Why Klopp’s Approach To The FA Cup Was The Right One

There are plenty of reasons to be excited about last night. The future of Liverpool Football Club looks very bright if the performances from the likes of Harvey Elliott, Sepp van den Berg and Curtis Jones are anything to go by. More than that, though, it was great to see the manner in which there is clearly joined-up thinking right the way through the club. Jürgen Klopp asks his players to play in a very specific way whilst also giving them the freedom to be themselves. That Neil Critchley has clearly instilled the same sort of attitude in his under-23 side should be admired and applauded. It means that if any of the lads need to step up and cover their first team equivalents then they’ll almost certainly be able to do so without much fuss and worry. Adam Lewis at left-back and Neco Williams on the opposite flank both look more than capable understudies to Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, for example.

Of course you wouldn’t want to have to depend on them for a period of months, but if either of them were brought into the team against, say, Bournemouth I don’t think anyone would be having kittens. It was a shame that the Shrewsbury Town manager didn’t have a touch more class after the game, making up nonsense about the Video Assistant Referee rather than applauding the work of the young lads. It helped to perpetuate a narrative that we’ve somehow benefited relentlessly from the introduction of the VAR rather than simply seen the correct decisions be made in spite of incompetent officials. To point to the VAR takes away from the magnificent achievement of these young lads, who Shrewsbury’s players attempted to bully, kick and injure rather than play football against. They deserve all of the praise that’s being showered on them this morning, but the win doesn’t alter the fact that Klopp’s approach was the right one.

He Was Making A Very Valid Point

I completely understand opposition supporters having a go at Jürgen Klopp for his decision to rest all senior players for the match last night, though I am less understanding of Liverpool fans who have been critical of him. I’ve seen more than a few people suggesting that the manager was wrong to give his senior players the week off, with many saying that the likes of Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip and Naby Keita should have played in order to get minutes into their legs. Whilst I completely understand the logic, the thing that that argument misses is that the manager was trying to make a point. There is little to no communication between the Football Association and the Premier League, so when the latter decided that this week was going to be Liverpool’s winter break they really should have communicated as much to the former. Instead the FA decided that it was fine to schedule a replay during the week that the Premier League had designated a break.

I do understand the people saying that the players that have been out with injuries should have played, it’s a lot harder to make a point if you end up doing something for your own convenience. Klopp can hardly say “It’s ridiculous that you want us to play during a period of time that you declared to be a winter break, but I’m going to start these lads because I want them to get some minutes into their legs”. If you’re going to make a point then you really have to go all out to make said point, otherwise you’ll look like a hypocrite. The Football Association certainly looked hypocritical when they decided that the tie shouldn’t be shown anywhere on TV simply out of spite. Hopefully the fact that Jürgen Klopp made the decision that he made will cause the FA and the Premier League to have a bit of a rethink next season, communicating with each other at the very least. The fact we won anyway shows up the notion of us disrespecting the cup.

It’s Experience That You Can’t Buy For The Youngsters

Ultimately, the job of Jürgen Klopp, Neil Critchley and everyone associated with Liverpool Football Club is to do the best thing possible for the club. If the Football Association and Premier League decide to get their act together next year then the manager’s decision not to allow any senior players to have anything to do with last night’s match will have been entirely justified. Even if they don’t, though, it will still have been the right thing to do. That’s because the experience that the players have gained by playing is more than money can buy. The big argument about sending players out on loan isn’t to get them game time, which they can get with inter-squad games at Melwood. It’s to get them into the rhythm of playing twice a week in games that matter and to put them up against big groks that want to kick them off the park. Whilst last night’s game didn’t give them the rhythm of weekly games it certainly mattered and it was definitely against groks.

Neil Critchley said himself that the games against Aston Villa and this one against Shrewsbury Town are worth ‘a million’ of his coaching sessions. Whilst that might well be something of an exaggeration, it’s certainly true that the players will benefit enormously from the experience. Not all of them will make it at Liverpool, yet everyone single one of them will spend the rest of their careers knowing that they won an FA Cup match in front of a sold out Anfield. I still buzz off when I got to play on the pitch in front of about ten people! Will Pedro Chirivella have enough to break into our first team? Probably not, but it’s fair to say that his stock is an awful lot higher today than it was a couple of months ago. Many people were concerned about Sepp van den Berg’s development, but he proved against Shrewsbury Town that he’s got the ability if he can develop the consistency. Jürgen Klopp made a decision for the future, in more ways than one.

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