When Liverpool hired Jurgen Klopp in October 2015, many fans knew that it would be a process for the German to build and develop his own team. Yet when Klopp lead the Reds to both the EFL Cup and Europa League finals in his first season; with a team that clearly wasn’t his, ambitions were raised to a new level. As a result, expectations were high entering this season, and Liverpool looked like they were ready to deliver.
A Critical Analysis of Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool
Liverpool had made a successful start to this season and found themselves second in the league, only six points of leaders Chelsea at the turn of the year. However, after a disastrous month, the Reds not only find themselves all but out of the title race, but fighting for a place in the top four. After a poor turn in form, questions have been raised about the team, and for the first time during his reign, Klopp has felt the pressure.
Lack of Squad Depth
The departure of Sadio Mané to the African Cup of Nations proved to be a huge blow for Liverpool during January. Not only were the Reds without one of their most explosive attacking threats but their squad depth, or rather lack of, was exposed. Liverpool were dealt loses against both Southampton and Wolves as they went crashing out of both domestic cup competitions.
With the younger members of the team failing to step up to the plate, an injury to starting right back Nathaniel Clyne, left a gaping hole in the Reds defence. Although 18 year old Trent Alexander-Arnold did a fairly decent job deputising, Liverpool shipped 12 goals in January, more than any other side in the top four. With squad depth proving a major issue for the Reds, this was something that needed addressing, but was ultimately ignored, in the January Transfer Window.
Reluctance to Buy Players
This area of criticism falls directly on manager Jurgen Klopp. With his side clearly needing improvement, and seemingly out of the title race, the responsibility fell on the German to improve his side. With reports suggesting that owners Fenway Sports Group had given Klopp £40 million to spend, the opportunity was clearly there to improve the squad. However, when questioned about signing players in January, Klopp refused to commit to improving the team. Consequently, the Reds are now set for the remainder of the season and arguably have the smallest squad of the top six teams; something which could prove key when challenging for a Champions League spot in May.
Signs of Improvement?
Despite it being the view of many fans that Liverpool are moving in the right direction, there are many facts that suggest otherwise. Klopp has won just 48% of his 51 games in charge of Liverpool and although that seems a respectable total, former Manchester United manager, David Moyes, was sacked after the same number of games, with a 52% win rate. In addition, Klopp has failed to improve what was already a struggling defence.
During the Reds 2013/14 title challenge, Liverpool were guilty of being the second highest scorers in the league, but also having the worst defence in the top five, one of the reasons that former manager Brendan Rodgers was removed. In similar fashion, Liverpool are the highest scorers in the league, but have shipped 28 goals already this campaign.
No ‘Plan B’
Another area Liverpool have struggled in since the turn of the year, is their inability to break down the opposing defence. In January, the Reds only managed six league goals and at times were unable to find an alternative method of breaking down teams. Liverpool failed to score more than one goal in seven of their ten games in all competitions throughout January, at times struggling to break down defensive minded teams. With opposition teams adapting to the Reds high intensity, attacking style of play, Klopp has failed to develop an alternative approach to winning games.
Despite a less than impressive start to 2017, there is room for Liverpool fans to be optimistic with Klopp and his side. During his first two seasons with Borussia Dortmund, Klopp finished 5th and 6th respectively before winning the Bundesliga in back to back seasons. Allowing the German time to develop his squad is crucial going forward, yet there will need to be more encouraging signs for the fans to regain confidence in this Liverpool team.