Saturday 23 September 2017

Ronnie Whelan: Jurgen Klopp has admitted to a fundamental error in judgement and it has caused a crisis

Read Ronnie Whelan every week in The Herald

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 28: Jurgen Klopp manager / head coach of Liverpool during The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round between Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield on January 28, 2017 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 28: Jurgen Klopp manager / head coach of Liverpool during The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round between Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield on January 28, 2017 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images)
Ronnie Whelan

Ronnie Whelan

THIS is a crisis for Jurgen Klopp. He has admitted to a fundamental mistake about the depth of his squad and that has all sorts of ramifications for the road ahead.

I remember Klopp made a great deal of his wish to work with the players he found at Anfield when he arrived. I think he was sincere when he said that he had a squad he could work with.

In fact, he stressed on a number of occasions that he was happy with his group.

But after losing to Wolves, he conceded that the young lads he put out were not ready. That is very worrying.

If it was his belief that he had enough in hand with a few astute additions and more coming on the club production line to satisfy the demands of Liverpool supporters aching for a Premier League title and now that he thinks he was wrong, he’s in trouble.

He learned some big, big lessons at the weekend; most important of all that everything about football in England is “now”.

There is no tomorrow and very little patience for projects and long or even medium-term objectives.

He learned that lower League clubs are fitter, better and hungrier than ever and they take the FA Cup seriously.

To all intents and purposes, the FA Cup is dead and this weekend put the final nail in the coffin, as far as I’m concerned,

Premier League and Championship teams dropped like flies simply because they are focused on a pot of gold and not this piece of silverware.

It was never more blatant than this round of the FA Cup. Not so long ago, every club fielding a weak team would have been fined or worse. They were all at it on Saturday and yesterday.

The FA Cup now belongs to lower League teams who still appreciate and respect it. For the rest, it is not relevant any more – unless you’re Arsene Wenger stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Then it’s a great thing to win.

Klopp showed what he thought of both Cup competitions and where his priorities lie over the last week and I reckon he won’t be completely unhappy about the way it went.

He has to be disturbed at how the Cups exposed the lack of depth at the club but he now has nothing else to focus on but Chelsea in an immediate sense and the Premier League for the rest of the season.

I’ve said for ten years and more that Liverpool’s core squad is not good enough to live with the clubs that have been at the top of the tree during these barren years. It didn’t take a football genius to work that one out.

Unless I’m reading his comments wrongly, Klopp is saying that the layer below is not strong enough either.

What that means is that he must set about the job of bringing six or seven top quality players into the club next summer and if that means spending a lot of money, then so be it. It’s long overdue.

I was happy to go along with his original assessment of the squad for the simple reason that it was getting results and when Liverpool beat Manchester City on New Year’s Eve, I was buoyed up.

I thought, here we go. This is the real deal now.

A month later, his team has collapsed and I’m flummoxed by it.

Klopp looks puzzled too but he has no time for that. Chelsea arrive at Anfield tomorrow bulging with confidence and I would say, red-hot favourites for a Premier League and FA Cup double.

The funny thing is, it would not surprise me a bit if Liverpool, with Sadio Mane back from Africa, Philippe Coutinho back in the team after injury and Matip with a few games under his belt, beat Chelsea.

Much has been made of Mane’s contribution and how Liverpool have suffered without him.

My only comment on that is that you are in a very bad place indeed if your team falls apart when one player is not available.

The clear message from this weekend is that Klopp underestimated the scale of the rebuilding job at hand and will have a very busy summer.

More immediately, he should have a full deck to pick from for Chelsea and he’ll need them all to stop Antonio Conte’s victory parade.

Klopp knows that a defeat, or even a draw, would put an end to Liverpool’s season.

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