Did Saturday hurt? Of course it did.
Don't get Klopp playing his reserves with no European football. Shows a lack of knowledge of the depth in English football and respect.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) January 28, 2017
Liverpool have won only one trophy of any description since that last taste of FA Cup glory on May 13, 2006 – the League Cup in 2012.
From a sporting point of view, as a pick me up for fans, from the perspective of the club having a reputation for winning things, the famous Bill Shankly mantra of the club “existing to win trophies” – for all of those reasons Liverpool winning The FA Cup this season would have been fantastic.
A day out with your mates, a Liverpool side lifting silver, a homecoming for the kids to enjoy back on Merseyside…you don’t get that finishing fourth in the Premier League.
Whatever you make of the competition these days, there was also a strong argument to start with a more senior side just to end Liverpool’s dry January and get some blood pumping for Tuesday.
When wondering about the why and wherefores though, there hasn’t been much reference to another potential influence on why Klopp chose to make nine changes for Saturday’s game — what his bosses at Liverpool think of the competition.
Klopp has played young sides from the start in the competition, making 11 changes for his first taste of The FA Cup away at Exeter last season.
Back then, as a man new to England and new to the club and yet to understand all the nuances of the job, what influenced his decision-making?
Perhaps how little it is valued by the Boston bean-counters versus the fans’ perception.
In May 2012, following the sacking of Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool manager, club chief executive Ian Ayre spoke to The Liverpool Echo, with a section reported as follows:
“It was revenue streams which ultimately proved Dalglish’s undoing. Despite winning the Carling Cup and reaching the FA Cup final, the Reds’ failure to finish in the top four in the Premier League meant the club missed out on a potential windfall of around £40million from Champions League qualification.”
Further, and in direct quotes from Ayre in the same article: “Winning the FA Cup wouldn’t have made any difference – it was never about an individual result. It was always about taking a review of the season in full.
“The Carling Cup and The FA Cup don’t generate the revenue and the success that is needed to keep investing. If you want to be successful, you have got to keep investing. People don’t want to hear that football is a business. They want to see us put lots of money into the football team and win lots of trophies and games.
“But you have got to have both. You have got to have continued progress in the league. If you don’t do well in the league and you don’t get into the Champions League, you are writing cheques from your own pocket, aren’t you? That is not a sustainable way going forward.”
Fifty-two-thousand-plus at Anfield on Saturday seemed to value The FA Cup even if the boardroom don’t.
What say you Gary Lineker now? Is it all Klopp’s fault? Or is there a slightly bigger problem to contend with beyond the Liverpool manager’s team selection?
Classic Castles Claptrap
THOSE of you familiar with Duncan Castles may wonder how he continues to post on Twitter given how far up the backside of Jose Mourinho he seems to reside.
However, he came out for air on Sunday, not only to heap praise on his precious Portuguese pal, but also to fire shots in the direction of Jürgen Klopp (again).
— Duncan Castles (@DuncanCastles) January 29, 2017
What the egg-headed shit spouter seems to be wilfully ignoring here is that while both Klopp and Mourinho made nine changes to the teams that competed in the League Cup semi-finals in midweek, the Manchester United manager was able to call upon rested players including:
- £27.5m Marouane Fellaini, capped 75 times by Belgium
- £37.1m Juan Mata, capped 42 times by Spain
- £25.6m Wayne Rooney, the club’s and England’s record goalscorer with 118 caps for his country.
Alongside them were £26.3m Henrikh Mkhitaryan (61 caps for Armenia), the 15 times capped for France Anthony Martial (£36m plus add ons that could lead to a £60m fee in total) and ‘cheapo’ £6.5m Bastian Schweinsteiger (121 caps and World Cup winner for Germany).
Klopp, meanwhile, called on uncapped Connor Randall, who had three Premier League, two FA Cup and two League Cup appearances on his CV alongside 17-year-old Ben Woodburn (four first-team appearances before Saturday), 19-year-old Ovie Ejaria (seven first-team appearances) and 19-year-old Joe Gomez (12 appearances for Liverpool prior to Wolves).
The other seven in the Liverpool starting line up boasted much more experience (although it’s worth remembering Divock Origi is only 21) but it’s clear Mourinho has greater experience and greater strength in depth to call upon to keep things fresh. That being the case, perhaps old Dunc should be wondering why Liverpool still lead United in the league table.
Elsewhere, Chelsea also made nine changes for their FA Cup tie with Brentford. A line up of Begovic, Zouma, Terry, Azpilicueta, Pedro, Fabregas, Chalobah, Ake, Willian, Batshuayi and Loftus-Cheek is depressingly strong for a second string but that aside it’s clear Antonio Conte and Klopp have similar ideas about fresh legs for Tuesday just — like the comparison with Mourinho — significantly different resources to call upon.
Piss-taking aside, there is a serious point to be had here. What is a realistic expectation of Klopp in three competitions when the squad is so much shorter on quality and experience when held up against rivals?
We know the profile of signings FSG prefer by now, and we’ve heard Klopp say he values development over buying time and again. But he’s also said he would buy the ‘right’ players. Are Liverpool then – ninth in the recently published Deloitte Money League and likely to be charged a premium accordingly – offering the ‘right’ money for players? Mahmoud Dahoud, Christian Pulisic, Julian Brandt, Julian Draxler are among the list of credible links that haven’t happened.
Klopp says it’s a case of clubs simply not selling for any price, and a glance at the transfer window business done so far offers credence for this. At the time of writing, Arsenal’s only signing is a kid from Hednesford Town. Chelsea have recallled Nathan Ake, sold Oscar for £52m, Patrick Bamford for £6m and shipped out another nine on loan. Man City’s only signing is Gabriel Jesus. Manchester United, like Liverpool, haven’t done any incoming business. They have, however, flogged Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay. Spurs, too, have done nothing so far.
There is the argument that Liverpool’s need is greater. There is the worry that Liverpool will always be behind the curve. When resources look as stretched as they have been, doubts will undoubtedly grow as to how true Klopp’s statements are.
Show Me The Mane
SOME fairly damning statistics about Sadio Mane were doing the rounds just about the same time he missed a penalty for Senegal and was booked on the next flight back to Liverpool.
According to the BBC, Liverpool have won 15 out of 21 games with Mane but only three out of 10 without him. They lost five out of 10 without him and only one out of 21 when he was in the side.
Given Klopp’s style of football, the lack of pace in the squad, and the fact Mane’s involvement at the Africa Cup of Nations was no surprise, it’s another head scratcher as to why Liverpool haven’t recruited (or can’t recruit) someone with similar assets to compete/act as a backup to Mane.