Jürgen Klopp Isn’t Immune From Criticism

Before I go any further, let me be absolutely clear that I think that Jürgen Klopp is a genius. Whilst he’d be able to do what Pep Guardiola has done if given that budget, I don’t think that the Spaniard could do what Klopp has done at Liverpool, yet it’s not the German that is given due credit from most parties. What the German has achieved with the meagre budget that he’s had to work with is nothing short of sensational and I’ll forever love him for winning the European Cup and Premier League in consecutive seasons for us. I will never not have a huge amount of admiration and respect for him, but that doesn’t mean that the man is immune from criticism for what has been happening to Liverpool over the past couple of months. There is mitigating circumstance after mitigating circumstance for how this campaign has panned out, but that doesn’t excuse everything that’s happened.

I’m also at least mildly confused by the certainty with which some have said that he’s definitely the man to lead us out of this mess. I very much hope that he is, but I think there’s a big difference between hoping and knowing. I don’t think that he’s lost the dressing room or anything like that, but you can only lose matches for so long before the players start to question what you’re asking them to do. They’ll all understand the mitigating circumstances, but they won’t give the manager trust forever. He could have approached certain things differently and hasn’t, which a number of the players will be aware of and perhaps start looking for an escape route. We can’t say for certain that he’s the man to get us out of the funk that we’re currently in and at some point we need to be able to talk about his failures with a sensible head on rather than a defensive one.

Too Slow To React To Injuries

Perhaps the biggest criticism I would level at Jürgen Klopp right now is that he has been far too slow to react to the injury crisis that has enveloped Liverpool’s season. What has happened to our defence is ludicrous, barely explained by logic. Virgil van Dijk being out for the entire campaign was a huge blow, as was the loss of Joe Gomez. Once the latter was injured, the manager had to acknowledge that this wasn’t going to be a normal season but he still tried to get us playing as if his two best defenders were on the pitch. The use of midfielders in the backline was fine as a temporary measure, but the decision to carry on doing it even after we signed defenders in the January window was madness. Yes, he was hamstrung by the owners refusal to spend big and early, but it was clear that playing midfielders in defence just wasn’t working so why persist with it?

The mitigating circumstances supplied by the absence of van Dijk, Gomez and then Joel Matip for the season were all fair, but they were also known. At some point the manager should have looked at mixing things up and trying a different approach to matches instead of doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome. He did eventually change things against Fulham, but went too far in the other direction with a team selection that was best described as ‘wild’. I have been one of the people calling for the manager to play defenders in defence, but that was in order to get the likes of Fabinho into the middle, not to play with a midfield of Gini Wijnaldum, James Milner and Xherdan Shaqiri. Naby Keita looked like the best player on the pitch for an hour, but tired as you’d expect given his fitness record. Not too little, too late but too much.

He’s Lost His Way

In amongst all of the mitigating circumstances that I’ve mentioned repeatedly, we can’t forget that the man lost his mother and wasn’t allowed to return to Germany to bury her. I can’t even begin to imagine the stress and strain that that will have put on him, especially at a time when the world feels like it’s falling apart. I have no clue how you even begin to process grief in that sort of circumstance and it’s remarkable in my eyes that he’s even been able to get out of bed, let alone carry on with his job. Perhaps the football club should have learned from the mistakes of the handling of Kenny Dalglish’s grief in the wake of Hillsborough and enforced a break on him, I don’t know. All I can say is that Jürgen Klopp has been through a personal tragedy and has had to carry on as normal during that time. Whether his decision making has been compromised I wouldn’t like to speculate, but he hasn’t been himself for months.

The choice to take Mohamed Salah off against Chelsea when we were seeking a goal was an odd one, with every substitution that we made making us weaker. Yes, what the manager has to work with isn’t great, but a lot of that is by choice, given that he’s refused to sell the likes of Divock Origi and actively played him in matches when he shouldn’t have been anywhere near the squad, let alone the first-team. Prior to today, we still had a chance of finishing in the top four, even if it was an outside one. To put all of our eggs into the Champions League basket is a mad decision to make, especially given the form that we’re in, yet that’s what Klopp seems to have done. We can’t even be guaranteed to get past RB Leipzig, let alone any further in the competition. The manager is a genius, but he’s hurting right now and I’m not sure that giving him a break would be the worst thing that we could do to let him re-charge his batteries. It might be the only chance we’ve got.

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