Liverpool – what’s going on?

FF Flay
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What has gone wrong at Liverpool Football Club? I want to start by clarifying that, as a fan, I haven’t called for Jürgen Klopp to be sacked or to leave, but I have asked the question “At what point do we start seriously considering Klopps position?” and I don’t think it is out of order or unsupportive to ask that.

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Throughout this article I will look at the varying factors for Liverpools current issues and attempt to explain where I, from my own point of view, think the club has gone wrong.

Today is Friday 5th March 2021, Liverpool are seventh in the League, and if Tottenham beat Aston Villa in their game in hand, or Aston Villa win their games in hand against Tottenham and Everton, we could be eighth with the same amount of games played as everyone else. We were top of the table on 1st January 2021, 2 months & 5 days later we are seventh, with the potential to be eighth, that drop is not good enough for any team in the Premier League, let alone the current champions of England.

Our results since we were top; played 11, won 3, drawn 1, lost 7, obtaining 10 points out of a possible 33, scoring 10 and conceding 15. Prior to this run our record for the season stood at played 16, won 9, drawn 6, lost 0, obtaining 33 points out of a possible 48, scoring 25 and conceding 20.

Our remaining fixtures are against Fulham (H), Wolves (A), Arsenal (A), Aston Villa (H), Leeds (A), Newcastle (H), Manchester United (A), Southampton (H), West Brom (A), Burnley (A) & Crystal Palace (H) which equates to 33 points left to play for, I’m looking at that and thinking 24 points should be a minimum requirement in my opinion. If our final 11 games mirror our last 11 games with 7 losses, do we then start questioning Klopp and his position?

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Liverpool were brilliant in the 2019/20 season, especially prior to the break caused by the pandemic, but it was Sir Alex Ferguson who said:

“only true champions come out and show their worth after defeat”

No-one can say this Liverpool side are showing their worth right now, but why is that? I can’t help but look at this Liverpool squad and believe there is not enough competition to drive those in the first eleven to keep their shirt. I don’t think it was any secret that our first eleven are top tier man-for-man, but there is no back-up that can challenge them and it’s natural for complacency to sink in, if you have worked as hard as they have over the past two seasons, winning the Champions League and finishing 2nd in the Premier League with 97 points in 2018/19, before winning the Premier League with 99 points in 2019/20.

Signings

It is completely understandable that as a human being, without competition, you become complacent and the majority of signings made since winning the Premier League have not been good enough.

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Konstantinos Tsimikas, by all accounts, should be the man pushing Andy Robertson for a starting place, yet he’s played 6 minutes in the League so far, the last 6 minutes of the 4-1 defeat to Manchester City on the 7th February 2021. 

Tsimikas signed with a big reputation, Greece’s big hope for the future, a star at left-back as Olympiakos won the SuperLeague in 2018/19 & 2019/20, but even after the Brighton game on the 28th November and Klopp rallied for the introduction of five substitutes to be allowed, saying “If we’d had five subs today, then 100 per cent I would have taken Andy Robertson off.

I had Kostas Tsimikas on the bench, so he can play there for 15, 20 minutes or whatever” Klopp proceeded to start Robertson in 20 of the following 22 games, benching him in a dead-rubber match vs Midtjylland, although still bringing him on for the last half-hour, and leaving him on the bench for the FA Cup third round match vs Aston Villas Under 23’s, what really was the point in signing Tsimikas? Either he’s not good enough and the ones in charge of recruitment have made an error, or he is, but Klopp wants to play Robertson at every opportunity, even after complaining that he wanted to give him a rest… I’m not sure of the answer but something is not right with this signing.

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Next we have the signing of Thiago Alcantara, in the 2019/20 season he amassed 40 appearances for Bayern Munich, scoring 3 times with 2 assists and picking up 10 yellow cards, yet he was seen as the answer to unlocking the teams that play with a low block? He can pass the ball, don’t get me wrong, but Liverpool have been known for their incredible pressing game in recent seasons, however, the midfield signing of a 29-year-old not known for his pressing game or goal involvements is baffling. I think we are lucky with the emergence of Curtis Jones, a major plus point in a so-far disappointing season, but I think we can all agree that Thiago is, and never was, the answer and has added very little to a title-winning side. 

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The third signing was Diogo Jota, a big tick for the recruitment team, he was what was required, a genuine challenger to our attacking players, with 5 goals in 10 in the Premier League & 4 in 6 in the Champions League (9 goals in 18 games total) it’s a genuine shame he has missed 16 matches through injury since breaking into the side. When you compare Jota’s stats with Roberto Firmino (6 goals & 7 assists in 37 games) & Sadio Mané (11 goals & 5 assists in 34 games) you can’t argue against Jota deserving of a place in the starting eleven and bringing high quality competition to a front 3 that were never in danger of losing their places previously.

Michael Edwards has been lauded for how he has performed in the transfer market, and rightly so. Since November 2016 when he became Sporting Director, he has been a major part in the signings of Mohamed Salah, Andy Robertson, Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri & Diogo Jota, while recouping some lovely fees for Mamadou Sakho, Philippe Coutinho, Danny Ward, Dominic Solanke & Rhian Brewster, but he’s also been a major part in the signings of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain & Naby Keïta for big fees, as well as Takumi Minamino who never seemed up to standard, not to mention the recent signings of Ben Davies, who hasn’t played a minute, and Ozan Kabak, who started his Liverpool career with 3 bookings in his first 3 games and doesn’t look built to be a centre-back or be at the required standard of a centre-back for a top team. 

Let’s not forget that Kabak’s first full season was the 2019/20 season when Schalke conceded 58 goals, finishing 12th in an 18-team League, while this season Kabak had played 14 games for a Schalke side who are currently bottom, by 8 points and at the time of Kabak’s signing Schalke were 9 points from safety, had conceded the most goals in the League by 14 and kept 5 clean sheets in the 36 games he had played in over the past two seasons.

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Ozan Kabak, and Ben Davies, have not shown anything to suggest they are near the required standard for Liverpool Football Club, and in a window where the club NEEDED defensive reinforcements, they brought in Ozan Kabak, who has taken game time away from Nathaniel Phillips, a defender I don’t think has done much wrong when called upon, and Ben Davies, who hasn’t been afforded a minutes game time thus far, and you struggle to see when Davies may be given an opportunity, if he’s given one at all.

injuries

I will end with the elephant in the room, the injuries suffered so far this season. My first thought is, why let Dejan Lovren go and not bring in a fourth centre-back? I wouldn’t mind betting that Klopp never intended to use Nathaniel Phillips or Rhys Williams this season so to go into the 2020/21 season with just Joël Matip, Joe Gomez & Virgil van Dijk is a bit of a head-scratcher.  Were the prospect of injuries considered? It is extremely unfortunate that all 3 have had serious injury issues, but what would the plan of been if one had just got injured, go through the season with the same two game-in, game-out, it’s been a very confusing situation from the start.

Current injuries are to the 3 centre-backs, Naby Keïta & Jordan Henderson but other injuries have occurred throughout the season with Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Thiago, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri, DiogoJota, Sadio Mané & Mohamed Salah all missing games so far this season. Some of those injured players listed aren’t unexpected as some have been injury prone during their time at the club, but some may have come due to the amount of games they have played, or being played in games that many could consider meaningless, and for that, the fault has to lay at the door of Klopp for the lack of different options used, or the recruitment team and Michael Edwards for not bringing in good enough options to displace the main starting eleven.

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An issue some may mention, is one of Klopp’s mother passing in January, but this isn’t an issue I think should be linked to Liverpool’s drop in form, it’s a personal matter with Klopp himself and is not something anyone should be using as an excuse or reason for a teams struggles on the pitch in my opinion.

Overall, the question of what has gone wrong seems an easy one to answer, injuries, but Football is a team game, you don’t just have eleven players, you have a squad, and if the squad isn’t good enough as a whole to continue the progress of the last two seasons, you have to look at those at the top of the club. I don’t think you can solely blame injuries, I think the planning for this season is a major contributing factor and while you may not be able to foresee as many injuries as we have suffered, you can plan for a stronger squad to take you through a season.

As fans we revel in the joy of success, and deservingly applaud those that bring it to us, but it seems frowned upon to question their role when things aren’t going too well, the success of the past earns you time in the present, is that how it should be? What if Liverpool finish mid-table this season and don’t win the Champions League, should a Manager be allowed to stay on because he has had success in previous seasons? 

Jürgen Klopp deserves this season as a whole, and I think if an improvement is seen in the remaining 11 games, he would have earnt next season in charge, but if there’s no improvement, 22+ games of going downhill is a very slippery slope and I’m not sure I would be following him down that slippery slope with 100% confidence, but the beauty of our game is we never know what is around the corner so for now, I’m 100% Klopp in, but in my opinion, there’s no getting away that the majority of what has gone wrong is due to the people at the top of the club in Jürgen Klopp & Michael Edwards.

Here’s hoping they learn from this season and use it as a catalyst to propel us towards to the top of the Premier League in 2021/22! At the end of the day I am a fan, just like everyone else, and having enjoyed such success in recent seasons and enjoying the high standards Liverpool Football Club had set themselves, to see them fall so far short hurts. Like every fan, I just want the best for my club, and right now, I do firmly believe that is Jürgen Klopp.

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