IF you gave me a choice, I’d rather that Liverpool had made it through to the final of the League Cup at Southampton’s expense. If I was allowed to change scorelines, then we’d be in the hat for the fifth Round of the FA Cup, having overcome Wolves last week. In a perfect world, we’d have beaten Chelsea on Tuesday night and be seven points behind them with 45 still to play for.
Yet here we are.
There’s no point crying over spilt milk, as the old adage goes. Yet, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask questions about why it was spilt in the first place and explore ways to avoid spilling any milk in the future. As imperfect as our current situation is it only becomes an outright disaster if the same mistakes are made further down the line.
Jürgen Klopp made mistakes over the past few weeks. People are right when they say the minority of fans calling for his sacking are idiots, but that doesn’t mean he’s exempt from criticism. The oft used line of him knowing more about football than the rest of us will ever know is valid, yet he’s clearly not infallible and supporters know enough to ask questions when he seems to make errors in judgement.
Some of the mistakes the manager made were tactical. Some were to do with his use of substitutions. Mostly though, it’s widely accepted that he got his team selection wrong at times. The Wolves game is the most glaring example. With all due respect to Connor Randall, he shouldn’t have been anywhere near the starting 11 for instance. The manager would doubtless point out that Nathaniel Clyne was struggling for fitness and if he hadn’t recovered for Chelsea and Trent Alexander-Arnold had picked up an injury, then Randall would have ended up having to deal with Eden Hazard and co, which is a fair argument I suppose.
It’s also an argument that reveals the weakness in the current squad. Admittedly, not all teams have depth enough to have three right-backs, but they’ve at least got players who can come in and cover the position if necessary. We have a decent 13 or so players, but our reserves aren’t good enough and we’re then looking to kids to fill in the gaps. If we qualify for the Champions League next season, which is the hope, how many of the current squad members could come in and cover when necessary? Do you think Alberto Moreno is good enough to play against Real Madrid? Would you be happy to see Ragnar Klavan come in against Inter Milan?
The extent to which we seemed to lack any intelligence in attack the second Sadio Mané left to compete in the African Cup of Nations should have set alarm bells ringing behind the scenes at Anfield. That we chose not to go shopping in January is puzzling, yet Klopp is building for the future. There are games going on now, of course, and the manager should have borne that in mind when it came to his transfer thinking. The reality is, however, that he needed to have a look at his squad in a real world scenario before he could make any lasting decisions on their future.
When Liverpool played Wolves we were in a vulnerable position after the losses to Swansea and Southampton. The Midlands club had also been playing well under Paul Lambert and came to Anfield with their tails up; they could almost certainly smell blood. Even bearing all of that in mind, though, if our squad players aren’t good enough to beat a Championship side at home then perhaps they’re not good enough to have a future at Liverpool Football Club.
I’m not talking about the kids there, mind. I thought Ovie Ejaria, Ben Woodburn and Joe Gomez all showed enough to suggest they could have a bright future if they keep going along their current trajectory. I’m talking about the players I’ve already mentioned, the likes of Klavan, Moreno and Lucas Leiva. I thought the senior players really let the kids down that day and I’d be surprised if a few of them haven’t hit the final nail into their own coffin when it comes to the manager’s thoughts on their future.
Looking back on January it feels as though it’s been an absolute disaster. Phil explored it all in detail in his column yesterday so I won’t go over the same ground here. All I’ll say is that if you take out the cup competitions we drew with a Sunderland team fighting relegation (who the greatest Spurs team of all time have just drawn with, by the way) in a game played less than 48 hours after we’d poured everything into the Manchester City game. We left Old Trafford with a point which Liverpool teams of the past have struggled to do — and we probably should have won if the assistant referee had been doing his job — and we had a shock loss at home to Swansea City.
The month was rounded off with a home draw against a Chelsea side that have won 18 out of 23. At the end of 2016 we were five points off the top. We’ve had a mediocre result, a terrible one and two decent ones since then and now we’re 10 away. Would that be the case if we had better squad players? Would Klopp have felt the need to go with virtually the same 11 against Sunderland as he did against Man City if he had a bit more faith in players 12-22? Could we have coped better with the loss of Mané, Philippe Coutinho and even Jordan Henderson if their replacements weren’t, seemingly, Emre Can, Divock Origi and…Emre Can?
Someone, I think it was Neil, said on a podcast a while ago that we’d feel a lot happier if the players were all one position down in terms of importance. At the moment Dejan Lovren is our second choice centre-back, but wouldn’t it be better if he was third? Simon Mignolet proved against Chelsea why he’s too inconsistent to be our ‘keeper long-term, but he’d be a great backup for cup games and the like. Hopefully the manager is thinking along those lines too.
Klopp, his team and the powers that be at Fenway Sports Group need to have a serious think about where we go from here. The season isn’t a complete disaster and I still fancy us to give Chelsea a bit of a panic before the final final whistle is blown on this campaign. Yet, if we’re serious about challenging for the title in the future and getting back to the top of the European summit then it’s vital that we accept the weaknesses of our squad — both in terms of the first-team and the reserves — and do everything we can to mitigate those weaknesses.
Do that and the future is very bright for the Reds. Fail to and a little bit of spilt milk will be the least of our problems.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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I genuinely think we need players for right down our spine……and more.
A new keeper, centreback, midfielder or 2, striker, left back and at least one wide attacker. Most of these are first choice players too.
That’s a lot of players to bring in in one window and get right.
Not sure if these are all up to standard but this is a few players who come to mind….Hart, Tah, Sule, Rodriguez, Dahoud, Kondogbia, Brandt???
Players that should/could be leaving…. Migs, Moreno, Klavan, Lucas, Can, Sturridge, Ings, Randall and most of those on loan.
Now I’m looking at it in black and white it’s an awful lot of business to get done both in and out. Unfortunately the quality and depth of the squad needs to be raised.
haha you’ve just listed 7 new FIRST CHOICE positions to buy for in the window. Forgetting the fact that would be way out of our budget and that transfers tend to have 50% hit ratio anyway… you’re dismissing the majority of the team that have played the arguably the most exciting football in the league and garnered more points at this stage of the season compared to nearly every other premier league season (bar 2 i think?)
It’s easy to say buy better first team players and then the current ones are bumped down to 2nd choice. But they won’t be happy being second choice. Even Škrtel wasn’t. And he wasn’t very good.
It’s a balancing act of adding quality but maintaining the team harmony and team dynamic. Which means we can’t just get tonnes of players in. If we’re talking priorities then its has to be going forward. I worry how as soon as one of Lallana/Coutinho/Firmino/Mane is out, our relentless red machine breaks down. Add some real quality in there, with pace, and we already look a lot stronger in depth. Add a Dahoud, and another CB to push Lovren for that 2nd place and I’m a lot more confident.
Think that’s a good summary, Alex. It’s the thing most Liverpool supporters seem to forget when we talk about strengthening the squad – it takes time. You can’t simply bring in seven new first-team players and have them hit the ground running. Even ignoring the 50% rule, which is a valid one, players need to learn what the manager wants and what their teammates do in games etc.
Liverpool fans would be delighted if we made seven new signings in the summer. But what happens if they don’t settle immediately and we struggle to impress? I think we’ll win the title under Klopp, but we need to be patient.
Firstly, I haven’t listed 7 first choice positions. That’s incorrect.
Although I do believe we need new first choice centreback, left back, keeper and striker. That’s 4. Not unreasonable.
Neither keeper is good enough right now. I doubt Migs ever will be but still have hope for Karius. Lovren shouldn’t be a starter IMO. He should be first choice sub for centreback.
As we know Milner isn’t a left back. He’s done very well there but has struggled a little recently. At 31 how many seasons does he have left playing in a position in our team which is expected to get up and down the entire wing? I defo keep him as a utility player, he can play left back, right back and across the midfield.
IMHO we need a 20+ goal season striker. A finisher with pace. The kind of player who doesn’t miss many one on ones or clear headers. The kind of player we’ve been missing since Suarez left.
I love Firmino but too many times he misses gilt edge chances. The two most recent being at the start and end of the second half v Chelsea.
Clearly the strength and depth in the squad isn’t there. Add the increased games of CL football next year hopefully and we obviously need to add and strengthen the squad. We’ve seen in the last six to eight weeks how important it is to have quality to call upon. With increased games that comes from CL football second choice players will be getting much more games. It’s also not just about being second choice. Some players suit away games better than others. Some suit playing against certain opposition and styles of play than others. Some will be out of form. Some will be injured. Some may be suspended. Some may need rested.
It’s increasingly becoming a squad game and if you don’t have the squad to compete then something has to give. For us this year our whole season crumbled within twelve days.
The transfer policy and budget is beyond Klopps control. That he came here and worked with the meagre squad he inherited and achieved what he has, is already enough to not enter into criticism. The ball is, and always has been in FSGs park.
They need to provide the funding, as we shall see squad value and league position correlate.
I doubt we will ever win the league owned by FSG. Profit and winning in football seem mutually exclusive
You suggest that FSG haven’t provided funding for transfers at the expense of making a profit. Please provide evidence to back this assertion up. I believe the money has been there but our manager will only spend it when the right player comes along at the right price. I can back this up by referencing various quotes from press conferences etc. if needed.
I’ve had agreed with you if you didn’t seem to assume many things that we all don’t know about. One of the main things for me, that I and all of us outside of LFC, is that there is no evidence of what Klopp may have actually discussed with FSG since he started. What goals he has set with them, what targets they have set for him, etc.
We can always speculate, but I would prefer not to just simply lay blame on FSG because they are owners. What I can remotely argue against them is that they gave me the impression that they were naive owners, when it comes to the EPL/Football. We saw this when they hired Brendan Rodgers who was inexperienced and did back him with money to buy players.
My impression from Rodgers time at the helm is that he really was inexperienced in the transfer market, the media and with dealing with a large club like LFC, especially after a lucky season placed him in a tough position to back out of. Again it is hard to know what exactly was discussed between him and FSG as well.
Klopp has a different approach to Rodgers. He showed this by taking the majority of Rodgers players and helping them do something like Conte is doing with Chelsea, when he inherited a bunch of mercenaries that had caused mutiny last season. Neither of them have had it easy from my perspective, as both of them are working in similar high pressure clubs/situations.
I can speculate that Klopp is learning a great deal, irrespective of what many of us think of his past achievements, especially from the lesser teams have made a fool of him and his methods to some degree.
So instead of blaming FSG, I prefer to see if Klopp is really learning, adapting and can apply his methods over last 15 games we have left. Maybe it will help him learn how to gather the information to negotiate future budgeting for players he really needs and deems a Liverpool player. FSG then, for me at least, should support him as it will not look like he has nothing to back his decisions with.
So I suggest to try and have a bit of patience with Klopp and FSG. You will be vindicated in the summer if FSG do not support him and we see the same usual suspects and nothing has improved.
Heckler and Mop always blames FSG for lack of new signings but he doesn’t know the truth but neither do we.
Therefore his message is, as usual, totally without foundation and meaningless. Probably believes that Prince Phillip arranged the murder of Diana Spencer.
Right now with all fit, we have a decent team for our XI in Klopp’s 4-3-3:
D: Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner
M: Henderson, Lallana, Gini
F: Mane, Firmino, Coutinho
Which leaves our bench as: Sturridge, Origi, Moreno, Can, Karius
Our back up XI (with no starters in it) would play a 4-1-2-1-2 Diamond:
D: TAA, Klavan, Gomez, Moreno
M: Can, Stewart, Ejaria, Woodburn (as the no. 10)
F: Origi, Sturridge
That team should be able to handle League 2, League 1, and Championship teams (especially at Anfield!). However, a lack of playing time together, and an entirely new system to the first team set up is my biggest issue with our second line up. You can’t switch from a 4-3-3 and a 4-1-2-1-2 diamond and expect a smooth transition. In addition, with our bench options you can’t play a 4-3-3 as we have no back up width. Moving Origi, Sturridge, or playing Ojo out wide is detrimental to the team. In my opinion, Woodburn should be used centrally with his close control, and I think he played the no. 10 in our youth set up, I’d say he’s similar to Lallana.
Transfers for next year:
My most important position is actually a true no. 6. I want someone who can shield the back 4 and release our attack. After that I say a true LB is almost as important. Third, and one that Klopp has admitted to, we need width. Here’s my thoughts on players to bring in:
CDM – Camacho (Malaga), Gonalons (Lyon), Keita (RB Leipzig)
LB – Hector (Cologne), Sidibe (Monaco), Gaya (Valencia)
LW/RW – Felipe Anderson (Lazio), Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen), Forsberg (RB Leipzig)
I’m not saying these are the only needs in the team, as I would love to see a Striker, GK, or even another CB. In my mind those are the positions to spend big. I trust Klopp to find a striker he wants to work with for cheap (or from within the team, *please stay healthy Ings*). As far as GK and CB I think we have our future sorted, but the present is worrying, especially if we qualify for CL. Sorry for the crazy long post, there’s my two cents.
Why would the back up XI play a completely different formation from the first team?
Surely the back up players have to be ready to step into the 4-3-3 when called upon?
I was merely throwing it out there, as Klopp made 10 changes, then 9 changes from his strongest XI in our frenetic period in January. I agree that the back ups should be ready to run a 4-3-3, however I think with our back ups, that limits our best players available. Sturridge is a central striker who plays best with a strike partner, and Origi can fit that bill. I’d personally like to see a little tactical flexibility from always relying on the 4-3-3 to break teams down. Our current plan B seems to be subbing on a CB and sending long balls into the box in the final 10 minutes, and that worries me.
” yet he’s clearly not infallible and supporters know enough to ask questions when he seems to make errors in judgement.”Connor Randall, he shouldn’t have been anywhere near the starting 11 for instance.”
Is easy to use hindsight and say I told you so .
I life , the ONLY time something is a failure is if you never try .