Let’s be honest, it’s really only daft people who are looking at negatives around Liverpool Football Club right now. We sit two points behind Manchester City in the Premier League and are the team most likely to stop Pep Guardiola’s men from waltzing to back-to-back titles. On top of that, we’re also on the same number of points as Napoli in our Champions League group, requiring a win against them at Anfield in our final game of the group in order to progress. Yes, we’re out of the League Cup but it’s far better to go out of it early doors than to make it as far as the semi-finals or final and then lose, having seen your fixture list clog up in the meantime. Perhaps Liverpool’s incredible season to date is being made to appear worse than it is because the Cityzens are winning matches at an insane rate, dropping just two points so far in their campaign. That should take nothing away from how brilliantly we’re doing, however, and we should all be trying to enjoy every moment.
24 points out of 24 v West Ham, Palace, Brighton, Leicester, Southampton, Huddersfield, Cardiff & Fulham. 6 out of 12 v Spurs, Chelsea, Man City & Arsenal.
— Kop Magazine (@TheKopMagazine) November 11, 2018
Having said all of that, then, why am I writing a piece about what the Liverpool manager is doing wrong? Well, there are a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s easy to write about what’s going well for us at the moment; I know, because loads of other people are doing exactly that and I like to go against the grain. Secondly, it’s important to be willing to be critical of Jürgen Klopp, especially when things are going well for the Reds. The German isn’t immune from getting things wrong, even if he’s getting the vast majority of stuff bang-on right. I should also point out that I’m very accepting of the fact that this is all just my opinion; plenty of people will almost certainly disagree with me and that’s ok. We live in a time when social media makes some people feel as though they have to ‘win’ arguments online, but I’m not bothered about that. I don’t think I’m some sort of genius or that my opinion is more valid than other people’s. If you think I’m wrong then let me know because I want to hear it. Here, then, is my look at what’s not quite right right now.
The Re-Invention Of Roberto Firmino
Has Jürgen Klopp changed Roberto Firmino’s position? I don’t know. I think he has, but then Chris Hewitt on Twitter disagrees, believing that it’s just a case of the Brazilian lacking confidence at the moment. My reasoning for feeling as though it’s a change of position comes from the fact that he seems to be deeper than the likes of Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum at times. It appears to be an attempt to shift Mo Salah into the middle, but I’m not entirely sure why. It’s not as though the Egyptian struggled to get on the scoresheet from the righthand side of the front three last season, netting forty-two times in all competitions. We’re at our best when Firmino is at his best, but he’s been struggling to get any kind of form together so far this season and I firmly believe that that’s why our attack isn’t at its fluid and thrilling best.
— International Champions Cup (@IntChampionsCup) November 12, 2018
That said, of course, the eyes can be deceiving. He’s scored some important goals, not least of all the winner against Paris Saint-Germain when he came on as a substitute, and is still creating chances. He’s always a handful when he plays, occupying defenders and making space for his attacking buddies. Yet I really do think he’s not having the same influence as he did last season and that seems to be due to the manager’s decision to reinvent him as a number ten. For me, he’s the beating heart of this Liverpool team and he doesn’t seem to be himself at the moment. That could, of course, be because opposition teams have spent the summer trying to figure out how to limit his influence and are succeeding in their endeavours. I’m just not convinced, however, as it seems to be basic things like his touch and his passing range that aren’t working. Maybe it will come good but, for now at least, I think it’s a mistake.
Trusting Players Too Much
You’ll have to decide for yourself whether the manager’s trust and belief in his players is a fault. Jürgen Klopp has got this team punching well above its weight precisely because of the fact that he seems to trust his players explicitly and they love him for it in return. For me, though, there has to be a balance between trusting lads who can offer something and moving on those that can’t. The main player in my head right now is Adam Lallana, who was unquestionably the key man when the German first arrived at the club. The former Southampton man was seemingly the first to really pick up on what Klopp was wanting his players to do, the image of him collapsing into the former Borussia Dortmund manager’s arms after running himself into the ground when he was substituted off during his first match in charge against Tottenham Hotspur being one of the standout moments of that first season.
Liverpool have raided Manchester City to sign first team physiotherapist Lee Nobes. Speaking to the press Nobes said “I’m really looking forward to working with Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge on a daily basis”
— Oddball (@joneeley) November 12, 2018
Since then, however, he’s been plagued by injuries and now looks like yesterday’s man when he appears in this Liverpool team. I am more than aware that he’s got to recover from said injuries, but the problem is that we have matches to win in the meantime and he looks so off the pace it isn’t even funny. He has never been a quick player, but now he’s seemingly mentally slow as well as physically. It’s also worth noting that he is picking up injuries regularly now and isn’t getting any younger, so no sooner has he got up to speed is he likely to get a tweak and drop out of the side again. I do think that the moment he grabbed an opposition player around the neck during a youth game should have set some alarm bells ringing in the Liverpool hierarchy, perhaps indicating that he’s not mentally in a good place. I like him as a player but I don’t think he should be anywhere near a starting eleven again this season.
Lallana isn’t the only person who has the manager’s trust who maybe shouldn’t. I am a big Daniel Sturridge fan and long have been, but I don’t think he’s the right man to start as our number nine any more. He’s another one whose career has been wrecked by injury, missing more games than he’s been available for during his Liverpool career. Yes, he was absolutely electric during the 2013-2014 campaign, but since then he’s been a bit part player at best. The difference between him and Lallana for me is that he can still offer something from the bench; you only need to look at his goal against Chelsea in the league fixture at Stamford Bridge for proof of that. When he’s in the team from the start, however, the entire team lacks the pace and ability to break forward that makes it so dangerous when the likes of Salah and Sadio Mané start.
Lallana, Sturridge and matip play, unsurprisingly we are slow on the ball and sloppy
— Alex Richards (@AlexRichards18) November 6, 2018
I know loads of people will disagree with my take on the England striker because they love him and have a soft spot for him, but I want the club to win the Premier League. You don’t see Manchester City keeping hold of Joe Hart or Yaya Toure because they used to be brilliant for them. Jürgen Klopp is a brilliant man manager and that’s what’s allowed him to win things in the past when he really shouldn’t have done so. My fear is that he’s too attached to certain people to be willing to pull the plug on their time at the club in order to push us on to the next level. The likes of Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge and Joel Matip are mediocre at best, making them ok squad players but resulting in the team looking far too slow and ponderous when they’re picked from the start. It’s time for the manager to get rid of the dead wood.
Not Attacking Referees
This is perhaps the most controversial of my three things that I think the manager needs to improve on, with many people believing that attacking the officials doesn’t do anything to help the club. Yet I can’t help but remember how Alex Ferguson used to treat referees every single week and yet it didn’t come back to haunt him in any way, with his club consistently on the end of beneficial decisions from the men in the middle. Before I say anything else I want to make clear that I genuinely do understand how difficult it is for referees. The game now moves at such a pace that it is virtually impossible for even the best of them to see everything that takes place, let alone the genuinely appalling ones that can’t even keep up with the play. It’s why I’m a fierce advocate of the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee. It’s not perfect, but it allows referees to see things that they would otherwise miss and would ensure that officials can’t turn up and referee according to their own narrative.
378 days since @LFC were last awarded a league penalty at Anfield. Their longest sequence without one at home in the top-flight for 16 years.
— Ged Rea (@ged0407) November 11, 2018
In my opinion, far too many of them do exactly that. Liverpool haven’t been given a penalty at Anfield in the league for more than a year, despite that fact that we’ve seen countless situations occur that could most generously be referred to as ‘stone walls’. It’s reminiscent of when we barely ever got a penalty during the 2012-2013 season until the Kop started singing ‘we’re going to have a party when Suarez gets a pen’ every time the Uruguayan was fouled. Once it became a pubic issue we started being awarded that many spot-kicks that our rivals started referring to us as ‘Penaltypool’. It’s all well and good us not being given a penalty when playing in a match that we’re winning against lower opposition, but this campaign could come down to just a couple of points and the lack of penalties might make all the difference. As far as I’m concerned the German has a duty to the football club he’s in charge of to make sure that we start getting what we deserve from referees. It could be season defining.