Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat at Watford emphasised the glaring unbalance of the Reds squad. Rob Conlon suggests Jurgen Klopp is going to have to get ruthless.
If Jurgen Klopp was unaware of just how big a task he faces at Anfield before he replaced Brendan Rodgers, he certainly does now. Despite impressive victories against Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton, poor results against Crystal Palace, Newcastle, West Brom, and now Watford have highlighted the German having to work with a squad which is massively flawed.
In a match which began in farcical fashion and didn’t improve thereafter, Klopp’s emotions on the sidelines ranged from anger, to exasperation, to resignation. No doubt his frustrations were aimed at the players on the pitch, but when he has time to reflect, he is likely to question those above him.
Liverpool’s chief executive Ian Ayre and his fabled transfer committee need to accept responsibility for leaving the former Borussia Dortmund boss with a group of players which, quite frankly, isn’t good enough. That’s not to say they are bad footballers – there is plenty of talent at Anfield – but there is no sense of cohesion, direction or, dare I say it, a philosophy.
Klopp is left trying to complete a jigsaw which has lots of the same piece but none of others.
At one point in the summer, Liverpool’s squad contained five strikers. Daniel Sturridge, Christian Benteke, Divock Origi, Danny Ings and Mario Balotelli. And yet at Vicarage Road, the Reds started with a forward line of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana, all of whom would ideally occupy the same area of space behind an out-and-out striker.
Meanwhile, they only possess one genuine winger in youngster Jordon Ibe, while the quintet of James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, Lucas Leiva, and Joe Allen all offer similar traits in midfield – tidy on the ball, decent energy, but little goal threat.
With the error-prone Dejan Lovren ruled out at Vicarage Road, once fellow centre-half Martin Skrtel also became injured, Klopp had to turn to Lucas to plug the gap in the heart of his defence, as he clearly does not trust Kolo Toure, who is long past his best.
And to top everything off, second choice goalkeeper Adam Bogdan – who many fans have called on to start in place of Simon Mignolet – started the horror show with a howler to gift Nathan Ake the opener. Clearly something is amiss when Heurelho Gomes is the most assured goalkeeper on the pitch.
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No wonder Klopp is struggling to work out how to craft an efficient outfit, but it may be time that he decides exactly how he wants his Liverpool side to play, and force the players to adapt to his methods, rather than vice versa.
This may mean some players may have to be sold in January to streamline the squad, and leave the 48-year-old with a simpler puzzle to solve.
Sunday’s papers suggested one of those who could be sacrificed is Benteke, with Chelsea his reported suitor, and if the player is struggling to fit in under Klopp, then perhaps it’d be in the best interests of all parties if the player was allowed to move on.
The transfer committee – which, it must be said, included Rodgers – has failed miserably at Anfield. If the Liverpool hierarchy want Klopp to return the Reds to glory, then they are going to have to let him mould his own group of players.
Klopp’s tactics cannot escape criticism too. Yes, he reacted to Liverpool’s lack of an outlet by bringing on Origi for the injured Skrtel – but by then the damage had been done and the dye had been cast. He will learn more as he gathers experience of life in the Premier League, but for now, the German might want to reconsider his claim last weekend that he’ll give his current squad the chance to prove themselves this season.