If we’re all honest with ourselves, things don’t look particularly great right now. Watching Liverpool host Chelsea on Saturday, I was struck with the thought that neither side looks likely to trouble the top four this season. Unless there is a dramatic turn around in fortunes, there is next to no chance that we’ll be playing Champions League football later in the year. I can see a world in which Chelsea manage to get their act together, largely owing to the fact that many of their players are young and quick. Dropping in to watch parts of the match between Manchester United and Arsenal yesterday, I was struck by how much like us of previous seasons the Gunners looked. Fast in transition, closing down their opponents and keeping going right up until the final moment; all things that we’ve lost from our style of play during this campaign. It is troubling, not least because this manager and group of players deserve so much more than it looks like they’re going to get.
A game very much worthy of 9th and 10th in the Premier League #LFC
— Charlotte Coates (@CACoates96) January 21, 2023
The proliferation of sports washing in the Premier League is such that soon Newcastle United will join Manchester City in being constants in the top four positions. Rumours that Qatar are likely to invest in Manchester United means that they will return to being what they once were, whilst Arsenal’s sensible growth and development as a football team suggests that they are unlikely to go anywhere. There are plenty that would love to see the Reds become a sports washing operation, though the FSGOUT protest that was planned for the weekend predictably came to nought. For me, the idea of being a plaything of a murderous regime is a definite no. Where does it stop? We know that the Saudis murdered and dismembered Jamal Khashoggi. It is public knowledge that being LGBTQ+ is illegal in Qatar. Is it only if a journalist is murdered on the pitch or a gay person is banned from entering Anfield that we’ll kick up a fuss? It is a slippery slope I don’t want to go down.
It Feels Like Jürgen Has Lost His Way
One of the things that I’ve found most alarming this season is the manner in which Jürgen Klopp seems to have lost himself at times. The manager has always been stubborn, but that is a blessing as much as it is a curse. In the season when we had no defenders, for example, he steadfastly refused to consider the idea that either bringing some in on loan or else using those that we already had in our ranks might be a good idea. When he eventually changed his mind on that front, it made a huge difference and allowed us to get our season back on track. In recent times, he has not looked beyond Harvey Elliott on the right of the midfield, which has caused us problems when the youngster has struggled and looked like a boy up against a team of men. The team that he played against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup replay finally seemed to acknowledge that doing the same thing over and over again wasn’t working, so I thought we’d turned a corner.
🗣️ "There was a door, I'm not even sure it was open, but he ran through it and he was exceptional".
— Empire of the Kop (@empireofthekop) January 22, 2023
When I saw the lineup for the Chelsea game, I was delighted. Stefan Bajčetić has given some mature performances so far in his burgeoning career at a time when Fabinho Tavares has looked well off the pace, whilst Naby Keïta has also impressed off the bench. Though I’ve yet to be convinced by what Cody Gakpo is going to bring to the table, that is couched in the information that he’s joined a side that can best be described as dysfunctional. That being said, all of the reports I read before he arrived were that he was best operating from the left, so him on that side, Elliott on the right and Mo Salah through the middle seemed like an excellent starting point to me. Except, we didn’t get to see that. Instead, Salah remained stuck out on the right where he is entirely ineffective, Elliott was on the left, which has never been his favoured side, and Gakpo was trying to figure out where he fits in this team whilst snatching at the scraps that he was being fed on.
Things Don’t Seem Right From Top To Bottom
I can’t even begin to pretend to know what is going on at Liverpool at the moment. I’m not an ‘ITK’, nor have I ever pretended to be. At the same time, I can infer from the information that we all have available to us that things aren’t right. The departure of Michael Edwards was made to seem ok because of the ability of Julian Ward to step into his shoes. The news that Ward is also going to depart therefore felt like a hammer blow, especially given the news that Ian Graham won’t be fair behind. On top of all of that, Mike Gordon, who Jürgen Klopp has a good relationship with, is being taken away from the day to day operations of the club in order to spearhead the search for new funding. The club, which was the best run in the world just a couple of years ago, is now going through a state of upheaval that means that no one knows whether they’re coming or going. Whilst we might all like to pretend it won’t be affecting the players, I don’t see how it can’t be.
Jurgen Klopp on carrying on managing:
"My motivation is no problem, I have enough energy for another 10 years if you want!"
— The Anfield Talk (@TheAnfieldTalk) January 22, 2023
Think of your own work situation. If most of the heads of department started leaving at the same time, wouldn’t you wonder what on earth was going on? The news that Fenway Sports Group are considering a sale will also have caused some upset in the dressing room, with many players wondering what their future would look like under new owners. It is little wonder, therefore, that things aren’t going well on the pitch at the same time as they are in a state of flux off it. Once again, I find myself asking: what is the plan? We are up against a combination of sports washing sides and well run clubs, with the fear being that Manchester United may soon become both. My fear is that we are sleep walking our way towards falling off a cliff, which isn’t helped by the fact that the manager seems to have lost himself. My hope is that all of this is just an overreaction on my part and the exertions of last season have taken their toll. If not, we could be in serious trouble.