Saturday 23 September 2017

Ronnie Whelan: Two things have me more confident than ever that Klopp will deliver a title

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 15: Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool and Emre Can of Liverpool applaud the travelling fans after the Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on January 15, 2017 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 15: Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool and Emre Can of Liverpool applaud the travelling fans after the Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on January 15, 2017 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Ronnie Whelan

Ronnie Whelan

There were plenty of reasons to be critical of Liverpool at Old Trafford yesterday but there were far more to celebrate.

In an immediate sense, it was more ground lost on Chelsea and Antonio Conte’s grip on the top spot was re-established with some ease against Leicester.

People wondered about his team and how well they would do without Diego Costa and while I don’t think anyone meant anything other than his absence though injury or disciplinary issues, Chelsea shrugged off some Chinese drama and got back to business.

But for Liverpool over the long haul, I’m now more confident than ever that Jurgen Klopp will deliver a title.

Oddly enough, the main reason I’m happy to say that is the weaknesses Liverpool showed against Manchester United and the certainty that they will get better once Klopp can get stuck into the transfer market in a serious way.

Someone asked me other day whether I thought Klopp believed he could win a title with this group. I didn’t have to think about that for long. Of course he does and this should be no surprise.  He’s a winner and he has no choice about that. It’s his way.

I have the luxury of having no responsibility for the day to day working of his squad and can afford to say that right now, I don’t think he has enough and it showed in this game. Enough quality and they could have won it.

Without Joel Matip, Sadio Mane, Nathaniel Clyne and for most of the game, Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool were hollowed out.

But the good news is that Liverpool were still mentally strong enough to go to Old Trafford and to be honest, unhappy to leave with a draw.

Not because they played particularly well but because of the intense work rate and willingness to go again even when they took that sucker punch goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the dying minutes.

I was angry about that goal and about some of the defending which led to it but it was an isolated moment in an otherwise fairly decent showing by everyone, back to front.

It was the sight of Adam Lallana, still running down David de Gea four minutes into injury time, and that after a lung-busting 90 minute performance, which showed me how much Klopp has got inside the minds of his players.

Lallana could hardly go for 70 minutes without wheezing when he was at Southampton and again under Brendan Rodgers at Anfield. Now, he looks like the fittest player at the club.

If that’s the kind of impact Klopp can have, I can’t wait to see what he will be able to do with higher quality players when he finds them.

Klopp needs two center-backs to go with Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip and even more important than that, he needs a centre-forward. I can’t underline enough how much Sadio Mane means to Klopp’s approach.

Without him and with Divock Origi playing up front, Klopp has to make too many adjustments and clearly, Daniel Sturridge is unable to stay fit enough for long enough to make a difference either way.

He won’t sell him in January but if the right offer comes in next summer, I’d wave goodbye and bank the cash.

All told, it was a good day for Merseyside with Everton putting Manchester City away earlier in the day with great power and precision.

Poor Pep Guardiola seemed to be suffering from the effects of the flu in his after match interviews and his tan has faded completely.

I just wonder how long a man who admits he is already marching towards retirement will put up with an English winter and a team which is firing blanks.

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