Jürgen Got It Wrong – Then He Got It Right

The Europa League starts on Thursday and I think the team that the manager picks will be quite instructive regarding where his head is at. On the one hand, we’ve got a good enough squad this season, at least in midfield and attack, to mean that he can take it quite seriously. On the other hand, we’ve started our Premier League campaign well enough to mean that we could well be involved in the title conversation if we’re able to keep going along the same lines we’ve been on for the past 15 matches in all competitions. We know from Champions League dead rubbers in the past that Jürgen Klopp doesn’t tend to take Europe all that lightly, albeit that is the top competition whilst the Europa League is its less important sibling. He has the ability to wring the changes without weakening the team too much but also being able to give some of the key players a rest. The question is, will he take it? Will Mo Salah fly to Austria for our match against LASK, for example?

It isn’t out of the realms of the possible that Virgil van Dijk will start, considering the fact that the Dutchman has missed a couple of our games due to suspension and could do with getting his match fitness back up. Otherwise, though, I’m not sure I want to see any of the players you’d call ‘starters’ in the lineup to face the Austrian side. Not only is it about protecting our top players, it’s also about rewarding the squad players that have been patiently biding their time. It looks as though Ibrahima Konaté and Virgil will both be back for our next league game, so it would be nice to see Jarrell Quansah rewarded for his recent performances with a start in Europe. Ultimately, of course, the manager will know how he wants the season to pan out and will be using us squad accordingly. For my part, I have my eyes firmly on the league title and believe that we can be the ones to challenge 115 Charges FC for it this time around, as long as we get our priorities right.

Our Starting XI v Wolves Was Wrong

I am 100% on the side of the manager when it comes to 12.30pm kick-offs. Whilst I personally would see them abandoned altogether and the 3pm blackout removed, I realise that I’m unlikely to get my way any time soon. As a result, 12.30pm matches aren’t going anywhere any time soon. That’s fine. That is the right of the broadcasters, who pay a lot of money for the right to show football games. My issue, as I imagine is also the case for the manager, is that when Liverpool play Everton at 12.30pm after the next international break, it will be the 13th time that we’ve had that time slot (or the 12.45pm one, as it used to be) in the Jürgen Klopp era. The next closest teams to us are Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, who’ve had to play the lunchtime kick-off straight after international matches on six occasions. In other words, we will have suffered the early kick off more than double any other team. How is that fair or right? No wonder the manager is fed up over it.

The problem is, when he moans about the early kick-off, having referred to it as ‘playing at breakfast’ in the past, the players will also have it in their heads that it isn’t fair or right. It is perhaps no surprise, therefore, that we seem to start these games really slowly. That is exactly what happened against Wolverhampton Wanderers and we were poor in the first-half. I am not sure the manager got his team selection right, with the decision to start Alexis Mac Allister a bit of a mad one considering he’d been on oxygen about three days before when Argentina played Bolivia. I understand the German’s reluctance to throw Ryan Gravenberch into the starting XI given the fact that he hadn’t even played in the Premier League at that point, but Harvey Elliott was a midfield mainstay last season and has performed well when he’s come off the bench so far in this campaign. If the manager thinks 12.30pm kick-offs are a problem, starting lads who flew in a day before maybe wasn’t the best decision.

The Subs Were Excellent

I am quite sure that if Jürgen Klopp ever read this, the first thing he’d point out is that he wouldn’t have had such a strong bench if he’d gone with a different starting XI. Luis Diaz, for example, had started for Colombia against Chile on the Wednesday, so had he started and struggled I’d have been saying the same thing about him that I’ve just said about Mac Allister. As it was, he was able to come on at half-time and completely change the shape of the game. It changed the system and gave us more speed up front, allowing the defence to be under less pressure. In the wake of the game, the manager said that it was ‘like we had just met in the car park before the game’ due to our organisation in the first-half. Given the makeup of the defence, that isn’t actually a bad description of what might have happened. In the second 45, the players were much more on the same wavelength and we were able to take the game to the hosts, earning a deserved win.

There is an extent to which I’m not sure that Cody Gakpo offers what we need from him in this Liverpool setup. The Dutchman scored, but he rarely offered anything else during his time on the pitch and isn’t the sort of attacker that is likely to cause defences too much concern, such is the extent to which he shows little desire to run in behind them. The change to Darwin Núñez, therefore, was like night and day. Darwin is an agent of chaos, yes, but he’s also so willing to do all of the things that defenders absolutely do not want to see. Elliott is a player that some people have decided they don’t like, in spite of the fact that he’s young, very good, learning all of the time and clearly cares about the club. He has made a difference in both this game and the Newcastle one lately, so is obviously an excellent option to have. There are some brilliant young players in Liverpool’s squad now, to say nothing of lads that will feel like they have plenty to prove. Let them prove it all, I say.

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