A few weeks ago, Jürgen Klopp was the cream of the crop in the red corner of Merseyside. Now it seems there is a section of discontent being aimed towards the German manager, following a run of three straight defeats and one win in seven.
Why Liverpool fans need to see the bigger picture
Similar scenes were present at the Etihad Stadium as Pep Guardiola suffered the wrath of Manchester City supporters, following a similar patch of sketchy results.
There are issues with Liverpool at present, but they’re not definitive. The question still lingers; what is currently wrong with the club?
The obvious answer is that the players are tired. Klopp’s philosophy is demanding and the club must outwork the opposition every single week. In terms of work ethic, if little else, Sean Dyche and Klopp have a common denominator. When Dyche first took Burnley into the Premier League, there were signs of fatigue in the January months as 2-0 leads to Crystal Palace and West Brom were squandered.
It takes time for players’ stamina to reach this kind of level. So it is very possible, with a similarly thin squad, that the players may be feeling the strain a little.
The loss of Sadio Mané
Sadio Mané’s pace was a real boost when Liverpool piled forward. The technical wizardry of Phillipe Coutinho and Adam Lallana were complimented nicely as Mané could stretch defences, which would allow more space for them to weave their magic. Without that speed, it means defensive setups can be much more firm, as they are not being pulled from side to side.
The key to playing against Liverpool really was demonstrated in the second week of the season. The Clarets had a mere 19% possession of the ball but sat deep in a cohesive structure; often Liverpool don’t have a recognised holding midfielder so Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum move forward. In turn, when springing a counter-attack, the midfield is often bypassed and the frailties of the defence are exposed.
But how good is a defence? Chelsea’s is excellent, but it’s shielded by N’Golo Kanté and Nemanja Matic. Liverpool’s midfielders are largely forward-thinking, so when they play the bigger teams, they can deploy the high-press very effectively and it is often successful.
Even so, it is something that Klopp will have to address. Liverpool need to be quicker with the ball to break through these structures, but that will only come with time. Even then, playing too quickly leads to rashness in passing and again will play into the hands of opponents looking to counter.
Stubbornness in the transfer market?
One criticism that has flown in is Klopp’s reluctance to buy in January. Klopp is a man-manager. He sees his players regularly on the training ground and he sees that he can improve what he already has. Why shouldn’t fans believe that? He has morphed Adam Lallana into the excellent creative player Brendan Rodgers thought he had signed.
James Milner has been solid in an unfamiliar left-back position; Roberto Firmino has been reborn as a false nine. And let’s not forget the development he made with Borussia Dortmund players, like enhancing Robert Lewandowski from an unknown prodigy to one of Europe’s best strikers.
Some have commented that a new goalkeeper is a necessity, despite the summer arrival of Loris Karius. Karius is a potentially excellent goalkeeper and needs time to settle into the league. He was rated as one of the Bundesliga’s best shot-stoppers but has struggled thus far, perhaps due to the physicality of the Premier League. He is the typical Klopp signing.
There are parallels with David de Gea at Manchester United only a few seasons ago. The Spain number one lacked power in his wrists and overall body frame, which lead to an uncertain first season at Old Trafford. His quality was always there, he just needed to adjust to the league and improve physically. Fans should be patient.
Keep the faith
Jurgen Klopp finished outside the top four in his first two seasons at Borussia Dortmund, and in the next two they won the title twice. The key word is patience; greatness comes from small beginnings.