It has been a disappointing three weeks for Jurgen Klopp’s (although not his team!!!) Liverpool side that showed great promise after a trashing of Southampton in the Capitol One Cup. The euphoria and confidence amongst the Liverpool fans and pundits alike was bordering on frenzy after that December evening on the south coast, what can this Liverpool side achieve?
What has become evident since that glorious performance (forgetting the first 20 minutes) is that this team is a work in progress that will infuriate you one minute, and send you into raptures the next moment. This was a similar feeling to last season under Brendan Rodgers, and after the phenomenal push towards our first premier league title in 2013-2014 Liverpool were pushed back down the pecking order, and Anfield became very quiet, whilst the supporters took in two of the worst performances of a Liverpool team in over 20 years, horrendously downing tools in an FA Cup semi-final to Aston Villa, who deservedly triumphed against a Liverpool team that didn’t show any heart for the occasion. That attitude reared its ugly head with a horrendous showing away to Stoke City and Liverpool got pasted 6-1. Brendan should have been relieved of his duties there and then, but the Liverpool owners saw fit to give him another go, and that as it transpired was an expensive mistake in terms of money (wasted?) and a discord between team and fans. This decision might have already cost us the entire season.
Yet this Liverpool team is capable of the exceptional but equally capable of the dire, passionless performances we seen in the Brendan Rodgers team, but now it’s happened twice in two weeks at Newcastle and again at Watford (hardly two of the fixtures fellow red fans assumed we would get no points from after that wonderful win on the south coast). Is it time for Jürgen Klopp to show tough love to some players, or does he keep counsel and keep everyone on board and get ruthless in the summer?
So who are the players that are letting him down?
To discuss this question means we have to analyse tactics. It is now very obvious what Klopp is trying to implement, with pressing high up the field and in doing so nullifying the opposition midfield. It forces opposition defenders to hoof the ball long to where our defenders easily (!) snuff out their attack. To carry out such a tactic if you like requires high energy, mobile, and physical players. Some of our players do possess the ability to do this but not for a prolonged period of time. And when one or two of these players are off it then we haven’t got the strength in the team to make up for it. To that effect two of the aforementioned players who have been off the boil are Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino. The Lallana situation worries me because this should not be a new roll for him to carry out. But his inability to do it week in week out (which would make him some player by the way also on the international level) begs the question is he ever going to make the grade at Anfield, and what is the cost of that failure?. With Firmino it is particularly puzzling, some of his footwork is dazzling, but him playing at the fore of a false 9 formation is not working. Physically he is still adapting so the jury is out on him, I still think he can be effective in a number ten role, and be the feeder if you like, and mix that role with Phillipe Coutinho. Which brings us on the next topic, who will be the out and out striker(s)?
Christian Benteke looks like a striker that will never be the automatic first choice, the club forked out a lot of money for him, he has obvious potential, but doesn’t look like the striker that wants to get in behind the back four, nor does he look comfortable with his back to goal. So I don’t know what Rodgers was thinking about here, because if the managers style of play was to include Benteke then he would have added wingers to the line up that will feed him with crosses, but so far with Benteke he is more effective using his head to defend set pieces rather than knock one in himself. I still think there is time for him to make his mark at Anfield, but Jürgen Klopp has to come up with a system to include him as a focal point, and I for one can’t see that happening. It looks like Christian Benteke is a confidence player and if he doesn’t get that playing under Jürgen Klopp then his stay will not be long at Anfield. He is getting the opportunities (noticeably against Newcastle) and did little to justify his selection.
If only we had a fit Daniel Sturridge, now that’s a striker who knows where the net is, and has a fantastic scoring record in a red shirt, we just need to keep him fit, and I suspect that Klopp will sign a new striker if not in January then in the summer, to hopefully have a sort of psychological affect with Daniel Sturridge, because although not in anyway a medical expert it seems a lot of Daniels problems are between the ears. Getting a fit Daniel Sturridge on the field must be high up on the new years resolution of Jürgen Klopp.
Bloody Set pieces?
Why can’t we defend them, and why we can’t score from them?
The only answer here is training, training, training. Give the opposition nothing easy, if they have to score then let be right through us, in a moment of skill, or something inspirational but it looks so unprofessional to concede from a corner or a free kick, it costs us so many points already this season that it has to be looked at aswell as the goalkeeping situation sadly. A goalkeeper for me is only as good as the defenders in front of him, at least that was the message drummed into me during my football career. But, when your keeper begins to make mistakes all by himself then it erodes the confidence in that keeper by the defence also.
It looks to me that there are no real leaders in the backline, okay Mamadou Sakho does a lot of screaming, but I miss the real leadership of a Jamie Carragher or dare I say it a Sami Hyppia. With the latter we could well do with on our coaching staff, trying to make us more formidable and harder to break down at the back. The foundation of the team must be right, Gérard Houllier had it, Rafa Benitez perfected it, and it hasn’t been right since. We need a new leader at the back, and it could be the case that Martin Skrtel could become a squad player. We need agility, and speed in a center back, but the desire is critical, and I see that with Nataniel Clyne and Albertoö Moreno but the center back pairings and individual mistakes are killing us almost weekly.
It appears to me that one or two midfielders are getting their game at the moment but are not justifying their selection. For all the energy that Emre Can displays in the midfield it is all so often with no end product as he over runs the ball down the channel or doesn’t give the simple pass. A lot is expected of him as we hyped him up as one of the better signings by Brendan Rodgers in the summer of 2014-2015. He needs to step it up, and show some of the attributes that have got him into the German national team. The last three games he has gone missing, and has made poor passes and mistakes leading to goals against us. With the right coaching there is no reason not to believe that Emre can grow into some player for us, but for now he is very inconsistent and we must be patient (case in mind, that outrageous pass for Daniel Sturridge that evening on the south coast, to the loss of possession to Watford’s third goal last Sunday).
Then there is the curious case of James Milner, I have admired his tenacity for many a season, his fight for the cause, and although not a naturally gifted player, he puts in a shift for the team. He also has suffered inconsistency this season. I wonder is this really because he is that kind of player and his weaknesses have been covered up playing for Manchester City or is he just a bit off the boil. Either way a lot will be expected of him in the second half of the season. Then we have Jordan Henderson, who is some way off the required match fitness but he needs to step up also. The captains armband at Liverpool is a great honour that comes with a lot of expectation. When the chips are down I would expect the captain to pick the whole team up, and drive them on through your own performance, that performance of Jordan Henderson against Watford was not a captains performance.
Jürgen Klopp has to ne given time to build his team. I heard some supporters already writing off this season. I think that is ridiculous, we are in all cup competitions, but in the space of a month we could be knocked out of all of them. Liverpool football club exists because of its bond with the supporters, that bond was ever so evident in the run in to the 2013-2014 Premier League title race. Those scenes now seem a long time ago, and the crowd at Anfield have become a more pessimistic group, so the aftermath of the Brendan Rodgers reign is still evident around the ground. But remember that this team is still Brendans team, so until Jürgen Klopp can address this (and he will!) then try and be patient. He will get us right, I just hope he will given the funds to buy the players he needs, as well as having the respect and standing in the game to entice players away from London to settle on Merseyside. There is plenty to play for this season, there will be inconsistencies along the way, but it will be like this until Klopp has had time to stamp his authority. I believe he needs six players to turn us around. A goalkeeper (Jack Butland would be nice), a central defender or two (Mats Hummels), a left winger (hasn’t been seen at Anfield since John Barnes), a central midfielder (who can dictate the pace of the game), a striker who can carry the burden when Daniel Sturridge is sidelined.
There is room for improvement, we have the right guy to take us there. His enthusiasm is infectious, and I think we will soon see the ruthless side of Jurgen Klopp!