Saturday 19 October 2019

Comment - Time for Liverpool fans to remove their blinkers...and Jose Mourinho's biggest mistake

Jurgen Kloppreacts during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium
Jurgen Kloppreacts during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium
Jurgen Klopp reflects on one of his darkest days as Liverpool manager as his side are hammered by Tottenham at Wembley (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Just imagine the emotions Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho must have lived through if he watched Liverpool disintegrate in humiliating fashion against Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday.

Liverpool’s lamentable performance in their 4-1 defeat against a Spurs side more than good enough to take advantage of their inadequacies should pile the pressure on their manager Jurgen Klopp, who has blatantly failed to address a glaring hole that has been evident in the club's back line for several years now.

After a truly disastrous display from Dejan Lovren - the defender handed a new long-term contract worth £100,000-a-week just six months ago - Klopp has so many questions to answer and for the first time since he arrived at the club, maybe a few Liverpool fans will expect explanations from the tactician they have refused to question over the last two years.

Daring to criticise Klopp on social media has inspired hateful responses from Liverpool fans up to now, but you have to wonder whether some will start to question their own devotion to a messiah who is edging towards his first crisis at Liverpool since he arrived at the club in October 2015.

Has Klopp improved Liverpool? There have been signs of progress at times, but the truth must be that their defending is even worse than it was on the day he arrived for that reason alone, he should be feeling the strain in an era when two years is considered long enough to find a winning formula at a club as big as this.

“It is my responsibility,” declared a brutally honest Klopp as he met the media after arguably the most crushing defeat of his Anfield reign and yet you suspect many Liverpool fans still want to pin the blame on the defenders he seems to be incapable of improving or the club’s owners, whose transfer inadequacies have contributed to the reality that their title race is over nine games into the season.

In truth, Liverpool never had a squad capable of challenging for the Premier League this season and Klopp alone should not be blamed entirely for that desperate reality.

Anfield transfer chief Michael Edwards has taken the bulk of the blame for the aborted bid to sign Southampton centre-back Virgil van Dijk last summer, with Liverpool’s failure to move for alternative defensive reinforcements leaving Klopp to pick up the pieces of the incompetence of those who should be working for him.

This Liverpool inquest has been simmering under the surface for some time and how Mourinho must be regretting that he was not the manager triggering the post-mortem a week before it finally got underway.

Just imagine if Mourinho and United had adopted a more ambitious approach when they took on Liverpool at Anfield nine days ago.

Let’s say he started that game with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial in wide roles and tried to give Romelu Lukaku the kind of service that would have tested Klopp’s centre-back pairing of Lovren and Joel Matip.

What would have happened if United had played on the front foot with the kind of energy that was too much for Liverpool to handle against Spurs at Wembley, rather than deploying negative tactics that made it far too easy for Klopp’s side to claim a moral victory in a drab 0-0 draw?

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho

Of course, we will never know, but the evidence of what we saw on Sunday suggests Liverpool would have cracked open in the kind of alarming fashion they have done time and again during the Klopp era.

The occasional high profile win has papered over cracks for a team whose attacking beauty has been persistently undermined by their defensive incompetence, yet Mourinho didn’t show enough ambition to silence his own doubters and test Liverpool's vulnerabilities when they were there for the taking.

That decision - coupled with United’s shock defeat at Huddersfield on Saturday- may prove to be the decisive factors in a title race that already has a feeling of inevitability about it just nine games into the season.

Mauricio Pochettino’s relentlessly impressive Tottenham suddenly look more likely to be the side to test the runaway train that is Manchester City at the top of the Premier League standings, with the celebrity managerial duo of Klopp and Mourinho left to ponder what might have been.

While Liverpool’s problems are evidently deeper rooted than Manchester United’s right now, Mourinho’s failure to exploit their vulnerabilities is a cowardly mistake that will haunt him for some time to come.

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