Jurgen Klopp is under the most pressure he has experienced since he took the Liverpool manager’s hot seat back in October 2015.
Repeated mistakes at the back have led to questions being asked about the German’s ability to organise a defence that can withstand the tempo of the Premier League. Klopp admitted after the loss to Leicester in the Carabao Cup as long ago as September that he was “sick of goals like this” after having conceded from another set piece. A month down the line and Klopp no longer has the luxury of putting his team’s defensive frailties purely down to set pieces – the Reds are conceding all over the park.
Individual mistakes are forgiven in any walk of life. It is when these mistakes keep repeating themselves that patience begins to run out and action needs to be taken. The loss to Spurs on Sunday at Wembley marked the end of Klopp’s grace period as his team were thumped comprehensively after conceding four in North London. Klopp now needs to offer more than his frustration to Liverpool fans after these showings and begin providing them with solutions.
Liverpool have conceded just three fewer goals than bottom-of-the-table Crystal Palace and have the sixth-worst defensive record in the league. Although not firing on all cylinders, Liverpool haven’t had as much of a problem going forward and currently hold the seventh-best record for goals scored in the league.
Liverpool have already conceded more away PL goals in 5 games than when they were runners-up in 2008-09 (14) pic.twitter.com/aeTII7PUzw— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) October 22, 2017
It is far from perfect for them but it does illustrate where all the problems are coming from. They have played three of the current top four this season and have shipped nine goals. That includes a goalless stalemate against United at home. Perhaps if Mourinho had been braver with his tactics at Anfield he could have come away with more than a point accompanied with heavy criticism for his negative approach.
Liverpool’s failings in the summer transfer window have been well-documented as they missed out on signing a world-class defender with the pursuit of Virgil van Dijk coming to nothing. A pivotal moment, one could argue, but should Klopp being doing a lot better with what he has already got?
There is an abundance of quality at Klopp’s disposal that for some reason or other isn’t being utilized properly. The concern for the Liverpool owners and board will be that when their players go off on international duty they don’t look like the same ones that took part in a shambolic performance the week before. The international breaks have seen Liverpool’s international players excel.
Next year’s World Cup will be littered with Klopp’s charges. Big-money signing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made the move from Arsenal to Liverpool in the summer to fulfil his hopes of being on the plane to Russia next year. Liverpool’s dip in form will be alarming for the players that have their eye on next year’s World Cup in that a poor domestic season under Klopp has the potential to weaken their case for selection. There will be an urgency within the Liverpool squad to turn their current situation around for the sake of their own international chances.
With the steady rise of younger English players in the league, there is added pressure on the English Liverpool players. Sturridge will be competing with the likes of Tammy Abraham who is currently setting the league alight and flourishing under manager Paul Clement at Swansea. If Sturridge is to make the final squad for Russia 2018 Liverpool’s form will have to improve.
What Klopp would do to have the young and in-form Englishman Lewis Dunk at the heart of his defence. The Brighton defender is making headlines for all the right reasons and is everything that Liverpool currently need. With Nathaniel Clyne out injured the door opens for Dunk to possibly take his spot at next years World Cup with a potential gap opening in Southgate’s defensive cover options. Liverpool’s English contingent will be concerned that Oddschecker have reported a spike in betting suggesting both Abraham and Dunk could make the trip. With young and exciting players coming through there is the chance that some of Klopp’s men will be overlooked as they keep leaking goals and slipping down the league table. Klopp’s team need to take the season by the scruff of the neck if they are to feature at football’s biggest showpiece next year. A good place to start would be tightening up at the back.
After a 2-2 draw to Seville in the Champions League in September, Klopp was reluctant to indulge in the media’s rhetoric about van Dijk being able to solve all of Liverpool’s problems. Klopp went on to say that if he thought these problems could be solved by one player he would have poured all of Liverpool’s resources into making it happen. That may be about as close as you get to a man writing his own managerial obituary ahead of time.
If these problems can’t be solved by one player then the spotlight immediately turns to the manager. Where else could the problem possibly be solved? Individual errors are part and parcel of a player’s career. Even Messi has made the odd mistake but it becomes increasingly obvious that there is a greater problem at play when they are happening week in and week out.
When Klopp substituted Lovren after half an hour during their away trip to Spurs it wasn’t before time. Lovren had directly contributed towards both of Spurs opening goals and was proving a liability. Managers are paid to make tough decisions and Klopp most certainly made the right one. The telling stat is that without the calamitous Lovren on the field the Reds still went on to concede two more.
Thoughts? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/m8id3C8bUr— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) October 22, 2017
Slowly but surely the players at Liverpool Football club are losing confidence and have become so engulfed in fear of making mistakes that it plays out like a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is where the red flags are beginning to be raised.
By Klopp’s own admission, relying on the transfer market isn’t going to solve the inherent problem in a struggling team. What has become evident is that Liverpool have a very real issue that is not going away overnight. Answers are at a premium at the moment and whilst an easier run of fixtures may well offer respite, it still won’t provide a long-term solution.
With Liverpool so short on confidence it begs the question – what option does the club have? A marquee signing at the back could give everyone around the boost they need to begin to step out of the shadows of the players they have become.
Form can return as quickly as it goes and in football, a week is an incredibly long time. Klopp may have to abandon his footballing philosophy for now in order to tighten things up at the back. A string of clean sheets will settle the nerves of everyone connected to Liverpool Football Club. It may also buy Klopp the time he needs to get to January with his job still intact.
It is hard to see how a continuation of current results can lead to a favourable outcome for the Liverpool manager. Action needs to be taken and time is not a luxury any manager in the Premier League has when the wheels begin falling off.
Klopp’s regime may be creaking, but as long as the Reds don’t suffer an early Champions League exit there is more chance that the board will keep faith with the charismatic German manager. They have backed him financially and have given him the players he wants, and the room he needs to succeed. It may be a case of holding their nerve as Klopp goes about finding the solution to the leaking defence he is currently in charge of. There is a feeling on Merseyside that Klopp still has the confidence of the fans. As it stands he has the backing to stop the creaking by putting the foundations in place that will keep him at Liverpool for a long time to come still. Time will tell if he is able to correct the mistakes that are threatening to derail his tenure at Liverpool.