In the wake of Liverpool’s draw-that-felt-like-a-loss with Bournemouth last night I wondered what I could write about today. I considered talking about how the two Merseyside derbies at Anfield appear to have bookended Divock Origi’s year, with the injury he suffered at the hands of a talentless thug 12 months ago dashing his confidence before the goal last weekend seemed to restore it. I wondered whether conversations about our plans in the summer needed to be had, but given I don’t know much about any players that don’t play for Liverpool I decided that wasn’t a job for me.
Instead, something that came up on The Pink after last night’s game got me thinking. I made the point that it is widely accepted that managers need three summers to get their squad exactly the way they want it. Nowadays, of course, the men in the dugout are lucky to get three months before questions are asked of them, let alone three years. I said that Jürgen Klopp will be learning all of the time and that he’ll have learnt significantly more from this season than he could’ve last time out.
When his players struggled in the closing stages of the 2015-16 campaign, was it because they were concentrating on the Europa League? Was it because he hadn’t had a chance to have a pre-season with them and were having to learn his methods on the job? Or was it because the previous manager’s way of doing things was too deeply ingrained in them? Whatever the answer, Klopp needed to give those who he felt could be redeemed an opportunity to prove themselves.
Whenever you suggest that the manager needs time one of the immediate replies is something along the lines of “Antonio Conte didn’t need time”. The fact that the Italian has walked into Stamford Bridge and led the Blues to a certain title is, in the eyes of sum, proof positive that any man should be able to do it. “Why does Klopp need three summers? Conte hardly bought anyone at Chelsea and even the players he did buy have barely got a game.”
When the West London club inevitably win the Premier League in May it will be their second title in three seasons. It will be their fifth in 13 years. That’s better than a one in three ratio for title wins. Since Carlo Ancelotti took the title to Stamford Bridge in 2010 the Blues have finished second, sixth, third, third, first and 10th. Liverpool, meanwhile, have finished eighth, seventh, second, sixth and eighth. The reason that Chelsea finished 10th last season is that the players all but downed tools under José Mourinho, not because they weren’t good enough.
The reason we’ve consistently finished outside the top four, on the other hand, is because our players haven’t been good enough. Taking away Chelsea’s financial power just for a second, Klopp doesn’t get to walk into a dressing room full of players who know what it takes to win titles. He doesn’t have a squad filled with winners who can grind out results. His team is mentally fragile and has been for years. You don’t get to erase that overnight simply by willing it to be the case.
I know I have a reputation for being a Simon Mignolet hater but I’ve actually eased off on that a bit lately. I think Neil’s point about the fact that the majority of goalkeepers in the league are worse than him is an entirely fair point. He’s not the ‘bottom half’ ‘keeper I may have declared him to be in the past. The problem is that he’s also not a title-winning ‘keeper. In fact, I’d even suggest he’s not a top four one. Which of our rivals for the Champions League places would come and make us an offer we can’t refuse for Mignolet’s services if their own shot-stopper was bought by Real Madrid or Barcelona?
When he does things like the drag-back he performed 30 yards from goal last night, that sends panic into the hearts of defenders, to say nothing of what it does for The Kop. He spreads uncertainty throughout the defensive unit and while he might be perfectly good at the goalkeeper stuff like stopping shots and saving penalties, giving your defence and supporters heart palpitations is something that can’t be so easily quantified by stats.
It’s not just Mignolet, of course. As I said on The Pink, we had seven defensive players on the pitch last night and yet not one of them could deal with getting rid of a ball in our penalty box. Bournemouth had two shots on target last night and scored two goals. They are not the first team to do that and unless something dramatic happens between now and the end of the campaign they won’t be the last. That suggests that the problem is systemic and the fact that it has been going on for so long is surely indicative of the fact that it’s a much bigger problem than Klopp can sort out in just one and a half seasons.
In the last six seasons, starting with 2010-11, we have conceded 44, 40, 43, 50, 48 and 50. We’re on course to concede over 50 again this year. Klopp will have felt heading into the campaign that he’d made moves to stop that from happening. He signed Joel Matip, who most agree has been a classy addition to the side, and he brought in Loris Karius. The issue is that Matip’s season has been plagued by injury while Karius got off to a rocky start and the manager felt it best to take him out of the limelight and allow him to adjust. I think we’ve rushed to judgement on Karius and believe he could still come good, but the Matip situation is problematic.
How many times has Conte been unable to field his first-choice defence this season? Compare and contrast that with how many times Klopp’s had to chop and change at the back and you can see a big part of the problem. You’ve got a goalkeeper who spreads panic throughout the crowd and the team matched up with a centre-back pairing who rarely appear on the pitch together because one or the other is injured, ill or in a fight with Cameroon. Teams don’t have to work hard to score against us and a big part of that is because our centre-backs have no idea who will be dealing with what and when. No wonder there’s confusion at the back.
Klopp’s Dortmund side conceded 37 in his first season and 42 in his second. It got worse before it got better. The good news, for those that like to read the runes, is that they conceded 22 in season number three and 25 in season number four. Coincidentally, they’re the two years that they won the Bundesliga under his management. The bad news is that they conceded 42, 48 and 42 in his remaining seasons at the helm, so there’s an argument that leaky defences are more typical of Klopp teams than solid ones.
The point of all of this is that you can’t simply look at a manager’s arrival at a club as a new beginning and assume that nothing that went before it matters. Conte inherited a team of winners, Klopp is trying to build one. Which of the players in his side does he believe has the right mentality? Which does he think he can trust? Trust not only to do the business on the pitch but also to get onto the pitch in the first place? Fans don’t like to hear it, but we have been a side that finishes outside the top four for close to a decade. We haven’t been defensively solid since Rafa Benitez’s days and that is a club-wide problem.
Klopp made a mistake with his substitution last night, but it was the players on the pitch that failed to deal with a relatively simple defensive scenario, not the manager on the sideline. Building the right mentality takes time, patience and knowledge. Only a select few get to inherit a team with all of the building blocks already in place and even all of the money of a rich sheikh and two titles in the bank doesn’t guarantee a football club can shake off its former mentality easily.
We’re on the road to success, but there will be setbacks before we reach the holy grail.
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“You’ve got a goalkeeper who spreads panic throughout the crowd and the team..”
Isn’t this the thing? Are they one and the same? Or we like to think that if we’re spooked then the players must be?
“Klopp’s Dortmund side conceded 37 in his first season and 42 in his second”
prior to Klopp it was 62,44,43,42 (in a 34 game season) – and pretty much the one constant? From around 2005-2014? Roman Weidenfeller, the GK. He played around 30 league games a season, with the exception being the 62 goal season when he got a knee injury and only played about half the games.
The lad was so good he got his first cap in 2013! in a friendly. Just worth noting when it comes to assuming the GK will get upgraded this summer. Its far more likely the back 4 will be looked at first.
I get the general argument but Klopp doesn’t get a free pass here for me. Our defence would be better with a better keeper, no doubt, and it didn’t seem we went all out to get someone who was a clear upgrade in the here and now. Karius might still work out as you say – we could really have used an EL campaign this year for him and others – but he is a work in progress.
Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt there, our defence would also almost certainly be better if we had either Skrtel or Sakho as backup ahead of Klavan. Don’t see how these decisions are down to the need for more time. (I get the Sakho has issues but they don’t seem to be affecting what he is doing for Palace.)
So Klopp is at fault here for me. He’s also allowed to be of course, because to go unbeaten against the top 6/7 with that defence means he is doing a lot of other things right.
Who is a clear upgrade though? De Gea? Courtois? yep, they didn’t fuck up this week did they?
I’d suggest that they are not any clear upgrades in the PL, and if you know Europe well enough to suggest who these lads might be I’d be interested to know.
Not sure I get the point of your first comment. All keepers make mistakes but De Gea and Courtois are both much better than Mig.
On the second, yes, hence the ‘benefit of the doubt’ comment. It may be they would have forked out 20m for a keeper but nobody they liked was available. Don’t have anyone in mind but would like to see a keeper with command of the defence – someone in the Schmeichel mould maybe. Hmm – just looked up how to spell his name and it seems there is the odd rumour about him.
Interesting article and the last line says it all. Klopp is not perfect ( have Mourinho or Guardiola Ben perfect this season ? ) and I believe we are on the road to success but our patience is being and will continue to be tried in occasion.
I wasn’t the only one who walked out of Anfield last night in a black mood and I daresay Jurgen wasn’t in the funniest.
I agree with that and its all normal. But, as a season, when we are talking about whether 3rd is gettable and how far up in the 70s we need to finish for champions league football, especially in what is now a 6 team race and no longer the same 3 or 4 teams almost guaranteed each season, they must be heading very much in the right direction.
Good stuff Adam.
I don’t claim to be a football expert, far from it but with each game like this I despise Liverpool fans more and more. I’ve been reading the comments today and they’re ridiculous. How people can criticise Klopp and then in the same sentence write the shit they’re writing is beyond me.
Liverpool have reached the next level under Klopp. Last season we were right to prioritise the Europa, like Utd are this season. Our squad wasn’t good enough to compete in Thursday and Sunday games week in week out. This season we’re down to 2 major problems, beating shit teams and squad depth, which are the same issue. After we beat City on NYE we were in a good place, better than we’ve been for years (except for the season when our stars aligned with a brilliant attack, but that disintegrated soon after). Arsenal are not better than us. Utd aren’t. Spurs are good but they’re not better than us. Chelsea and City aren’t noticeably ahead of us too, if at all. City have similar issues to us. Point being, for the first time in just under a decade we can rightfully place ourselves amongst the elite teams of the PL. But, we have some issues that stem from the past, i.e. the debt meaning we bought very average players and then when we came out of it we had Rodgers and TTC buying too many similar players or put simply, ones that weren’t good enough. Klopp needed the 18 months to properly evaluate what he has and to contradict myself he’ll actually be quite happy. We’re a few key positions away.
I’ve said it a 100 times. Some of our players are not good enough and personally, I blame the fans for some of it. For years, we heard Skrtel and Agger are boss. Well, they weren’t or certainly in their last few seasons. Klopp may have listened and thought, we only need 1 extra cover at centre half because we have this Gomez coming back that everyone is raving about. Based on what? We have players who can rise to the big occasions but can’t in the games like last night. As I’ve been saying all season we have a huge problem in the centre of defence and I’d go as far to say in the holding midfield role too if Henderson is out. There’s no protection from midfield back to Mignolet. People say, it’s the system not the players, it’s too attacking. All the poor results have come with either Lucas or Klavan at CH. It’s no coincidence. We’ve scored the goals to win the matches. Who has scored 3 away at Bournemouth? If you score 2 away at Sunderland, 2 at home to Swansea and 2 at home to West Ham and Bournemouth then it should be enough to win the game. That’s all Chelsea are scoring against these teams. If we beat the other struggling teams to the top 4 (City, Arsenal and Utd) then the future is bright for us.
Not blowing my own trumpet, there’s no need. I know what I know but I’ve been saying before these Joyce quotes that Liverpool are gonna spend £150m this summer on 6 players with an average cost of £25m i.e. take 10m off the defenders and add them onto the strikers. The reason I think this is because FSG want success. That’s fact. It has to be within FFP though. We’ve always spent what we can afford and due to Klopp not wanting to go mental last season we have 2 summer budgets plus the extra revenue. FSG can’t defend a £40m net spend and they know it. But, they can also see how giving Klopp the extra players will take us to the next level again. We’re reaching par with the other teams now. Next year we’ll excel.
Klopp was right to look at his squad before jumping in saying we need a new team after 9 months in charge. He’s also realised we need a bigger and better squad. I’ve got faith in his/their recruitment. It’s just a few more Mane’s, Gini’s and Matip’s needed. People say, he’s perfect for FSG. He doesn’t spend. Well, he will. He knows that winning the PL is an achievement regardless of spend. This is the summer where he puts his identity on the team instead of Rodgers remnants. We’re already a lot closer to the top of the league than people think. Next season we’ll kick on again. Will Utd? Will Arsenal? Will City? And will Chelsea? If they lose Hazard he can’t be replaced. They don’t spend money any more. Their net spend over the last 11 years is £30m average. They’re not the mega bucks they were. City and Utd have proved that money isn’t everything anyway. You need to know how to use it. I believe in Klopp.
To summarise. We can evaluate this that and the other but the issue is simple. Our players are not good enough. That will be rectified this summer. The others aren’t as far ahead of us as they were. We just need top 4. It’s vital to continue our momentum. I think we’ll get it. Next season we’ll finish in the top 3 for sure and possibly better. I think the future’s rosy for us. I’m now starting to question my belief that Coutinho will leave. Why make those comments midweek if he is? Doesn’t make sense. So, come the end of the season – we get top 4 and there’s nothing to worry about. We’ll have the players to beat Bournemouth next season. We’re on the up. We’re just seeing the remnants of the past where we haven’t been near good enough. You can’t change it in 9 months. It’s a process and we’re travelling down that process road. We’re far, far better than 14/15. We’re far better than 15/16 and next season we’ll be far better than 16/17. We just need to stop losing our heads because it rubs off. The players are not in a bubble. Everyone senses the doom and gloom and it makes it harder. Momentum is the best thing in football. We actually have some. Sort the defence and bolster the squad as we will and it’s happy days.
Agree with all of this. On the money, I think way too much is made of our zero spend last year. We brought in Matip, Mane and Gini among others. We broke even because we did great business on sales. If we had spent 30M net and kept Jerome Sinclair, Sergi Canos, Jordan Ibe, Brad Smith and Luis Alberto, would that somehow have shown more ambition? As it is, we are set up nicely if as you say we can secure CL football.
Spurs are interesting. As you say, they are not better than us, but conceding stupid goals seems to have taken on its own momentum for us, gaining late points seems to have done the same for them. That’s a massive points swing.
Hiya mate. You can see above I was hesitant when I mentioned Spurs in the list. They’re not better than us but they have impressed me more than any of the others. Look at their centre half pairing though. Apart from being good they’ve missed 5 and 8 games (13 out of 62, bearing in mind Spurs have had 31 league games). Vertonghen has missed 5 but 4 were in a row. They won 1 of the 4. I played centre half. I know what it’s like when you’ve got a clown next to you. You end up trying to do both players jobs because you don’t trust them. With your trusted partner you’re confident to just do what you do. It’s the centre halves that have cost us. I’m convinced. Last night, Vertonghen and Alderweireld don’t concede the equaliser and you win the game and keep momentum. It’s that simple for me. Keeper, system, subs, whatever. It was appalling defending and you can’t legislate for it. You can look at all the defeats and point to key mistakes from the defence at key moments in the game. Solve that you solve half our problems.
Regarding the spend, Klopp made it clear in january he wants good players. Not average or stop gaps because they sign contracts and you can get stuck with them. He wasn’t like a kid in a sweet shop last summer. He was measured. He wanted to look at what was needed and when he did want a position like say left back he couldn’t get one he thought was better than Milner so he decided to wait. It’s the reason I’m so confident. I don’t rate many managers. I think Klopp is one of the better ones. I totally trust him.
Well said mate – a rationale head. Our trajectory is good – just need to get over the line of claiming a cl spot. Klopp signings have all worked out (I’m sure klarius will come good) and fsg look like they will trust him to splash the cash big time this summer knowing that he won’t spunk it up a wall. We’ve also got an advantage over the Mancs and Arsenal in that our points are in the bag – they will need perfect runs from this point in – which won’t happen.
Hi Robin, spot on mate.
Bang on mate, especially on the point of chelsea being in a much much better position than us. This attributes to not only having a Russian czar at the clubs financial helm but also because they have been for quite some time. When Roman abramovich ( sorry if i spelt that wrong ) took a little trip on his chopper stooping low to purchase europes elite when it comes to anything football ,be it managers or players chelsea were on a position very much like us, it took some time for the current title favourites to mark their name in the english game and reach their current indestructible status ( bar games under klopps liverpool ). I firmly, and i think we as the worlds most emphatic and loyal supporters should, believe and trust in our manager. He has shown us repeatedly, under our recent implorable circumstances, that he instills in his team that elusive quality that makes teams win games which i think is much valuable and rare. Just one question, if klopp goes then whom?
Klopp’s going nowhere. In 4 years from now he’ll be our manager. Therfe’s nowhere left for him to go now. He loves the intensity of the PL. All the top managers are here. He relishes it. He will never manage another English team. Aside from he can’t now, there’s no step up from us now. Suarez certainly wouldn’t leave us for Arsenal now and Sanchez would swap tomorrow. Only Barca, Madrid and Bayern. He’d never leave us for Spain. I’d be too easy for him. He loves the passion in Liverpool. He loves it that people are obsessed about football as much as him. We’ve got him for 5 or 6 years minimum.
Sorry mate but abramovich doesn’t fund the club anymore. Hasn’t done for a while.
i demand a commission! :-)
Conte’s been lucky with injuries and inherited some good players, but Costa, Hazard and Courtois excepted, are they that much better? Chelsea were a demoralised team at the start of the season and finished below us last season. Conte took a look, worked out the problems, and imposed a his tactical and strategic imprint on the team to transform them into Champions Elect.
Let’s remember he’s turned Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso, journeymen both, into world beaters. He’s revived David Luiz and Gary Cahill and made Costa and Hazard want to play again.
The point is not to argue that Conte is better than Klopp, I love Jurgen Klopp he’s the best thing to happen to our club in years. Nor is to chastise, more to reflect critically on successes and failings in order to improve next season. The big thing Conte did, was to establish a pattern of play that works in the PL. You very rarely see Chelsea exposed on the break whereas we’re exposed every other game.
That’s not just about players, but about setup and mentality.
I’ve no doubt Jurgen will fix this, but he may need to adapt again to the realities of this league, because, sadly, I can’t remember the last time a team won the PL without knowing how to grind out results, and I do feel that our centre halves are sometimes left far to exposed by our setup (this may be resolved by a proper sweeper keeper).
On the plus side, we played some spectacular stuff at the start of the season and, if he gets the signings and set up right, this team could have a very high ceiling indeed.
Big summer ahead…..
Paul, I take exception with this.
If we concentrate on the games we’ve lost, Burnley aside as I can’t remember much of it now.
Bournemouth was calamitous defending for goals 2, 3 and 4. Ok, the second we did get dispossessed on the edge of their box but when the cross finally came across 3 players fell over in our box. Goals 3 and 4 had nothing to do with our system. They were a free kick outside the box and a throw in that we absolutely failed to deal with. 5 players stood off Cook for the third. They stood around for the 4th too while Aki had 2 chances on the rebound.
Swansea. The first was a corner where headers were missed and Llorente wasn’t challenged while he bumbled it in. Actually, we see this not reacting to the second ball in our box constantly. The second was a cross and it was 3 v 2 in our favour. He scored. The winner he walked through 3 players before Klavan played a perfect pass to Sigurdsson.
Hull. The first goal was a Mignolet error but again, when Mignolet got something on it their striker was all alone. Everyone else stood and watched him, particularly Clyne. The second was the long punt that Lucas misjudged and let it go over his head.
Leicester. The first goal doesn’t even have hints of being exposed. It was simply poor defending from both Lucas and Matip. The second we had 8 men in the box and the third we had 5 v 3.
The game that ruined our season, Sunderland, was a rubbish pen to give away by Klavan and then a daft free kick on the edge of the box from Lucas which eventually led to the second pen. Last night was poor defending for both goals. West Ham was poor defending from a free kick outside the box. The wall was shambolic. The second was unlucky due to the deflection.
My point is this – these are the goals that destroyed our season. For hardly any we weren’t exposed by our set up. A sweeper keeper wouldn’t help. For most of those goals we had 5, 6, 7,8 or 9 men in the box v a lot less of theirs. We didn’t clear the ball with headers and we stood around while they reacted and put it in the net. I’d say they’re all individual error not down to our set up. It’s too easy to say we attack so we expect this. We need better defenders.
We had a really good run, when Henderson was playing, when we weren’t getting exposed. But you’re forgetting Burnley, Leicester, Chelsea (h) and other games I could mention, when teams cut through us at will. We’re vulnerable to direct running because we play such a high line.
I’m sure your point has merit. I work on the basis that if we win they’re all great and the lad who scores 2 is the one it all revolves around and if we lose they’re all wank especially the defence. Overall though, my point is – don’t worry. We’re not that far away and regardless of the players we buy in the summer or the way Jurgen plays, just the solving of our centre halves will immediately buy us 10 more points. We need a pool of Matip lovren and 1 better than both. League won.
Oh I’m not worried, I’m sure we have the right man for the job, just frustrated.
You’re on a roll – totally agree. We used to moan about goals – we’ve got this sorted – just the defence and deeper squad. Have to remember we’ve had some shite injuries and poor cover. Overall, I’d agree, we’re not a million miles away
I get the idea behind things getting potentially worse before better. I also get that Klopp is unlikely to ever be the Mourinho of defences, in that they don’t concede. Klopp’s style generally lends itself to the risk of conceding goals, but his full throttle football is great to watch and has shown to be successful in the past. It’s very very rare, however that a league winning team here concedes at the rate we do. Ultimately, are our defenders at fault, ie that in the end, they’re simply not good enough, or is it the system that determines the clear cut chances we love giving away? Either way, we’ll be going along the same frustrating path until we tighten up. Let’s hope Klopp is the guy to do it.
Good article generates good comments.
More of this please.
Good read Adam, but I just hope it is not another false dawn given the amount of teams competing now for the top 4 and how many of those still have games to play. Each game is crucial for the Reds and so I watch with bated breath and scrutinize when we seem to be throwing points away.
Can we afford to throw away points like United, City, Chelsea all who have money to throw at players in the summer? Can Klopp afford to learn on the job? Maybe.
Like some I was angry and frustrated at the draw, and baffled with the sub wondering why at that particular time. But now that I have calmed down I do get what Klopp tried to do and didn’t work for the reasons that some have rightly mentioned on here, that our players aren’t good enough. My main concern was that we have bottled it in the past when it mattered most and last night was something reminiscent.
However your article assumes that only Klopp is learning, while Pep, Mourinho, Conte, etc are just gliding through because they have the finished articles and billions to invest. Knowing what to do with the money is also something they are also good at. Conte managing Chelsea might seem like some easy job, but it is far from it. He knows what to do with the players at his disposal, and that does take some acumen.
I think all these managers will also return next season having learned something, including Poch with the exception of Wenger considering if he is still there.
With the news of Liverpool’s academy transfer ban it will put more pressure on achieving top 4.
Regarding Klopp to help us get the holy grail, it is quite possible he can get it done, but with a team that’s entirely his as you and some on here have alluded to, but this doesn’t seem cut and dry to me. FSG might pony up the cash for Klopp, but I don’t know this for a fact, just banter. So for me CL seems like the realistic approach that brings in money earned, and the chance to attract players that Klopp will need.
I am a big fan of Klopp in his abilities to manage and improve, but with no CL next season and he will have a hard time recruiting players that are finished articles that so many of us fans know are needed to help him do his job well and beyond for sustained long term success.
we need to avoid this trap that getting top 4 this season will mean we are back in the big time. Too much work still to do.
We have 6 sides fighting for 4 spots, so 2 sides will always miss out – there is no guarantee any of the top 6 will get champions League footie every season. And the impact that uncertainty has on player recruitment will be interesting.
KM I don’t think I may have said it correctly. For me it isn’t about being in the big time ala CL. You are right that there is too much work still to do, but I firmly believe and understand that part of that work is in how LFC and Klopp are perceived compared to the top 6. I think perception is key in acquiring players as well and CL is an important aspect and step that can augment that perception of LFC being a club worth the player’s time. Having Klopp at the helm is a big incentive to boot.
My explanation here is way too simplistic but I hope I am making sense.
Christ on a bike I miss Liverpool at this time of the season