Chris Tobin assesses what he’s seen so far of the Klopp era at Liverpool, a time of unifying optimism mixed with concern for the size of the task that lies ahead.
Purposely I have waited a few weeks before making an early assessment of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s introduction to Premier League football, not quite the baptism of fire, more a dip of the head into the warm murky waters of the Mersey.
Klopp having insisted that he can work with former manager Brendan Rodgers’ caboodle collection of professional footballer: a defence lacking in defenders, creative midfield lacking in creativity and strikers who are just lacking, hopefully an inventory of his recently acquired charges sees the new manager come to a similar conclusion of problem areas which ultimately saw the end of Rodgers reign.
Although at times – and certainly over Rodgers’ tutelage – Liverpool’s defenders have managed to stretch out long periods without conceding, for the most it has seen some truly awful defending coupled with perpetually error strewn performances when that collection of international players put that red shirt on and get paired up.
Liverpool football club have had the good and the great between the white sticks over the years, however, in Simon Mignolet they have a goalkeeper seemingly unable to make a split second decision, something which in his position is essential. When given time to think he seems not such a bad keeper, unfortunately at this top level time is not in abundance and for me he is the catalyst for the mayhem that occurs in that defence. At times it is horrible to view with the Belgian appearing to be reticent to come for the onion and when eventually he does reluctantly, he won’t catch it. He is not brave enough and not good enough.
Mamadou Sakho for me has become somewhat of an enigma; at times looking solid and secure and certainly there is no dispute that Liverpool supporters have been sold on his aggression and ability. He gets the ball and gives it and for all the criticism from the footballing media and commentators his passing has become as solid as any defender in the Premier League with stats to prove it. The problem I have with Sakho is his positioning where often he is easily gotten behind and gets pulled out of that central area which leaves his cohorts exposed. Time will tell whether those other defenders are Sakho’s problem, or he theirs. The one thing that is clear is he has progressed and become a better player under Klopp.
The biggest disappointment for many supporters is the form, or lack of it, from two players Adam Lallana and James Milner. In a week when Klopp would criticize supporter for leaving 10 minutes early he may want to look at this pair who have been going missing most of the season, at times not showing up at all. Although I think Milner will most probably be a good signing and can fit into a Klopp team, I have far less confidence in Lallana who is lightweight and inconsistent interspersed with a million step-overs. His overall contribution is ineffective whilst constantly allowing the opposition an easy opportunity to break with awful decisions on the edge of the opposition’s box. I cannot see a place for him in a successful Liverpool side, nor an unsuccessful one for that matter.
Philippe Coutinho, the Premier League’s most inconsistent Brazilian genius is a wonderfully skillful player at times, but just as likely to be so poor that he can stink the stadium out that badly that supporters have to leave prior to the conclusion of the match. I will cut the little man some slack here as he is only 23, however his judgement at times is awful, with decision making of a complete novice and Lallanaesque. His passing at times leaves an awful lot to be desired and all-too-often when Liverpool are on the front foot a wayward Coutinho pass puts the team under undue pressure. True geniuses can head a football and tackle.
Coutinho for me is a similar luxury that Everton have in Ross Barkley; great players but when they are not fully on it they cause more problems for their over-reliant teammates. I know it’s not Coutinho’s fault that he has not had the strikers making themselves available with intelligent forward running, but he needs to release the ball earlier. He additionally has to up his game and improve his defensive work because far too easily is he swatted off the ball.
While I am on frivolous passers of the football lets discuss Emre Can. My days I thought Djimi Traore was relaxed, but Can is at another level which is quite infuriating as he clearly looks like a competent footballer. Prone to giving the ball away concentration issues seem to litter his game – which makes him not your average German – but again I will temper my critique with his tender years (21). His defensive errors have been costlier than any player in the Premier League and he needs to stop using that arrogance on the edge of our six-yard box. In short, GET RID OF THE FUCKING BALL.
So what of Klopp himself? He has certainly persuaded the Anfield faithful that he is the right man for the job but these are Rodgers players that Klopp has to work with. Luckily for Klopp – regardless of his rhetoric around being able to work with them – the transfer window is not so far away and I’m guessing the German will have a pocket full of names to replace those that are simply not good enough to get Liverpool anywhere near the top four. In this regard it’s easy for me – we either continue with the mediocrity that the “transfer committee” keep signing, or we go hell for leather and have a serious clear-out. The owners need to let us all in on the plan 1, 2, 3 or 5 year plan.
The unification of fans and players is a huge positive and evidently the players want to impress their new manager. If you’re good enough you’re good enough, alas some of those players are NOT.
It is refreshing to have a media savvy manager after all the bull and bluster, who seems genuine, but all of that won’t count for anything unless we start progressing on the field over the rest of this season and into next.
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