One observer believes Jurgen Klopp is frustrated at how a Liverpool player is performing compared to a direct rival, and a worrying scenario has been predicted involving Jude Bellingham.
Liverpool limped out of the gate this season, though have shown signs they’re finally turning the corner. A 7-1 demolition of Rangers was followed up by a 1-0 victory over Man City. The win ended City’s early hopes of an undefeated season and was their first away league defeat since the opening day of last season (1-0 at Tottenham).
The fallout since the final whistle blew has revolved primarily around off-field issues.
Inappropriate fan chants, graffiti, Man City’s team bus being attacked, Klopp’s anger at the assistant referee and his comments about clubs owned by nation-states are all front and centre.
Klopp was seen shouting in the ear of the assistant referee following the non-awarding of a foul against Mohamed Salah.
The Reds boss was shown a red card and has since been charged with improper conduct by the FA. He has until Friday to respond to the charge, meaning he’ll be in the dugout for this evening’s clash with West Ham.
Klopp apologised for the incident post-match, though his frustrations this season have been there for all to see.
Now, speaking on talkSPORT, pundit Gabby Agbonlahor suggested Klopp’s anger stems from two players and the relative disparity in their performances.
Nunez, Haaland imbalance riling up Klopp?
Man City and Liverpool both signed centre-forwards this summer, with the former adding Erling Haaland and the latter landing Darwin Nunez.
Haaland has bagged an incredible 20 goals in just 14 appearances across all competitions. By contrast, Nunez has four in 11 and his displays suggest he is very much a work in progress.
“When you look at him, maybe he is frustrated at how good Haaland has done,” said Agbonlahor.
“If you look at both squads, Liverpool have been fighting Manchester City, going toe-to-toe with Manchester City for the last three, four seasons.
“In the summer, Haaland has come to City and Nunez has gone to Liverpool. Yes, they’ve bought Kalvin Phillips as well, but it is not as if City went out and bought five, six or seven more players.
“I’m looking at it and I’m thinking, is it more frustration from Klopp at how good Haaland’s done and how Nunez hasn’t?”
Agbonlahor went on to suggest Liverpool will struggle to compete financially to sign their primary midfield target, Jude Bellingham.
A £120m price tag was cited, something that City won’t struggle to pay. And with Ilkay Gundogan turning 32 next week, Agbonlahor thinks Bellingham could be the German’s long-term successor at the Etihad.
Is Agbonlahor correct?
The ex-Aston Villa forward does raise a valid point, though whether Nunez is factoring in to Klopp’s frustrations is unlikely.
The Uruguayan has plenty to work on, though the raw materials are there. What’s more, Liverpool have proven they can polish up diamonds in the rough countless times in recent years.
Agbonlahor also claimed City didn’t buy vast quantities of players in the summer. While that’s true, they did recruit more new faces than Liverpool.
Manuel Akanji added to their centre-back corps and has played more than even he might’ve expected. Sergio Gomez shored up the full-back ranks upon joining from Anderlecht.
Julian Alvarez – who would ordinarily be deserving of far more minutes were Haaland not performing so well – also arrived.
The counterargument there is those moves were made to offset several key exits, such as Oleksandr Zinchenko, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus.
Looking at purely transfer fees alone, City actually made a healthy profit of around £60m last summer. Liverpool, meanwhile, had a net spend of around £15m.