“IF he was not good and a few others were not good then we could not win against Tottenham.”
The words of Jürgen Klopp during his pre-match press conference for the Leicester game when answering a question about Gini Wijnaldum and how well he had played against Spurs. His response was effectively that, yes, Gini played well, but they all had to play well for us to win.
There has been lots of chatter on TAW podcasts, in corridors, in bars and in Whatsapp groups recently about this very point, so it’s interesting that Klopp said it out loud before the game. I said a few weeks ago that the idea of having a winning team in its truest sense is beautifully idyllic. We were asked on the first AFQ Football show a few weeks ago whether we thought the 2005 Champions League winning team was better or worse than the current full strength team, and my response was that the current bunch of lads is clearly better, as a team, than the 2005 version.
But the 2005 team had something that most of our rivals have now and that we’ve been missing for a few years since the demise of Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
I’ve been laughing to myself recently about the memory of people criticising us for being a “one-man team” or a “two-man team” on so many occasions in the past. It was largely when Gerrard and Fernando Torres were seemingly ripping teams apart single-handed but, before then, it was also mentioned at times when we had the likes of Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler winning games with moments of pure magic. I always said back then that that’s what good football teams do. They have one or, hopefully, a few more, star players who are capable of raising the level of those around them or, usually, digging their team-mates out of trouble when they’ve underperformed.
Look at our major rivals this season and the comparisons are clear. To play like Arsenal, Manchester City and us you need most of your players to click at the same time. But to play like Chelsea, Manchester United and, to a lesser extent, Spurs, there’s less reliance on the entire team working like a well-oiled machine because you have a few lads knocking around who will just win you a game when things aren’t going as planned. People talk about Chelsea as though they are the best team to have graced the Premier League in years. Don’t get me wrong, they’re clearly a very, very good side, but what sets them apart from us is their solidity and the ability of the likes of Eden Hazard, Pedro and Diego Costa to just win them a game out of nothing when they’re not playing very well.
Look at United in the cup final on Sunday. Outplayed and outfought for most of the match, but they won 3-2 with two clinical goals from a centre forward who contributed little else to the game. Jose Mourinho doesn’t have Zlatan Ibrahimovic in there for his hard work, he has him there because he’s a serial winner who he can rely on in big games and in big moments to bail the rest of the team out. I also included Spurs in that group because of the presence of Harry Kane in their team. Where would they be without their star striker winning them points every other week?
Phil Coutinho has shown flashes in the past of becoming that player, but it’s faded away in recent months since he came back from his injury, leaving us only with Sadio Mane as a player capable of winning a match on his own, but neither of them are the gnarly winners that we’ve seen in the past.
The problem, then, with having to rely on everyone to click at once in order to win football matches is exactly what we’ve seen in recent months. When it does click you look like absolute world beaters, capable of blowing teams away because it’s coming at them from all angles. But as soon as one or two players dip in form, intensity or commitment, that has a knock-on effect around the rest of the team who aren’t able to carry their team-mates because the system relies so heavily on everyone doing their bit. When they don’t, huge holes appear which are easy for the opposition to exploit.
Last night we were only two players short of what is generally seen as our first choice 11, yet we seemed all over the place. Imagine if I’d told everyone before the season started that Jordan Henderson being announced as having a foot injury hours before kick-off would have led to the depressed reaction it did, everyone would have thought I was mad – especially when learning that the outpouring of “oh no” was with him playing in a deep-lying midfield role. It speaks volumes for Hendo that he’s developed so much in that position, but equally speaks volumes for the quality of our squad that an injury to one midfielder leads to such chaos, as it has done all season.
Which brings us on to the next, obvious flaw in the current set-up. With two first team players injured last night we were left with an outfield bench of Alberto Moreno, Ragnar Klavan, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Woodburn, Divock Origi and Kevin Stewart. Granted that Daniel Sturridge was also injured, but given that he hasn’t had a look-in recently even when we’ve appeared desperate for a change I’m not sure it would have made much difference.
Compare that bench to United’s on Sunday: Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Daley Blind, Ashley Young, Marcus Rashford, Marouane Fellaini.
I watched the final with my father-in-law and we were both shocked by the quality of that bench. Think of the options available to Mourinho if he needs to change something. Pace, experience, height. He had so many options we even saw him briefing subs then changing his mind about who he needed to bring on as the game progressed. It’s worth bearing in mind as well that Luke Shaw, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Phil Jones, Matteo Darmian and Henrikh Mkhitaryan weren’t in the squad, which brings the differences between the investment in our two squads into sharp contrast.
I’ve said and written before that buying and investing in youth is clearly part of Klopp’s plans, so this is not necessarily a criticism that can be labelled solely at the club’s owners. I read a few weeks ago that of his league-winning squad at Dortmund, something like seven were bought when they were under 21 and four came from the youth set-up, with most of the successful purchases being bargains (Shinji Kagawa — free, Lukasz Piszczek — free, Robert Lewandowski — £3.33 million, Mats Hummels — £2.94m, Ilkay Gundogan — £3.85m). Even Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang didn’t break the bank.
Perhaps the biggest differences between Klopp’s Dortmund and the current Liverpool set-up, though, is that when Klopp took over at Dortmund they were in dire straits which gave him the time needed without too much focus to develop those players, and the expectations were therefore far lower than they are at our crazy club. Sean Rogers has mentioned on past Review shows that the likes of Emre Can will inevitably have to go through a learning curve and the big question is whether we want to watch players going through that process. I’d say the overwhelming answer to that question among supporters is, no, we don’t, but equally supporters turn a blind eye to the fact that all of the Dortmund players named above will have been through that same process before becoming world-beaters, we just didn’t have to watch them go through it before noticing them as the finished articles.
So where does that leave us? Klopp’s post-match reaction last night was one of a man let down by his players. A man who came back from a really positive mid-season training camp expecting us to win 13 games to the end of the season ready for an assault on the title next time out. The reaction of the players was so far from that expectation that it was frightening to watch. But all blame can’t be laid at the players’ feet either (not that Klopp ever seeks to shirk responsibility for defeats).
There have now been repeated question marks raised about the team’s shape, especially in the absence of Henderson. Haven’t we seen enough to tell us with certainty that no other member of this squad is able to play that role in his absence? So why do we persist with it at the risk of exposing our makeshift centre-back who was always going to be tested in that set up against the pace of Jamie Vardy? Hopefully this is a question Klopp and his team will be focusing on in the days to come.
I think we can all agree that Lucas Leiva is a fantastic lad and has been a very good player for Liverpool. His performance against Spurs was right from the top drawer against a side lacking in outright pace. But he simply isn’t good enough to be what is effectively our third choice centre-back and to play every week in that position, bearing in mind that he’s still learning how to play there himself so any criticism needs a huge caveat attached to it in the interests of fairness.
My biggest disappointment in last night’s performance, though, was a timely one given the Pro View show that we did with Stephen Warnock last week. We discussed at length with Stephen the ‘dark arts’ side of the game and how it’s something we’ve seemingly lacked for years now. We were all pleased with the appearance of what looked to be clever game management against Spurs (my personal favourite being James Milner wasting a whole minute by taking a throw in that didn’t even come into play and had to be re-taken). But that all disappeared again last night.
After two minutes Vardy took advantage of the unofficial ‘you can’t get booked in the first two minutes’ rule by leaving his studs on Mane, with little reaction at all from our players. They should have been straight over, in Vardy’s face and around the referee, making it clear in no uncertain terms that you cannot do that to us and, if you do, we’ll give it back to you 10-fold. But we didn’t. We didn’t try to upset their rhythm or rough them up in any way. For the first goal, there are plenty of mistakes to talk about in the middle of the pitch, but Lucas should be positioned next to Vardy to make it impossible for him to make that run so easily or, at the very least, be close enough to just pull him down if he sees him about to run clear. Lucas and Joel Matip both know that they don’t have the pace to win a foot-race with Leicester’s centre forward, and the naivety with which they dealt with him was worrying. Can you imagine United or Chelsea allowing that to happen? Christ, Chelsea had Willian standing over every free-kick at Anfield like he was playing five-a-side, that’s how savvy they are. He got booked for it around the 70th minute and got subbed shortly after, job done.
We need more players who are willing to push the boundaries of the rules. We need more lads who will leave one in on the other side in the first two minutes to let them know what we’re about, and we need more lads willing to take a yellow card for the benefit of the team. In short, we need more cheats.
I also said on the AFQ Football show mentioned above that this summer will tell us everything we need to know about Fenway Sports Group. I know that there are plenty of you out there that don’t think enough TAW contributors criticise their ownership of the club enough, and I’ll argue with you all day long about how well I think they’ve done as owners in the wider scheme of things. They took over a club in disarray with poor internal structures and rife with in-fighting and they’ve steadily re-structured the entire set-up while building a fantastic new Main Stand. We can discuss net spend all we like, but an Evertonian friend of mine once said something poignant when I was defending Rafa Benitez using the net spend argument. He said if he were us he wouldn’t be too arsed about defending the manager based on net spend, he’d be more bothered about the money that has been spent being spent in a better way. There has been plenty of money spent since FSG took ownership of the club, yet we’re left with that bench last night.
Let’s be clear though, I’ve defended the owners based on the circumstances they inherited and their own steep learning curve that they’ve been on, but this summer is a completely different story. They have their own internal structures in place, including last night’s announcement of a new CEO to complete the jigsaw puzzle. They’ve got their own manager on a six-year contract with a back-room team of his choosing, and they’ve got harmony throughout the club.
Everything is set for them to spend whatever money the manager wants in the next transfer window. I don’t expect Klopp to ever want to buy a Paul Pogba (mainly because he’s said himself that it’s not his style), but I do expect for us to make a series of Mane-level signings to improve the overall quality of the squad and make sure that the obvious weaknesses of this season are addressed in emphatic style.
Even if we don’t make the top four, there can be no excuses this summer.
Over to you, FSG.
To listen to any TAW Player subscription shows mentioned in this piece — why not SUBSCRIBE?
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
Like The Anfield Wrap on Facebook
Great article, Paul. The most shocking thing for me about last night’s shambles was that we had 16 days to prepare for the game and produced, arguably, our worst performance of the season. Obviously Leicester would be up for the game but we most definitely were not. How can that happen after a 16 day break which includes a nice little trip to La Manga? I’ve noticed with Klopp that he has this immovable idea that he can work with any group of players and coach individuals to play well out of their normal positions. Great when it works but it’s also an Achilles Heal when it doesn’t as Klopp offers no alternative tactic. I was expecting the manager to be furious in the post match interview but he seemed to be almost resigned to the disappointment. In my opinion that is a huge concern going forward.
“Everything is set for them to spend whatever money the manager wants in the next transfer window”
Except we are still bound by Premier League rules re: our spend vs revenue and FFP rules.
Maybe, but since FSG have taken over we’ve spent and average of £30m a season net. In the last 2 accounting periods we’ve broken even. Prior to that we paid off debts too. But, forget the debts for now as £50m was a loan from the owners for equity. Let’s just concentrate on what we know. Based on May 13/14 and 14/15 figures we know LFC can spend £30m net and break even. There’s also the fact that commercial revenue has grown since then adding more to the pot but again, let’s leave that aside.
So, last season we had a positive net spend of £5m. It’s clear then we can assign £35 million from last season and still break even. If we add next season’s £30m then that makes £65m we have to spend and will still break even. But, since those accounts, teams earning close to £90m in tv revenue pre 2016 and during our last accounts are likely to see that £90m rise to £135m. So, there’s another £45m we could spend from this season which should theoretically see us break even still. Plus £45m for next season’s budget i.e. May 2017 – May 2018 accounts. That’s £90m on top of the £65m making £155m. On top of that the rule change in Brussels last year stipulated a club could spend an extra £25m (or 30m Euro’s) provided that money is (to quote the UEFA’s FFP page) “entirely covered by a direct contribution/payment from the club owner(s) or a related party”. I believe that’s in a 3 year period but can be given all at once. So, £155m plus £25m outside money makes £180m.
Then there’s the £5m you’re allowed to go over. If we sell players then they need to be replaced admittedly, but Sakho is already gone. So there’s what, £12m in the summer? Markovic £10m? A couple out on loan who are out of the squad already £10 total? Basically, another £35m all told making £215m. Then there’s the money for upgrades, i.e 1 out a better one in. P.s the stadium £20m per season a) comes back in increased revenue and b) is exempt from FFP anyway as it’s infrastructure. Quote “In order to promote investment in stadiums, training facilities, youth development and women’s football (from 2015), all such costs are excluded from the break-even calculation”.
So, it’s rudimentary maths but it’s quite clear to me. Wages haven’t gone up much i.e. Gerrard, Suarez (13/14) and Sturridge all likely off the books by the summer (compared to last published accounts). A few new contract extensions makes it fairly even on wages.
To summarise, we can spend £30m each season and break even. The new tv deal is close to £45m a season extra for top 6 sides on tv regularly starting this season. Without looking at the books it’s common sense LFC could spend well over £200m net in the summer and comply. Going forward it will be around £80m until 2019 and the end of the tv deal which I feel will remain stagnant or decrease at home and rise abroad from the £5b and £3b respectively, but this season we get double for last season’s positive net spend, the owners could (but won’t) put £25m in and we have players who have already left the squad and will bring in some revenue. I feel it ties in as there were rumours Klopp had £100m net to spend last summer.
Klopp was wrong to believe that this cast would be capable of great things this season.
And it seems to me that we are going to fight only for a place in the europe league and I still have doubts …
Klopp is also failing to maintain his tactical scheme since he started the championship. We do not have a plan B.
We make a lot of goals but we have conceded more goals.
Unfortunately Klopp has not been able to see his mistakes to try to fix them.
One more season with nothing …
There’s not much a game of football against these lesser teams, it simply is a contest in which you’ll have to be ready to do some serious sacrificing in order to get the wins. No way around that. One could argue we didn’t have any more of them nasty players in 13/14 when these excuses for a football team was being steamrolled, and that might be true. The one difference being we had the best striker in the league – europe – arguably the world who couldn’t care less what his teammates or manager did or say, when that whistle went he went, no holding back. If you didn’t follow his lead you’d get an earful.
And yes he was a bit nasty from time to time.
So when you lack both the super hero who happily score hat tricks against Norwich because they were such a shitty team and the villian you will probably struggle.
Like mentioned, the summer will be huge (for the 12th consecutive time) if we are going to evole and take a step forward or if we are just going to remain stuck in the same place.
I am not so sure about the idea of The Reds looking tired after their break in the sun. Rather that for me, from the minute the team stepped on to the pitch they looked like not a single one of them believed in the job Klopp had asked of them. Looked as though none of them believed Lucas at CB, Can in the middle, or those playing forward. After the match, Klopp himself looked shocked. He said they had talked about not letting Leicester have the opening, but we all saw that is what happened with Bells on!
So then this is most worrying If the manager cannot affect the Team that usually ends badly..for a manager.
How many times have we heard, “this summer is massive for FSG”.
John W. Henry replies, in the words of Conor McGregor: “Why? What the fuck you gonna do?”
Great article and pretty much sums up my view point on the situation. We’re desperately lacking in the “star quality” category. The team on their day can beat the best but when a few aren’t at it we completely fall apart. As summed up it’s over to FSG and the ambition they hold for the club. Everything is in place. We just need the player investment.
In our back 4 we are playing 2 midfielders who probably wouldn’t get into our midfield with both lacking in pace.
For the last few seasons we’ve been conceding 50 goals a seasons.
It’s no coincidence the top 2 teams have the best defences. It’s the foundation the rest of the team is built upon.
If all we did this summer was sort out the defence I’d be happy. It’s progress!
Character, or lack of it, is another thing that differentiates this team w/ 2005. Didn’t expect to see us get rolled over with Klopp in charge, especially in his second season.
Paul Cope gives us hope. Good article Paul.
The point about star quality that you made has me wondering if Klopp is not capable of handling egos. All the players from other teams that you’ve mentioned have rather large egos that need widening of doors.
It takes one to know one. Mourinho, Pep and Conte seem to have it and deal with accordingly.
Klopp shows he is a nice guy, jokes, laughs, sideline antics, in the pressers, and maybe even in training.
His past work at Dortmund is also good point you bring up, that is before the players were out and out stars. It still demonstrates to me that it was a lack of star quality and egos being bought by Jurgen. He seems comfortable to bring players he can manage or thinks he can develop and manage which isn’t a bad thing when you have Dortmund situation. LFC have had stars and egos to boot.
So he uses the adage of a “being a Liverpool player”, not for money, etc. however he might not be able to, or doesn’t want that aspect of the job to deal with star power. Do you think he can handle Ibra, costa, Messi, Ronaldo, Suarez, etc?
Klopp has an ego but compared to Mourinho (that’s the size of a bus), Klopp seems mild mannered, and seems more stubborn, given his tactical approaches before and during a game.
Klopp plays sanitized football, nice football, with all the nice hugs and kisses, but it has softened up players that already were soft to begin with.
In this so called modern football era mercenaries seem to let you know in a heartbeat that you don’t fuck with them or their team, while the rest of the pub teams in the epl, do their part and have a go. So who do you bring in to this job of playing Graeme Sounness and Torres style football?
I might be wrong about all this, but let’s see what happens in the summer transfer window.
Up the Reds!
Agreed with loads there Paul.
“IF he was not good and a few others were not good then we could not win against Tottenham.”. Except Tottenham played shite when we beat them.
Spot on Paul in every respect.
Defence incapable of keeping a clean sheet away.Six yes of a woeful back five. Finish top six?
Break the bank for Van Dijk. Stupid money. Get a decent winger.
Everything else can slide, so long as Klopp recognizes that Can cannot play as a DM – he needs a partner with intelligence and tenacity. If Henderson is not around, make Wijnaldum part of a midfield two with Can in a 4-2-3-1.
To believe FSG’s primary motivation for buying Liverpool is to gather cups in May is little moe than a romantic notion. They’re hardened businessmen whose primary motivation is the maximisation of profit. Forget the propaganda and lol at the facts. The new sponsorship deal provides a source of income from a number of different pots. Eery premiership club receives £85 million from the domestic pot and £47 million from the overseas pot. Add to that £1 million for every TV appearance and we are talking about an average seasonal income of around £150 million per club give or take a few quid. The winners of the holy grail receive £25 million and then it’s around £1.2 million less for every place below the champions. So around a £19 million pay out for the 5th placed team. To win the title, history dictates that we are looking at a considerable outlay, probably in the region of £200 million. Why on earth would FSG want to shell out the whole of their profits to invest in a campaign that woukd net them another £6 million plus £30 million Champs League income. The outlay is vastly disproportionate to the income it generates. Arsenal are the prime example of this ethos. Keep the brand global and grow it with minimum outlay. Check out the facts. They’ve both grown their assets and both achieved it with minimum investment. Arsenal are the most profitable team in the premier and Liverpool, last year, made the most seasonal profit than any other team but yet never won a trophy. Proof in the pudding that you don’t need to be winners to make profit. Arsenal are the masters and FSGs Liverpoolis the apprentice. Neither have oil income and oil controls the world economy. Neither team sets out to lose the league before a ball is kicked. But the point I am making is that it’s not the primary motivation. Football has moved on. It’s not a sport anymore. It’s a business and the vast majority of owners are motivated by only one thing…..profit. That’s a reality. It’s over. You can crack on feeding the machine or you can disembark and let the game self destruct. Always remember that football without fans is nothing #AMF
Feels like a wasted season now in terms of team and player development, regardless of lack of cup and league success. Dont seem to be any closer to answering the questions we had back in August or the ones that have cropped up since Xmas. Depressing.
Paul Cope the author who wrote this piece is talking out of his backside and can’t know that much about the team he supports , saying lies like here ;
I’ve said and written before that buying and (investing in youth) is clearly part of Klopp’s plans, so this is not necessarily a criticism that can be labelled solely at the club’s owners .?
Damien Camoli former Scouting Director of Football Strategy at Liverpool came out and said that Fenway Sports group told him that he must only buy young players under the age of 21 years of age, but for no more than 8Million British pounds .
You now you are lying Paul Cope here in your own comment ;I’ve said and written before that buying and investing in youth is clearly part of Klopp’s plans, so this is not necessarily a criticism that can be labelled solely at the club’s owners.?
Damien Camoli former Scoutng Football Director at Liverpool Fc was told by Fenway Sports Ltd that he was only allowed to sign football players under the age of 21 for no more than 8 Million British pounds .
That was before Mr.Klopp came to Liverpool Fc , so Paul your talking rubbish mate .
Why would Mr. Camoli lie when we know he did buy players of that Category and age , Coutinho being one of them from advice of Rafa Benetez .