Transfer neglect comes back to haunt Klopp as Liverpool’s problems grow
After dismantling Arsenal, Liverpool were seemingly destined for success this season, writes Kris Gourlay. Maybe it was finally their year, but since that victory, which now seems like a distant memory, Klopp’s men have been torn apart by Man City, knocked out of the League Cup and have registered three incredibly infuriating draws against Burnley, Spartak Moscow and Newcastle, with missed chances being a recurring theme.
So what is going wrong for Liverpool? After slipping seven points behind both Manchester clubs already, Klopp has to make use of the international break to get the team back to winning ways, or he may not be Liverpool manager for much longer.
With 20 goals conceded in 12 matches so far this season, Klopp’s decision not to sign a centre back in the summer seems to have come back to haunt him. Most of these goals have been down to individual errors and general incompetence by the defence. Born-again Alberto Moreno and suicidal defender Dejan Lovren alongside Joel Matip and either Joe Gomez or Trent Alexander-Arnold in a laughable back four of broken ego’s and inexperience.
The current problem with the team lies deeper than buying a new centre back though, as the defence are being left exposed and unprotected by the midfield. Captain Jordan Henderson is being put under a lot pressure with every mediocre performance he puts in, with fans growing increasingly fed up of his unreliability and some believe he is not a suitable captain for a club as prestigious as Liverpool.
Ever since the days of Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia, Liverpool and clean sheets have just not formed a relationship. The team has had a lot of poor defenders in the last decade but the current defence is arguably the worst in that time.
More worryingly, it seems that scoring is fast becoming an area of weakness for Liverpool, something which has been their biggest strength in previous seasons. Liverpool have dominated most of the games they have drawn so far this season but have just let chances go begging too often, resulting in a stale performance for fans and a whole host of questions for Jurgen Klopp to answer.
Before the season started, a front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, with Philippe Coutinho operating behind, seemed formidable, but only seven games in and the attack which promised so much has produced so little.
Though there have been plenty of chances, a lack of composure in front of goal has cost Liverpool too many points already this season. In their most recent game, the Reds lined up against former boss Rafa Benitez’s well-disciplined and organised Newcastle side at St James’s Park, with nothing but a win being demanded by the fans.
Liverpool started with Mane, Coutinho, Salah and Daniel Sturridge in attack but could not make the most of their chances, Liverpool went 1-0 up courtesy of a wonder goal from Coutinho but just seven minutes later Newcastle were level after both Lovren and Matip failed to deal with a simple defence-splitting ball by Jonjo Shelvey and Joselu ran through on goal.
For the rest of the game, Liverpool continued to dominate but too many sideways and backwards passes, coupled with a lack of urgency in their play, left Jurgen Klopp disgruntled and active as ever on the touchline. Salah and Sturridge both missed great chances to notch the winner, raising more questions over Sturridge’s ability as he seems a shadow of his former self.
So with Liverpool’s defence leaking goals every game and the attack not being able to take their chances, questions over Klopp’s tactics are beginning to be asked, so what could he change?
First of all, a defence consisting of Joe Gomez at centre back, alongside Matip, could do no harm. Lovren is obviously not able to compete at a high level and if it weren’t for our premature exit, it is a partnership that could have been tested in the League Cup.
Another obvious change in defence is to bring in Andy Robertson. The left back got man of the match in his first and only start for Liverpool this season but has since been left out of the squad altogether. The January transfer window surely is something that Klopp will have his eye on already as he is clearly aware of his side’s inability to defend.
Every Liverpool fan is more than likely sick of hearing Virgil Van Djik’s name being mentioned but Klopp will surely go back in for the Dutch centre back in January after his failed attempt to land his number one target in the summer.
Klopp certainly has a lot of work to do, not only to get his team back on track but to convince the fans he’s capable of leading the team to glory. To do so he will have to be more ruthless and understanding of certain situations. Players not performing should be dropped or replaced and simple defensive issues should be worked upon and fixed. Otherwise he may just be fighting alongside Ronald Koeman to keep his job on Merseyside.