Thursday 24 August 2017

Klopp lines up Grujic and Matip for next season but rules out panic buys despite painful Hornets' sting

Schalke's Joel Matip has been linked with a move to Anfield. Photo: Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images
Schalke's Joel Matip has been linked with a move to Anfield. Photo: Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images
Marko Grujic

Chris Bascombe

Liverpool have moved to complete two deals in the January transfer window, but their dismal defeat at Watford will not force manager Jürgen Klopp to review his immediate plans.

Klopp was already working on moves to bring a midfielder and centre-half to Anfield and, while he hopes to complete them next month, the players won't join the club until next summer.

Marko Grujic of Red Star Belgrade, a 19-year-old midfielder, will cost around £3m. He is expected to undergo a medical next month.

Their other immediate target is Schalke's Joel Matip, a 24-year-old centre-half, who is seen by Klopp as a replacement for Kolo Touré.

Touré is in the final year of his contract, which will not be renewed.

Matip who has other options beyond Liverpool to consider before any deal is rubber-stamped, is available on a Bosman and can sign a pre-contract agreement from January 1.

Liverpool's hierarchy are ready to make further funds available immediately if the new manager makes a request, but Klopp has made it known he wants to give his squad the rest of the campaign to prove themselves.

With a League Cup semi-final on the immediate horizon, the latest setbacks are seen as inevitable bumps in the road as the new manager makes a more thorough assessment of his long-term needs.

Having been hailed for a transformative impact in his early weeks in the Premier League, last Sunday Klopp watched his side display the traits of Brendan Rodgers' team in the 18 months prior to the Northern Irishman's exit.

Liverpool's running statistics were elevated to impressive levels beyond 115km (71 miles) per game when Klopp took over in October, but the German coach will be perturbed to discover a significant drop against Watford, where Liverpool's players covered 107.5km (67 miles) in the 3-0 defeat.

To put that into perspective, data from the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index - the Official Player Rating Index of the Premier League - shows for Klopp's first match in charge at Spurs his side ran 116km; for his first Anfield game against Southampton they covered 117.8km; and against Manchester City, where Liverpool won 4-1 in November, they covered 117.4km.

The loss of James Milner through injury can not be underestimated as he ran 13km (eight miles) against Spurs and Southampton, and 12.8km against Manchester City.

Against Watford, Jordan Henderson covered most ground with 11.3km (seven miles).

Klopp's famed high-energy gegen-pressing style would appear to have taken a festive break against Watford.

As a consequence of the last three fixtures when Liverpool took just a point from games against Newcastle, West Bromwich Albion and Watford, Klopp's Premier League record no longer demonstrates an upturn in the club's fortunes since Rodgers left.

Klopp has won three, drawn three and lost three of his nine league games in charge. Rodgers won three, drew three and lost two of the eight games he took charge of at the start of the campaign.

A more rounded picture tells a different story, however, given Klopp oversaw encouraging, emphatic wins at Stamford Bridge, The Etihad Stadium and against Southampton in the League Cup.

He also achieved Europa League progress with a game to spare after Liverpool had drawn their opening games under Rodgers.

Including all competitions, Klopp has won seven of his 15 games since taking over. Rodgers won three of the first 11 games this season. The longer-term outlook at Anfield is incomparable to before the German arrived.

Klopp has backed the players since assuming control, but the dependence on Daniel Sturridge to give Liverpool a cutting edge is as obvious now as under his predecessor.

Having been initially ruled out for at least a "couple of weeks" with a hamstring strain - Klopp suggested "at least 10 days" when the latest setback occurred - Liverpool are offering no timescale on their star striker's return.

Sturridge has not played on St Stephen's Day for any of his clubs since 2011 and certainly will not be available for the visit of Leicester this year.

Martin Skrtel's absence for that game and the rest of the holiday period is likely to be confirmed today after he underwent a scan on a hamstring injury suffered against Watford.

There are fears Skrtel faces a lengthy lay-off. Touré is available as a stand-in and Klopp is also hopeful Dejan Lovren will return sooner than anticipated. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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