Could Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp have foreseen the laboured draw at Sunderland on Monday?
Klopp was almost shell-shocked after his Liverpool side spurned the lead twice to draw 2-2 with the Black Cats.
The German, who was almost over-confident in the build-up and promised fans his men “would deliver” at the Stadium of Light, was at a loss to explain his side’s shortcomings against a side heavily-tipped to be relegated.
His men didn’t deliver and post-match comments for the most part were almost gibberish.
“I am not able to explain it because I don’t know exactly what I saw, my team were fighting but I wasn’t sure if they could do it.” Klopp told BBC Sport in the immediate aftermath.
“We can play better football but I’m not sure if you can play better with that break. I don’t know how it feels when you have to do the things you have to do today.
“I told the players if nobody wanted to play I would never speak about and not tell anyone, but nobody came and that was a good thing.
“About the football we played, I actually have no idea how to speak about it.”
Klopp later though claimed his lack of experience of the Premier League’s fixture scheduling may have caught him out as Jermain Defoe scored twice from the spot to deny his side all three points.
On the face of it that sounds like a plausible excuse, but Klopp has faced tough scheduling before, although not quite the two games in under 48 hours which his men had to contend with against Man City and Sunderland.
Last Christmas Klopp’s men had a three-match schedule in eight days which saw them beat Leicester and Sunderland both 1-0 before losing 2-0 away at West Ham. Looking back, that should have been all the evidence Klopp needed to make changes to his line-up.
Liverpool fielded almost the same line-up in their three Christmas and New Year fixtures this time around and ultimately came up just short against the Black Cats. Klopp made just one change from the side that defeated Stoke in their line-up against Man City – with Emre Can replacing Divock Origi. And when Jordan Henderson was ruled out of making a return to his old club Sunderland, Klopp’s hand was forced into making just one change for the trip to Wearside two day’s later.
Could he have foreseen the problem? He claimed not.
“Maybe I’m not the best loser in the world, I have no problem with this,” Klopp said after the draw with Sunderland.
“I had no experience (of two games in less than 48 hours). Now I have more. We will look at the numbers and see how far we have run.
“Next year when we play the 31 and 1, we will know what is possible and what was not.”
But, looking at last season’s schedule, surely Klopp knew what was coming?
Klopp’s men had a run of three games in eight days and he made just one change from the the win over Leicester (Dec 26) to the narrow win away at Sunderland (Dec 30) before fielding nine of the XI in their 2-0 defeat at West Ham (Jan 2).
The former Dortmund boss made just two changes against the Hammers 12 months ago and his men came up short, mustering just two shots on target from 23 efforts on goal.
It prompted the following reaction from Klopp: “It’s not a day to be disappointed, it’s a day to be angry.”
Fast forward 12 months and although his men were not beaten, it was almost an identical mistake as his side failed to hold off David Moyes’ strugglers.
Klopp though was nowhere near as frustrated this time around. But behind closed doors he must be kicking himself. A seven-point haul from their three games is impressive, but, in what was probably their least testing game, they gave away two points and in this season’s title race where competition is as fierce as ever that could well prove costly.
It’s worth pointing out that Henderson was missing from both January 2 games in 2016 and this time around and he was a huge miss on the both occasions, but it would have been interesting to see Klopp take last season’s shortcomings on board and throw in some more fresh legs.
Would it have earned Liverpool a crucial victory? There is no guarantee of that, but it would have meant he had at least employed a different tactic to the one which saw his men fail in their first game of 2016.