I have said many times that I think that Jürgen Klopp is the best manager in the world. What he has achieved at Liverpool far outstrips what Pep Guardiola has done at Manchester City because the German hasn’t been able to spend £100 million on a midfielder and then just shrug his shoulders when it hasn’t really worked. Guardiola is obviously a fantastic manager, but he needs players at a certain level in order to be able to get them to play the system that matters so much to him. Jürgen Klopp has won the league with a lad from relegated Hull City and a midfielder from relegated Newcastle United. I also think that he is the perfect manager for Liverpool Football Club. He gets the city, the supporters, the ethos. He understands what matters to us, which is why I don’t think he’d ever give his seal of approval to a takeover designed to sports wash the reputation of a country like Saudi Arabia. It goes without saying, therefore, that I do not want him to be sacked or hope that he quits or anything as stupid and childish as that.
There isn’t a central midfielder on the planet that Liverpool could sign to solve all these issues. An utterly shambolic 45 minutes following on from poor performances against Leicester and Villa that somehow weren’t punished. Jurgen Klopp should not be immune from criticism.
— David Lynch (@dmlynch) January 2, 2023
That being said, I am also on record as saying that it is ok to be critical of the manager from time to time. That also doesn’t mean that I don’t think that Fenway Sports Group are deserving of any criticism. There is no question that the club needs to spend more money this window and I don’t think it makes much sense for them not to do so from a financial point of view. They need to protect the value of their asset at the very least and the club will be worth less money if there isn’t any Champions League football to play next season. All I want, and I think this is the case for most people, is for the conversation around the owners to be balanced. I’ve read tweets about a ‘complete lack of investment’ from them, as though the new Main Stand, developed Anfield Road End and AXA Training Centre are all completely irrelevant. Ask Manchester United fans how Old Trafford is looking right now and you’ll see how important keeping Anfield up to date actually is. FSG aren’t perfect, but neither is the manager and we need to have grown up conversations about both.
He’s Made No Tactical Alterations To Protect The Defence
Like most people, I was desperate for the World Cup break because I thought it would give Jürgen Klopp and his backroom team a chance to fix our defensive frailties. He had the best part of a fortnight with a large chunk of our players who didn’t end up going to Qatar, so I was excited to see how we’d perform once they got back. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that, whatever they had been working on, fixing our defensive solidity wasn’t part of it. We were poor defensively against Villa, but got away with it. We went into the Leicester City game and offered exactly the same defensive frailties, being fortunate not to concede more than one. The one that we did concede was embarrassing, such is the extent to which the Foxes all but walked past our defence with ease. This isn’t a new problem. As Joel Rabinowitz pointed out on Twitter, if you go back to last season, we have now conceded the opening goal in 14 of the last 21 Premier League matches that we’ve played in. What is the manager doing to try to fix those issues, exactly?
Liverpool have conceded 51 big chances this season, according to Opta. That is more than twice as many as the five teams above them in the Premier League table. Massive issue.
— Adam Bate (@ghostgoal) January 2, 2023
I understand that Klopp loved the high line, given how it allowed us to compress the pitch and use our intensity in the press to force mistakes out of opposition players, but we’ve lost our intensity and so all the high line is doing now is exposing our defence time and again. Teams are getting through our defence with one or two balls, meaning that we’re asking Alisson Becker to perform at an insane level if we’re to have any hope whatsoever of winning football matches. This isn’t anything new, it’s been going on since last season. We can talk all we want about a lack of investment from FSG, but what midfielder is fixing all of our problems in one foul swoop? If Jude Bellingham had started for us last night, which of Brentford’s goals don’t we concede? I think we should be signing at least one midfielder this window, but the manager has the personnel to be doing better than they are but isn’t changing our tactics to work with what he’s got, instead setting up for the players that he wishes we had, which is not helpful to anyone.
Elliott Is A Symptom, Not A Cause
The manager needs to find a way to offer the defensive unit better protection, which persisting with Harvey Elliott isn’t doing. Don’t get me wrong, I am far from blaming everything that is happening on the youngster, but the manager’s insistence on playing him isn’t helping anyone. He is 19 and when he arrived at the club he was a forward. The decision to reinvent him as a midfielder hasn’t worked, yet Jürgen Klopp is continuing to pick him. We can talk all we want about investment, but the manager is choosing to start Elliott over Naby Keïta, who is the most expensive midfielder we’ve ever bought. Just as he keeps playing Elliott in midfield when it clearly isn’t working, so too is he persisting with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as part of the front three when it is clear that he doesn’t work there. He scored the goal last night but he offered very little else, as has been the case in the last few matches. I don’t necessarily think that we would have looked much better if we had swapped the two of them around last night, but at least they’d have been playing in positions that are natural to them.
Not one bit of this is a surprise. Not one bit.
— Joel Rabinowitz (@joel_archie) January 2, 2023
Everyone knew how Brentford were going to play last night, seemingly apart from the manager and his players. Harvey Elliott was always going to be overrun by Brentford’s tougher, stronger players and I can’t for the life of me fathom why he started the match. Stefan Bajčetić is only a few months younger than Elliott, but is at least a midfielder and has impressed the last few times we’ve seen him. Could we have got an hour out of Curtis Jones? Keïta is a player that I don’t rate, but plenty of others do and yet he only came on for the second-half when the game had already been taken away from us. Yes, we need more options and the owners need to be fair more generous and go into the market whilst they’ve got the chance to do so, but the manager needs to be making better decisions with the personnel that he’s got available to him. The longer he continues to pick players based on what he hopes they’re going to do rather than what they’ve shown they will do, the longer we’re going to keep struggling in these sorts of matches.
Excellent article. I have to agree with pretty much everything you’ve said here. I think our current problems are a combination of many factors not forgetting injuries to key players at pivotal moments during the season. I also think criticism of FSG is just a cheap shot from the ‘out’ brigade. They’ve invested heavily in the redevelopment whilst also bringing in players (Diaz, Nunez, Gakpo).
Hopefully this current blip in form will be sorted out and I’d really like to see a change in some tactical decision making including the high line and 4-4-3 or 4-4-2 formations. We need to reinvent ourselves some what and become a little bit unpredictable or something.
Anyway keep the faith!