So after the Christmas period, things looked good for Liverpool in the league. Jürgen Klopp and his team had an EFL Cup semi final to look forward to, with the prospect of yet another final appearance in the League Cup for Jürgen Klopp in his short reign at the club so far.
Liverpool, firstly had an FA Cup tie with lower league Plymouth to contend with. This should have been a game that was to start Liverpool on what many fans thought would be an easy January.
To say the cups ruined Liverpool’s season may sound far fetched but, also it’s really as simple as that.
So far this season we had been playing fine attacking football, with an intensity that seemed to be too much for most teams to handle and which lead to us being top scorers in the league.
Pundits kept rattling on about Liverpool having a huge advantage in the league this season, as we were not involved in Europe and usually had only the one game each week.
Partly true I guess, when ya look at it, but a lot of fans are blaming the fixture congestion in January for Liverpool’s sudden slump in form, and our season is now looking like it’s holding on by a thread.
Myself I prefer to take the line that the cups ruined our season, not because of the extra games involved. No. I believe that the deployment of the youngsters and second string players in these cup games is what derailed our season.
With the type of football we play confidence and the high energy is crucial to our game plan.
Our midfield usually puts in a huge shift in winning the ball and supplying the attacking players, which is what we thrive on.
When Jürgen Klopp decided to play the kids against Southampton in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi final he took a chance and paid the price.
If you want to see the youth given a chance that’s ok but don’t destroy the make up and influence of a team by playing too many of them together.
As a result they were very poor in every aspect we have come to associate the first 11 with this season.
Sheyi Ojo, Ovie Ejaria and Ben Woodburn were particularly poor in the Southampton defeat, although they were not the only ones.
Loris Karius kept the tie alive with a string of fine saves which meant the tie could have been over before we even got back to Anfield.
My point in all this is, the youth players don’t fully know the system yet and are not close to being ready for it either from what we’ve seen.
Was it worth it though to stick with it after such a poor first attempt?
I think he should have restored his first choice XI after the Saints game for the rest of the cup games.
If a player was tired rest him but I don’t believe there would have been any players knocking on the managers door to complain about being tired after the Christmas period we had.
It was more important for our season to try to keep momentum and confidence high rather than to risk it all on a few cup games.
We could have seen Woodburn and co given time in those games but more carefully thought out and at the right times also.
Thirty minutes here and there would be the way to go for me. Not play them all at once. Trickle them into games, rather than throw them in the deep end.
The same youth players went into those games with good reports about their progress and would have been high in confidence but since they have been criticised, I’m sure they’ve taken a hit confidence wise.
So would our season look better right now had the youth players had a smaller role in January and the cup games?
Yes I think so. I also think they could have gained a more useful experience for themselves in their development had they not been lumbered with the responsibility of maintaining our cup runs this season, a big responsibility for small shoulders.
Now as we resume league business the first Xi are back and are left with a legacy for the most part they didn’t deserve (a few players did) of trying to get back to business in the style we are used to playing.
The game against run away leaders Chelsea was maybe the perfect chance to get back on track away and although the performance may not have been great the result will have steeled the team again. We’ll not mention Hull.
Maybe we were so far ahead of schedule that our slump has masked the fact that Champions League football is and always was the main target.
Klopp will have learned what his youngsters can do by now. Lesson learned maybe?
Maybe he didn’t really want to put so much into the cups this season and that’s why he went with the selections he did, but no one could have seen the underlying result of those selections either.
Written by @StephenKing75