THERE was something almost comforting about Jürgen Klopp’s demeanour on the touchline at Wembley yesterday.
As his Liverpool side were getting picked apart by Tottenham Hotspur like a cruel child pulling the legs off a spider in between licks of an ice cream, the camera showed Klopp staring at the ground, presumably trying to contemplate what he could say in the aftermath of such thorough shittery from his boys.
If the PA guy at Wembley had any sense of humour at all he’d have immediately played The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel over the speakers.
“Why comforting, though?” you ask. Well, unless you are the staunchest rose-tinted, glass-half-full optimist going, you will have felt like the rest of us in thinking “not this load of bollocks again” as Dejan Lovren, Simon Mignolet and the rest of the clown car that is Liverpool’s backline made scoring a Premier League goal look easier than pointing out the hypocrisy in a Donald Trump tweet. It seems that finally, Klopp was willing to climb aboard the same line of thinking.
After the game, the manager said: “The first would not happen if I was on the pitch but I am in the middle of the technical area in my trainers.
“It is unbelievably easy to defend, to close the space, we only have to clear the ball, shoe it, we don’t do it.
“All so obvious and always bad. We had chances but you can’t get results with a performance like this against a team like Tottenham who were completely spot on. We weren’t and that’s my responsibility. I don’t want to say anything positive about us.”
Despite Klopp’s insistence that he was “no worse than the others”, Lovren getting hooked on 30 minutes at Wembley was as clear an indication as any that the manager saw there was a huge problem, but what was also interesting was who came on for him. Not Ragnar Klavan, the only centre back on the bench. An experienced player in his 30s, captain of his country and trusted to be Liverpool’s third-choice centre back going into the season, but no, Klopp instead turned to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. An attacking player, meaning four other lads had to move to a different position, including Joe Gomez to right centre back and Joel Matip to left centre back. Klopp was willing to almost entirely change his starting setup just to get Lovren off and not bring Klavan on.
That rightly raises the question yet again as to why he thought it wasn’t necessary to sign a centre back in the summer. It’s a debate that’s been done to death already so I won’t go into the details, but the only thing I can think of is that the club are ultra confident that Virgil van Dijk will be a Liverpool player by January 31, 2018. However, even if that is the case, the big Dutchman clearly isn’t going to be enough on his own.
There is the ongoing argument about what can be done to improve Liverpool’s defence, whether it is the system or the individuals. I am of the opinion that better players in the same system will naturally see it improve, but it’s hard to ignore the frankly insanely high line that the team continues to play with two slow centre backs. It is not just a coincidence that Jamie Vardy always has a party against us, and yet looked toothless as anything against West Brom last week. Even the lumbering Joselu benefited from the Reds’ defence getting close enough to smell Jordan Henderson’s hair gel as he got Newcastle level a few weeks ago.
Then yesterday, with the deceptively fast Harry Kane and the quite obviously fast Heung-Min Son, Liverpool continued to stand high and then wonder why Spurs kept on getting in behind them. It’s not a big change, but surely some thought has to be given to dropping deeper to at least give yourselves a chance, even if it means sacrificing the pressing game. It’s not as if we’re electrifying anyone with that at the moment anyway.
Lovren is barely a week away from having had Romelu Lukaku in his pocket for the second time in 2017, but has also proven time and again that he isn’t consistent enough, ditto Klavan, and it’s unfair to expect Gomez to be someone we can lean on, especially as he’s barely played centre back in his short career, despite it being widely assumed it’ll be where he ends up. That said, I thought he did OK once moved there yesterday and would be on board with the idea of keeping him there for now if only to ensure that Lovren isn’t allowed near the team for a while. He’ll make mistakes, but as a young player he should at least learn from them, rather than revert back to them time and again like his elder teammates.
It’s not only there where The Reds failed yesterday. After days of fans clamouring for his inclusion on the basis of a good showing in Slovenia midweek, James Milner showed why Klopp has been reluctant to give him his wish of a starting berth in midfield with a performance that could most generously be described as “laboured”. Emre Can struggled in midfield, then moved to right back and struggled even more. If Juventus CEO Beppe Marotta was watching then Liverpool’s contract negotiation stance with the German international will surely have gotten a fair bit easier.
Phil Coutinho had his worst game since recovering from the “back injury” (maybe the same one Lovren was “suffering from” yesterday) but in fairness to the Brazilian it was largely because Tottenham did a real number on him. They surrounded him at every opportunity and Coutinho couldn’t handle it, though did still nearly score with a left-footed effort in the second half, and would almost certainly have done so had Liverpool managed to persuade the hosts to swap goalkeepers at half time.
Those and other side negatives from yesterday though aren’t really worth dwelling on. Milner will have better days in whatever position he pops up in next, while Coutinho will be back to running the show in no time, but you just can’t confidently say the same thing about that defence and goalkeeper.
Liverpool are far from the only team that concede soft goals, with this weekend in particular showcasing the very worst the Premier League has to offer in defence. The Chelsea v Watford game was an embarrassment for both concerned at the back, while Manchester United conceded two ridiculous goals to Huddersfield Town. Even the goal Mohamed Salah scored yesterday would have had us frothing at the mouth had it been at the other end. But of course the difference between them and us is the regularity with which we allow this to happen to us. To handicap ourselves through downright incompetence.
For what it’s worth I do think that Joel Matip is probably good enough to be part of a solid backline, but unfortunately he’s one of those who needs to be surrounded by excellence and consistent competency to thrive. That’s not to give him an excuse, but just look at Leonardo Bonucci, for example. Possibly the best defender in world football when he made the shock move to AC Milan from Juventus in the summer, but at the San Siro he looks a complete mess compared to the irresistible force he was alongside Giorgio Chiellini and Gigi Buffon in Turin.
Matip of course isn’t on that level, but he strikes me as someone who isn’t good enough to make up for his teammates failings, but could be the useful partner of a better left-sided centre back that actually can command and take control of situations. He was partly at fault for the third goal at Wembley, but was put in that situation by the remarkable (and yet unsurprising) lack of communication from Mignolet. That ball comes in and every sinew of the Belgian’s being should have been to scream at everyone that it was his ball.
Matip has Kane running behind him so without a shout, has to assume the striker will get to it if he doesn’t. As he’s running backwards it’s almost impossible to get distance on the header so is then reliant on his teammates dealing with the second ball. They don’t and Dele Alli ends the game at a time when Liverpool actually looked like potentially rescuing something. A perfect example of the Cameroonian not being aware enough of his surroundings and needing the help of competent teammates, but not getting it and a goal is the result. Twas ever thus.
The rise and rise of Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino is testament to his abilities and the idea that football is mostly about quality of coaching, while the failures of Everton and West Ham this season are perhaps examples that just buying loads of lads who look good on paper isn’t enough. However, that being said, a popular game people played ahead of yesterday was to pick a joint Spurs-Liverpool XI. Almost each one I saw went with at least nine Spurs players. Whether it’s through coaching, the transfer market or just happening to have players whose trajectory defies logic, there is no doubt that Pochettino has a much stronger squad than Klopp, and so the German will have to get the most out of his team through coaching if he wants to have any chance of clawing them back to their level.
Let’s not forget, yesterday was the sixth time Pochettino and Klopp have faced each other, and it was the Argentine’s first victory. The idea that it proved that the former is superior to the latter is flawed, but at the same time it’s hard not to be concerned that it was a significant moment, and brought to the fore the fact that Klopp doesn’t currently have the tools to build a team to compete at the same level as Spurs, which is also partly his own fault.
Klopp is a trusting person. He has cut loose the likes of Jordon Ibe and Christian Benteke in the past when he’s seen they can’t offer his team what they need, but hasn’t been ruthless enough with others. There are too many players in this squad who continue to let him down time and again.
My hope is that this apparent newfound exasperation with his players is finally what turns him from a believer to a doubter, and ensures that the 2018 January transfer window is not as quiet as previous ones. He needs to utilise it to make the changes necessary to the squad that really should have come last summer or even before.
Liverpool’s next three league games are Huddersfield (h), West Ham (a) and Southampton (h). All eminently winnable, and they all need to be won before the following game at home to Chelsea. Another game against a rival that has to be seen as a chance to turn a season around rather than to stop it being completely over before December. That’s three home games in our next four as well, and while we have been unforgivably leaky away from Anfield, just one of the 16 goals conceded in the league this season has been at home.
Yesterday hurt particularly badly, but then I guess when you base such a vast amount of your life’s happiness on whether or not Lovren is good at football you really get what you deserve.
If you need to take your mind off yesterday’s abomination, you could always buy a copy of my new book, Kloppite: One Man’s Quest to turn Doubters into Believers. Admittedly, the topic will seem a little inappropriate given how much doubt this team keep piling back onto us, but at least you’ll get to read about a time when we didn’t submit to Manchester City and Spurs so pathetically. Those were the days.
Up the useless Reds.
Tottenham Hotspur 4 Liverpool 1: The Post-Match Show@Knox_Harrington@Andrew_Heaton@dan_morgan3@C_Hannan7https://t.co/BFpL9znJOd pic.twitter.com/1nk8mjcICH
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) 22 October 2017
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So Klopp is exasperated is he? Klopp is totally and completely to blame for not just this debacle but all that flagrantly goes before. He is completely ignorant of what a defence is supposed to consist of. He rather blatantly time after time after time does nothing for 2 years to buy proper defenders. He blames everything and everybody (except himself of course) whilst the football world laughs and cackles quite openly of ludicrous Liverpool – rather better to say leaderless! I began my LFC watch as far back as 1948 and today they are a disgrace to those who have gone before them. These guys will never ever ever ever win anything. Klopp can whine all he likes he just does not have it in him to do any sort of a job.
Going forward Liverpool have a fluidity that is pleasing on the eye even without Mane. Salah gives them pace and Coutinho real quality. What is alarming to me is that they haven’t addressed the need to have a centre forward and, obviously, do no work on defending whatsoever. Pochettino seems to bring in players, change formations – often during the game – and the defence still remains solid and organised. Watching from afar, I cannot see what Klopp brings to Liverpool. Top coaches make players better and bring organisation to teams. They also make tough decisions on personnel. There are a number of defenders at Liverpool who are just not good enough. The keeper, Lovren, Moreno for starters. But they haven’t been good enough all through Klopp’s tenure so what has he done about it? No doubt I’ll be told that Klopp is a brilliant manager and amazing coach, but the Liverpool side appears to be quite a bit poorer than when Rogers was manager. If that’s all down to the Saurez factor, then that’s no excuse. A club with Liverpool’s stature and money should have replaced him by now. Interesting times.
No excuses but plenty of feckin reasons. What’s utterly depressing about listening to disgruntled Reds on the phone- ins tonight is that the same things are being said that were said two years ago and will be said in two years time.Nothing changes.
We need to take a reality check here and realise that a QUALITY spine from goalkeeper to an out and out striker is needed and that requires significant investment…….and sadly we’re not going to get that with FSG who are more concerned with selling club merchandise to Outer Mongolia and the financial state of the balance sheet as opposed to winning the PL and CL.
I confidently predict that exactly like the previous two January transfer windows not one single badly needed quality player will be bought in January.
ps : and before we start blaming injuries to key players other teams are experiencing the same the difference being is they’ve got QUALITY in depth.
Let’s look this situation with our defence.
3 of the back 5 were mainstays of the terrible defence under Rodgers and are known to make the same mistakes over and over again.
None of these players could be described at young or inexperienced.
How can they still be a main part of our defence in 2017?
Klopp has been here for 2yrs now so how has the defence improved? They are still making stupid mistakes gifting the opposition goals.
He’s brought in Karius, Matip, Klavan, Robinson for a combined £17mil and yet only one of them is a first team regular. How is that? Why have we only invested £17mil across 4 windows in what is clearly a very problematic area?
When Klopp made the decision to sub Lovren who did he look to bring on? Certainly wasn’t Klavan. What does that say? He brought on Ox and moved players out of every line in his team to accommodate him eventually playing a midfielder at rightback while we had a right back on the bench.
So not only are the defenders who start the game not good enough but those on the bench who are supposedly there to replace them arnt trusted either.
How have we gotten to this situation?
Chronic underinvestment and poor attention given to what has been for several seasons now a very problematic area of the team.
This simply cannot go on.
We need to go hard in Jan to salvage this season.
I look around at the other top 6 teams and they all have a midfielder or 2 or 3 who can sit in front of the defence protecting them, breaking up play in front of them providing a solid platform in order to let their attacking player go do what they do best. We don’t have that and havnt for some time. Hendo is not a defensive midfielder, he’s just not. Can possibly could be that player but looks like he’s off in a few months.
Klopp has made a rod for his own back.
Hopefully this is a turning point for him and he realises we need better quality personnel in the back 5/6 positions.
If that means only spending money in that area for the next 2 windows, I’ll take it!
Kopitejohn hit nail dead centre – we have no spine.
Goalkeeper/central defence/centre mid/quality striker – we are completely lacking in every department and that is severely worrying two years in. Focussing on the ineptness of the defence kind of misses the point.
We didn’t lose this 4-3. We are not scoring shitloads of goals. Last season we did and that got us the points, not clean sheets. There is not one aspect to this team that does not concern me right now. The balance of the midfield is completely wrong; Can, Wijnaldum, Milner and Henderson are all too similar and offer little going forward or as defensive cover. Until this is rectified we will be on an eternal fighting-for-fourth loop.
Sort it, Klopp. We want to believe soooo bad.
Very thorough analysis and lots of perspective when you talk about other teams and their players. I agree about the system and the argument that better players will improve it, but I think it’s time we tweaked the system whether or not we get better players. Would pressing man-to-man instead of by groups be easier? I have no idea. But it doesn’t work often enough in the league from what I’ve seen. Last time we played Spurs we laughed at their naivete for playing a high line, but we did the same thing yesterday whereas they adjusted. The other thing that has happened a few times now, is when a player is injured on the last day of training before a match (Gini this time), we end up losing the match. This might not be a significant factor from yesterday, but doesn’t it feel like the system doesn’t work at all independently of the players? i.e. it’s too reliant on particular players in certain positions. You should be able to remove and replace any player in each position without affecting the outcome, but this doesn’t happen here and that is a big problem. Whether they don’t train enough with the understudy of each position or the understudy isn’t good enough I really don’t know. Spurs on the other hand, don’t seem to be affected by changes at all.
Another thing, and maybe the most unanswered thing, how comes a team with a similar budget to ours, that pays lower wages than we do, appears to have recruited better than we have in almost every position? Is the statistical program we use to identify players a standard one, or has someone at LFC devised it? Because there seems to be something wrong with it. And apart from the obvious weakest links (Mignolet and Lovren for me), the manager will also have to think about Emre Can’s future. If he’s going to ever be world-class, it’s not going to be this season or next, and so the question is can we really afford to play him in our midfield all season. He’s caused us to concede three goals in three different matches at least so far.
Having said all this, I’ve seen lots of “it’s darkest before the dawn” type comments on twitter and I’m hoping this is it.
Good article. Got to think that Lovren’s done as a regular starter. At last.
As the article states, the fact that Klopp didn’t bring on Klavan after the Lovren shitshow means he has no confidence in either; which is damning as he didn’t bring in another CB regardless of whether we were getting Virgil van Dijk or not. We still needed another defender, especially as we also sold Sakho as well. We haven’t even replaced Lucas, and he was getting games at CB ahead of Klavan FFS!!
So many poor decisions made in the summer.
I don’t think Lovren is done because as you say we didn’t bring in another CB or two – I think he’ll play again by necessity. I’d rest him against Huddersfield though, who will also be looking to capitalise on our defence’s mistakes. Klavan may have been overlooked yesterday because Klopp didn’t think he’d cope either, but it could also be because we needed two goals and AOC was a better option for that. But by then not many of our players were functioning so not sure anything could have helped.
I’m curious to see what he does with the ‘keeper next weekend. Probably be unfair on Ward to play him but…
You make a good point about Lovren Amy. As much as I hate to admit it, this might be the case until Jan, or worse, next summer.
It’s not going to happen, because I can’t see Klopp changing the system, but I wonder whether a switch to 3 at the back would help the team find some confidence. Move Can back to play right side (alongside Gomez and Matip) with Milner/TAA at rwb, Robertson/Moren lwb. Looking at Spurs and Chelsea, sheer numbers often overcomes lack of defensive nous/goalkeeping errors. With Henderson shielding, it would still let us play any four from Firmino, Salah, Coutinho, Chamberlain, Mane (when fit). Migs doesn’t have to leave his line because he knows one of the defenders will deal with it (!) and there’s less panic from the defenders because of the extra cover. I would just like us to be more flexible with formations as we do have players who can adapt to different positions – whether it’s changing within the game or week to week.
Good article David- solid. Excellent option Danny. If I remember roughly, after mu beat us at Anfield in December 2014, Rodgers did play Can at RCB in a back 3. We went on to win and draw till April with CTS at the back. We’ve the players to play wing back too- especially Moreno!:). Yes- our saviour-in-waiting!?!?…
Nice formation and not beyond what Klopp might do as he’s rightly mad as hell with himself and I’m still in the belief that he wants VVD to be the centre of a 3-Man CB system with Moreno being his surprise top Wing Back. Thus the unfortunate non-purchase of alternative CB in the meantime as he’d pledged himself to the superior qualities of VVD.
@Danny, how about Can in Henderson’s place instead? Moreno’s doing his best right now and it is miles ahead (for his standards that is) of Lovren.
I still think Moreno is suited for a left attacking winger position as he has devastating speed and with some coaching he could work on his shooting and crosses. However Klopp has different plans as we have seen so far.
Can isn’t half the player Hendo is Sash imo. Consistently inconsistent- 3/5 touch short back and sides. Sorry. I know you’ll disagree but not half the player. P
So we’ve been average for the last seven years, changed manager 3/4 times and still average and in need of 3/4 key players… what’s the constant in all this? FSG failure
Too much analysis here. Klopp moved Gomez to his natural position at Center Back to fix Lovren situation, felt like they were missing Mane’s speed on the wing so he brought Ox on. 2 objectives – Fix the Lovren Situation, add speed on offense hoping LFC can get back in the game. Klopp was trying to accomplish 2 objectives with one move.
something drastic for the next game
TAA Gomez Matip Roberston
Firmino OX Coutinho
It’s painful to remember the days when we sat both City and Spurs down at Anfield. Two top quality sides who simply couldn’t cope with what we brought on the night.
City were outmanned, outworked and outgritted, whereas Spurs were just dismantled. Sacrificed on the altar of the high defensive line.
One man who played exceptionally well in both matches was Gini Wijnaldum. Another was Adam Lallana. A third was Sadio Mane. We had none of these against Spurs on Sunday and also had none of them against City after Mane walked.
It’s genuinely not an excuse for the festival of ineptitude on offer in both games, but it’s worth remembering.
“also had none of them against City after Mane walked.”
Except Gini did play at City, so shut up. We were bollocksed by then though
We need a CB, CF, holding DM, and depth in squard
The manner of the defeat means that all of our heads had gone by the final whistle (including the manager I guess).
Last year we finished 4th which was considered by most to be a good season. Our team and our manager regularly beat the other top 5 best teams in the league. This squad of players (including GK, the 3 CB’s, Emre Can & Henderson and with Bobby F leading the line) achieved that with our current manager at the helm. Even if we think one, some or all of them should do better/be replaced – I suggest we don’t jump to the conclusion that they are all useless.
I wonder if most people would consider 4th place a reasonable season again this year and, if so, whether they think that being 3 points off means that we should write that off at this moment in time?
Ps. My first Anfield game was in 79 so I was lucky enough to have seen us win lots and I understand the point about Liverpool should always be striving to win the league. These are different times.
@Paddy We only managed to get top 4 because Arsenal lost about 5 games and fell at the last hurdle. I’m not taking away the achievement here from the team and Jurgen, which seeing this team today seems like Istanbul 2017.
However I think Jurgen should have realized when the wheels had come off the bus back in December of 2016 with all the issues from injuries, disciplinary actions, team absences to team overall fatigue, it was difficult for this team to adjust to his tactics and approach. Add to this we had no European football to moan about.
So Jurgen needed to let go of players and bring in the necessary players to do the job, and not pigeon hole himself into specific players only.
I don’t know if we will make 4th place, but you are right that we are only 3 points off from 4th place, and what I am looking forward to in the next game is whether or not we will see a resurgence of the team and Klopp finally earning his 7 million a year salary, by being flexible.
This to me would be a sign of a great manager in the making and eventually a legend at Anfield.
Anything short of this, his team will be crucified by the mighty Huddersfield (even if it is 0-1 loss) and the fans will turn on him worse than Rogers due to Rogers getting 2nd place.
It’s an interesting point Sash. Maybe the sign of a great manager is to change tactics from time to time when they see things going wrong. Then again, maybe great managers need to keep their head when everyone else is losing their shit and stick to what they believe in. Towards the end of Brendan’s reign, a lot of us said that we knew he had to go because he seemed to lose faith in himself. Now it’s “Jurgen better change or he’s a fraud”. We’re a difficult lot to please.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think a loss, draw or win against Huddersfield should decide what we think of Klopp (or whoever our manager might be). I think we judge him at the end of the season and until then we get behind him and the team. If he get’s top four again, that will have been another good season.
Yes Paddy, you are right, not fan should decide on Klopp on the basis of one match, but a lot of fans especially after this weekend will miss your point and the pressure was on since the VVD episode.
As for the manager to adapt (rather than just change tactics) I am referring to how managers have done what they needed to do to win. Same thing, different day approach, isn’t what I consider to be progress.
It showed in the CL final against Bayern when Klopp reached it beating some formidable teams on the way, only to face the same opposition whom he had beaten before to the German Title, but somehow Bayern had him figured out by then.
As for Brendan Rogers and him losing the way. I attributed this to the immense pressure of managing a club like Liverpool, not having the firm backing of the transfer committee, his lack of experience with the media, and then, his off-field antics, like the TV show he seemed to relish and left a marker with his big mug on the wall of his living room for all to remember.
Lastly his affair, which when you consider the caliber of managers in the past, from Shankly to Rafa, all led off and on the field, and by example. That is a tradition in itself for LFC.
While nobody’s a saint, I felt Brendan only added fuel to the fire he couldn’t control any more.
Klopp has more going for him, hence why I expect him to adapt and hopefully not having to force another Heavy Metal football concert on his existing team that will most likely break all the guitar strings, but instead opt for some Spanish acoustic guitar might help buy some time for what he needs when time comes for the headbangers’ ball.