This week’s Monday Verdict dissects Jurgen Klopp’s stubbornness and outlines three massive decisions facing the Liverpool boss, while Harry Kane and Stoke’s struggles are also discussed.
THREE ISSUES LIVERPOOL MUST ADDRESS ON WORST-EVER DAY FOR KLOPP
The long walk of shame taken by Dejan Lovren epitomised what was probably the single worst result and performance in recent memory for Liverpool and their crestfallen supporters.
Granted, there have been heavier defeats – the recent thumping at Manchester City serving as a quick reminder of that – but never have there been days when Liverpool have looked so outclassed by a side by whom they are meant to rival and challenge.
Questions have been raised over Jurgen Klopp’s ability to steer Liverpool through these murky waters in recent weeks; those will have increased following a display that at best could be described as defensively shocking.
Granted, they were facing a striker who in Harry Kane is absolutely at the top of his game right now (more on him later), but the kind of basic errors Liverpool’s defence made at a packed Wembley on Sunday illustrated a side, who for whatever reason, are not getting the message defensively.
These were goals, not matter how well Tottenham played, were simply avoidable. Granted, human error played it’s bad (see Lovren’s mad launching of himself for Spurs’ second) and there’s simply no accounting for the ridiculous goalkeeping of Simon Mignolet in the both the first and fourth goals.
And on the back of another inept display, I have here three drastic measures that Klopp needs to take to ensure both his survival and Liverpool’s competitiveness. Some may not be long-term answers, but in the short-term, they can hopefully cut out the sort of schoolboy blunders we’re seeing all too often.
1) The Goalkeeper issue:
Klopp’s inability to recognise Mignolet isn’t up to scratch, or sheer stubbornness to replace him, could be the single-biggest factor in the club’s downturn in form this season.
Quite simply, the Belgian has proved time and again he’s not capable of the consistent goalkeeping needed by the top sides. Football fans, pundits, observers everywhere have known for some time the Belgian isn’t up to it, so why hasn’t Klopp.
Solution: Sadly this is probably only a short-term one for Klopp, but with Loris Karius proving himself little more than a Mignolet mark II, the time to play the largely-untested Danny Ward is here. After a strong season with Huddersfield last season, Klopp and Liverpool could do far worse. At least he’ll be hungry to impress and can honestly not do much worse than his two rivals.
2) Axe Dejan Lovren:
It seems harsh to pin all the blame for Sunday’s defeat on one man, but Lovren’s basic errors would look bad at any level, let alone the so-called pinnacle of the English game. In an ever-inflated market, Liverpool look like they’d struggle to reclaim the £20million spent on the Croatian, and that tells it’s own story.
Liverpool’s best central defender under Klopp’s regime was probably Mamadou Sakho – a player the German fell out with and vehemently refused to recall to his side. Again that stubbornness could prove costly.
Solution: There’s little Liverpool can do now other than try and give Joe Gomez a run of games in central defence. It’ll be sick or swim as far as his career is concerned, but again, can he be any worse than Lovren? In truth though, Klopp needs to buy a centre-half in January. If he tries unsuccessfully for Virgil van Dijk again, fine, but this time, sign someone else if the Dutchman can’t be brought in.
3) Change the system or accept Jordan Henderson isn’t good enough:
Occasionally Henderson can look like a decent midfielder, but the system Liverpool play simply means the Reds skipper can look lost in the centre of the park and can let the big occasions get the better of him.
He works hard, yes; on his day, he’s a decent passer of the ball, yes. Given the way Liverpool play though, some of their midfielders or forced (by design rather than choice) to hang back and protect the defence; the fact that falls upon Henderson illustrates how he’s not up to the task.
Nor is he dynamic enough, in the way Steven Gerrard (that’s not a slight on Henderson by the way because few ever can be) and Liverpool’s midfield with him in the side has simply become irrelevant.
Solution: Naby Keita’s arrival (be it the summer, or as rumoured, in January) at least gives Liverpool midfield hope. Henderson will probably be the fall-guy once the Guinean comes in and looks from what I’ve seen, he’s a much more dynamic performer and far nearer the player Gerrard was.
In truth though, Klopp may have to consider a change in formation to protect his defence and ensure his midfield have a bigger influence in games.
Klopp’s mantra of simply outscoring the opposition looks a poor one right now given the club have currently scored 14 and conceded 16 – evidence enough that it’s simply not working for them.
Perhaps the time has come for Klopp to drop one of his attackers and add bodies to his midfield as the 4-3-3 formation they’re currently operating is not working.
Sadly, it’s now no longer a case of going back to the drawing board for Klopp; it needs drastic action now and only that can save Klopp.
SOME SYMPATHY FOR LOVREN – BUT WOULD A TANTRUM HAVE HELPED?
There’s an element of me that actually felt bad for Lovren on Sunday as he made the long walk of shame back to the dugout at Wembley. Here is a player who has fought hard to salvage his Liverpool career, but sadly now is probably contemplating the end of it after his Wembley horror-show.
Lovren wasn’t the only one out-of-sorts in Liverpool’s backline; but having made the high-profile blunders, he’s the one who will likely fall for it.
The Reds defence as a unit is not working and the way in which Klopp hooked the player so early probably tells you all you need to know.
As he was hooked, I found myself contemplating whether the player should have had more of a tantrum about it; long-term it may not have done him any favours; but in the short-term, it at least would have shown Liverpool fans that he cares.
KANE QUITE SIMPLY THE BEST IN THE WORLD
Earlier this season, the debate was raging about whether Harry Kane can now be considered world-class. Not only is that debate long since over, it’s now a question of considering which No 9s in the world game are currently better than the Tottenham man right now? And the answer is, quite simply, no one.
Kane is now taking on an average of 6.5 shots per game; put into context, Alvaro Morata and Romelu Lukaku are averaging 4 shots per game, while that stat now ranks alongside the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo orbits.
There will be those who’ll say Kane will have to do it on the highest level for England next summer, but you’d argue that he already is, with Kane’s five goals in three Champions League matches so far testament to that.
Kane now has 86 goals in 122 Premier League appearances; a strike rate of a goal every 1.41 games.
The Premier League’s record goalscorer, Alan Shearer, struck 260 goals in 441 appearances; a strike rate of a goal every 1.69 games.
If Kane keeps up his current ratios, he will net 258 goals in 366 appearances; and with time on his side, looks a good bet to surpass the record.
— Alan Shearer (@alanshearer) October 22, 2017
That’s approximately six seasons from now (when Kane would still only be 30) – and assuming the player both stays fit and in the Premier League – we could, by Christmas 2023, be talking about the Premier League’s greatest ever goalscorer.
Tottenham fans quite rightly sing “He’s one of our own” about Harry Kane and quite rightly, that should make them burst with pride, particularly now as he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves.
SOMETHING FOR STOKE TO GET ‘EXCITED’ ABOUT
Here at TEAMtalk Towers, we’ve often branded Stoke the Premier League’s most boring side. Never looking likely to challenge the top echelons of the Premier League, regularly occupying the graveyard slot on Match of the Day, selected the least often for live TV coverage and seemingly, until now, never in any danger of going down.
In truth, Stoke have had a horrible start to the season, and I think their fans would agree that Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Bournemouth was more damaging than the 7-2 destruction the week before at Manchester City.
The Potters have lost five of their past six in all competitions and temporarily slipped into the Premier League drop zone on Saturday following the defeat, only for Everton’s home thumping by Arsenal to elevate them up one spit again.
Their steady approach to life in the Premier League is the envy of many clubs and one any promoted team should aspire to.
And speaking this weekend, midfielder Joe Allen believes that stability will help the club escape peril this season.
“That (stability) is what this club prides itself on, it’s one of the reasons why I wanted to join,” the Welsh midfielder said.
“They do things right here. They’re a very stable club and without making rash decisions over time, these things work out for the best.”
However, with a growing portion of supporters feeling Mark Hughes has taken them as far as he can, should Stoke abandon that steady philosophy for their own good?
Ultimately, it would be a pretty big shock if Hughes went any time soon, and more so, if Stoke’s struggles continued. But having witnessed Saturday’s setback against the Cherries, it looks like a long, bumpy season in the Potteries. And for the wrong reasons, it seems Stoke’s ninth season in the Premier League might see the club grab a bigger share of the limelight.