Sunday 25 June 2017

Comment: Liverpool are a great club with too few great footballers

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp looks dejected
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp looks dejected
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA

Chris Bascombe

Jurgen Klopp was as angry as he has ever been with his Liverpool players during the interval of their 2-0 defeat by Hull City.

By the time he was leaving the KCOM Stadium - his side having suffered their fourth defeat in five games - he probably anticipated similar fury from those supporters witnessing the latest witless performance.

A few weeks ago, Klopp said he was surprised by the lack of rage when Liverpool were knocked out of the FA Cup. Instead, he encountered depression. Now he understands.

Much of the Anfield anger has long since been imported and exported out of the Mersey. What you have after days like this is far worse.

Call it despondency or resignation - a point where you have gone beyond indignation.

It is an energy-sapping sense of familiarity, where no matter how often you identify the same problems under successive managers and regimes, an enthusiastic new coach or owner will come along and tell you to keep banging your head against the same wall and eventually it will smash.

Liverpool are a great club with too few great footballers. That is it. It has been this way for 27 years.

One day they will hold an Anfield strategy meeting where someone will recognise this as the key difference between the good seasons and the awful ones and act accordingly.

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge in action with Hull City's Kamil Grosicki and Alfred N'Diaye. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters
Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge in action with Hull City's Kamil Grosicki and Alfred N'Diaye. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

To some, last week's 1-1 draw with Chelsea was a sign of how little there is between Liverpool and the champions-in-waiting, when in truth it demonstrated the most important difference.

Chelsea have three world-class players - Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and N'Golo Kante. The rest are elevated by their brilliance.

Liverpool have no one close.

They say Philippe Coutinho is world class, but he is not. Not yet. He might - yes, might - reach that level, but he is no Hazard.

Herein lies the problem for Klopp and owners Fenway Sports Group as they continue down their development path.

There is more risk in waiting, believing - or, worse, presuming - good players will attain such a level as there is in 'overspending' on those who have already attained it.

What Klopp has is a team of support acts.

They play very well sometimes, but simply lack the consistency and mental strength to find answers against the basic, well-organised underdog football of Hull, Southampton, Swansea and even Plymouth.

They have no world-class talent to drag them over the line on tough days.

Klopp can look for answers technically, tactically and psychologically for the next three months, but until Liverpool recruit better this cycle will not be broken.

"You cannot believe how many questions I ask myself, even when we win five or six nil," insisted Klopp.

"When I get up tomorrow I will only be solution orientated. There are solutions, 100pc. Now we have to change it. Many teams have already made mistakes and changed things, for this you have to do the right things and I'm quite confident we can do the right things. We have to work on a solution and we will.

"We have to take all the criticism. We expect more from ourselves and we have to show more than we did.

"My biggest problem is I want to play much better football with my team. We showed it a few times, but it is long ago since we showed it consistently.

"Both the goals really looked like a present. There are a lot of things to do and we have to change it immediately."

Hull's Marco Silva is an example of how far great coaching with limited resources and lower quality players can take you. He has done an extraordinary job organising his side, making them hard to break down and even attacking in enough numbers to ensure this was not just a rearguard action.

Simon Mignolet's mistake gave them the platform through Alfred N'Diaye, before Oumar Niasse - a striker on loan from Everton who is comically poor at leading the line - summed up the absurdity of Liverpool's defending by scurrying through for a second on 84 minutes.

Afterwards, Silva insisted: "I am not a miracle worker."

If Hull manage to stay up given where they were when he took over, many of us will beg to differ. © Daily Telegraph, London.

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