There will be many out there who will rail against this and say that the blame for Liverpool’s season so far lies squarely on the shoulders of the players. There will be others who think that the only conversation that we should be having is about Fenway Sports Group. Those that visit this site often will know that I’ve written about both topics in the past. Certainly the owners should have done more in the market, though I also think that what they have done has been widely underplayed. They spent money in January, for example; it’s just that the player that we signed was Cody Gakpo rather than the midfielder that we’ve all been craving. Whilst I’m of the opinion that they should have spent more, they might ask why it was that Julian Ward, Jürgen Klopp et al decided to sign a forward rather than someone for the middle of the park. When it comes to the players, I think they have grossly underperformed throughout the season and should absolutely be held to account for their performances and, more specifically, their inability to cope with adversity.
If you were marking Jürgen Klopp’s report card for the season so far, what are you giving him?
— And Could He Play (@andcouldheplay7) April 3, 2023
There is a sense that the team is disjointed and misfiring. When Trent Alexander-Arnold decided to run around the pitch like a headless chicken at one point against Manchester City, none of his teammates followed him. Personally, I think that the defender was being performative, shown by the manner in which he threw his arms around at the end. Many have told me that it was ‘the same’ as what Andy Robertson did against the same team during the 4-1 win over them in 2018. The difference, though, is that Robertson did that when we were a functioning team, knowing that his teammates would fill in for him. He was also much closer to the ball every time, whereas Trent seemed to be doing it an attempt to show up his teammates. We are broken right now and have been pretty much since the start of the season. The problem is, I’m not sure what it is that the manager has been doing to try to fix the issues that we’ve got. If you were to look at his report card for the campaign so far, I’m not sure that it would make for pretty reading.
What’s The Plan?
If I could have an honest conversation with Jürgen Klopp, the first question that I’d ask him is, “What’s the plan?” I am an idiot. I have very little idea what I’m talking about the vast majority of the time, so I’m more than happy to accept that there is a plan that I just can’t figure out. Yet from the outside looking in, I can’t for the life of me figure out what that plan is. I can understand why the German will have felt that a side that came so close to winning a quadruple last time out could, with a couple of new additions and a few tweaks, go again. Where my problem lies is that we haven’t done anything obvious to mitigate the fact that too many of those players have been under-performing. When it became clear that the midfield wasn’t doing anything to help the attack or protect the defence, with Fabinho Tavares and Jordan Henderson both struggling to press in any meaningful way, we should have changed how we were playing. When the defence was being exposed repeatedly, they should’ve been told to drop back deeper to give them more surety.
Klopp: “I’m aware of the fact that I am sitting here because of the past, not because of what we did this season…”#LFC
— Neil Jones (@neiljonesgoal) April 3, 2023
Instead, we have spent the majority of the season doing the same thing that we’ve always done. Players whose legs have very clearly gone have been told to keep pressing when they’re incapable of doing so. Yes, some of the big names in the team haven’t performed to the level that we’ve come to expect from them. Too many of the players that we’ve grown to love and adore because of not just their skill but their fight have been nowhere near the level that we’ve seen from them for the majority of their Liverpool career. Yet rather than shift and alter tactics to account for that, the manager has continued to expect something to change at some point. It has been done more in hope than expectation, but the German’s lack of pragmatism has been a major problem for us. There is no world in which we should be struggling to make the top four when you consider how good we’ve been under Klopp for so long. Here we are, though, hoping that we’ll be able to put some sort of improbable run together to sneak into a Champions League space we don’t deserve.
He’s Still The Right Man
None of this is to say that I think that he should be sacked. Aside from anything else, I have no idea which manager would be able to arrive at Anfield and do a better job than Jürgen Klopp. There is no one in the world that I think would be able to improve upon him with the players available. If we’re going to spend money to refresh the squad, which seems to be not only likely but entirely necessary, then I want the German to be the person doing just that. He’s proven that he can build a squad that can conquer the world so I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be able to do so again. Yet if we’re to improve on what we’ve seen this season, we have to have an honest conversation about the manager as much as the players and the owners. He isn’t blind to his own performances during the campaign. He knows that he’s under-performing and will be desperate to ensure that he’s better moving forward. Personally, I think one of the best places to start on that front is to mix things up in terms of the backroom staff that he gets ideas from.
Honestly, what are they doing in training, tactically?? We must be the most obvious team in the league. Surely there are better assistants/coaches to help Klopp out. #MCILIV
— A voice for the people (@kin____01) April 1, 2023
Whilst Liverpool fans are generally loathed to compliment Alex Ferguson, the reason the Scot was able to stay at the top of his game for so long was that he constantly got fresh voices in to talk to and work with. Sometimes that was because he moved them on, other times it was because they got a managerial position and left of their own free will. Regardless of the why, the end result was that Ferguson was constantly hearing new voices and being challenged in different ways. That did happen to Jürgen when Zeljko Buvac left the club, whilst Pep Lijnders was here, left and came back again. Other than the two of them and Peter Krawietz, however, there haven’t been any other voices offering him different opinions. I wouldn’t move Jürgen Klopp on even if we were in the relegation zone, but I do wonder if it’s time for the manager to ask questions about the people that are around him and look for some different opinions on how we improve things on the pitch. New players will help, but new voices will to.