John Aldridge: 'Klopp has cleared most of Liverpool's dead wood - but some bits floated to the surface on Monday'
ALL excuses have been stripped away from Liverpool after their FA Cup exit at Wolves on Monday night and now Jurgen Klopp’s players have to banish the accusation that they lack the stomach to be champions.
Klopp’s critics were out in force following the 2-1 defeat at Wolves, with a lot of rival fans clearly very worried this fine manager will bring the glory days back to Liverpool as he has built a wonderful team over the last three years.
We should not forget that Liverpool were miles behind the best teams in the Premier League when Klopp took over at Anfield and a little over three years later, they are a match for all their domestic rivals and favourites to win the title with the bookies.
That’s stunning progress when you consider they are up against a club in Manchester City with a bottomless pit of money that has invested hundreds of millions to build a team that should be dominating English football.
While City’s success has to be seen as plasticised, Liverpool’s will be very real if they build on a fantastic start to this season and end the club’s long wait for a title success.
Yet the performance of certain players at Wolves on Monday night highlighted how fragile their optimism may be, with the reserves in Klopp’s squad no match for the starters who have blown most of their rivals away this season.
Liverpool’s first choice team would not have lost at Molineux, yet the performances of some of Klopp’s back-up players confirmed what we already knew; a lot of them are not good enough to be playing for this club.
Klopp and the club’s technical department have done well to get rid of a lot of the deadwood in the squad over the last couple years, but a few more bits have floated to the surface now and they don’t need me to tell him who they are.
I was disappointed and yet not surprised by some of the performances at Wolves.
Alberto Moreno didn’t change too many opinions with his display and when I look at Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge up front, it suggested two more strikers will be needed next summer.
You would think players who are not getting regular first team football would run through a brick wall when their chance finally arrives, but that was not the attitude of some Liverpool players on Monday night and it was worrying to see.
I love the FA Cup. It was my dream to win the competition when I was a kid and when I achieved the goal in 1989, it was a proud moment for so many reasons.
Maybe that passion for the competition is not shared by some modern players because Liverpool’s recent FA Cup record has been dreadful and the reason for that as been the lack of quality in the back-up squad.
The top Premier League managers tend to rotate their team in the early stages of the domestic cup competitions these days and other teams are clearly adapting better to that than Liverpool, which is an area Klopp needs to address ahead of next season.
For now, the priority has to be refocusing minds and banishing the notion that Liverpool’s season is falling off the rails after a couple of high profile defeats.
Okay, they came up short in a very tight game against Manchester City last Thursday, but it was the Liverpool reserve team that lost at Wolves and it should not affect the mood ahead of what is now a massive game at Brighton on Saturday.
A glance at the Premier League table confirms Liverpool are still sitting at the top and they will be looking to open up a seven-point lead on Manchester City at Brighton, as their chief rivals don’t play again until next Monday.
It’s a wonderful position to be in and as we have seen with Leicester and Chelsea in their Premier League title wins in recent years, having spare weekends to refresh players can be a decisive factor against rivals who are playing three games a week.
Liverpool will now have this luxury as they will not be playing on FA Cup weekends and so long as Klopp gets lucky with injuries, the disappointment against Wolves on Monday could, eventually, work in his favour.
This is not a moment for Liverpool to hit the panic button, but there is no denying the Premier League trip to Brighton on Saturday has now taken on huge significance.