Following last night’s defeat to Southampton, Liverpool fans entered a collective meltdown. My phone was going off with the kind of stuff I could never share on this blog, my Tweetdeck was flooding with ‘SACK KLOPP’ messages and the reaction I got to this tweet below was vitriolic:
Well played Southampton. Great club and they’ve completely deserved it over the two Legs. Really hope they win the final.
— Empire of the Kop (@empireofthekop) January 25, 2017
As Editor of a Twitter account with 1.5m followers, I’m used to the odd emotional message going down pretty poorly – but after this one – there was a deluge of ‘C-Bombs’ via Direct Message. (Perhaps opening up the inbox wasn’t too smart an idea, after all…)
As I wasn’t feeling bad enough after the defeat, eh?!
Follow me on Twitter: @Jordan_AC90
But these fans spectacularly missed the point. I was as disappointed as them. I was as angry as them. I spent 95 minutes screaming at Emre Can passing sideways and asking why Daniel Sturridge can no longer finish his dinner.
From what he’s achieved since taking over the club though, Jurgen Klopp has deserved a fair analysis of his performance – and not a furious and in many cases disrespectful one.
So I’m going to try and deliver that.
Let’s get one thing straight: Klopp’s brilliant. He’s the best manager for Liverpool we could have under this current ownership. Full stop.
Klopp made the call to sign Sadio Mane in the summer, when thousands wanted a more glamorous name. When tens of thousands were demanding a new left-back, Klopp switched James Milner to the role. Masterstroke. Fans used to repeatedly demand Daniel Sturridge be made the no.1 centre-forward when everyone’s fit, as Roberto Firmino doesn’t score enough goals. Who was right (looking back to the beginning of the season…)? There were calls for Jordan Henderson’s head at the end of last term, but Klopp’s found him a role that when everyone’s fit, the captain thrives in.
Again, he’s nailed it and made the decisions which rightly earned him a whopping contract extension in the summer, despite losing two finals in 2015/16. At our best this season, we’ve been a fucking beautiful football team. End of.
But in January, Liverpool have lost against Southampton twice, Swansea once and drawn with defensive sides such as Plymouth, Sunderland and Manchester United.
And Klopp, it’s sad to say, has definitely played a role in our problems.
Firstly, his extremely stubborn, unnecessarily patient, frugal refusal to enter the transfer market has potentially ruined our campaign. Mane might just be the most important player in our system. His pace and energy transforms our front-six. He can dribble, get to the byline, but he also maximises our midfielders as he offers them an option in behind. For some reason, despite the fact we’ve known since we bought him that he’d be absent in January at the AFCON, we’ve not bought a winger.
Yes, we’ve made enquiries for Julian Brandt and Julian Draxler (now at PSG) – but we haven’t signed anyone. We ignored Quincy Promes, who is available, scores goals and provides pace, to wait for the ‘perfect’ option in summer 2017. But we were in a title race at the start of January! We were in a cup semi-final at the start of January! It’s very uncool to want transfers and it’s frowned upon by elitist football hipsters who want everything fixed with tactics and on the training field – but anyone who says we wouldn’t have stood a better chance with a shiny new winger this month is lying.
Secondly, Klopp’s stubbornness with Emre Can has proved costly. He loves his German counterpart, but the 23-year-old has been miserable in January, and not much better before Christmas. He slows down our play, offers zero creatively and in the box-to-box role in front of Jordan Henderson, isn’t up to scratch. He’s been a mainstay this month but like Jamie Carragher said on Sky Sports last night, there’s no way he should start alongside Henderson against bus parkers.
Lastly, he’s used players in the wrong positions. This month, Lallana has been frequently wasted on the right, when he shone centrally before Christmas. On Wednesday, Klopp used him in the role he’s been most successful, but made an error up top instead… Sadly, he put Daniel Sturridge at centre-forward, who blunts our energy, when we badly need Firmino as the pinnacle. The Brazilian is phenomenal centrally, but often pretty useless coming in from the right. It should have been a no-brainer. Put Firmino at ‘no.9’ and pick the rest of the attack from there.
But in summary, Klopp’s allowed to make mistakes – just like everyone else. He’s human. The key is that he learns from them. We’ve realised that we’re a better side with Firmino in the middle, Adam Lallana in central midfield and a pacy option out wide. Let’s hope the boss does too – because if Klopp can’t save Liverpool – nobody can.