Friday 20 September 2019

John Giles: There's no end to the ongoing saga of mersey misery

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John Giles

THERE’S nothing crueller than football when it comes to taking optimism and ripping it to shreds. Right now, it’s Merseyside’s turn to be miserable.

Jurgen Klopp arrived on a wave of positive publicity and gave the Kop hope that they finally had their man.

Across town, Everton emerged from the shadows with big money to spend and with a no-nonsense boss like Ronald Koeman, looked ready to make a mark.

Now, both clubs are struggling with the certainty that all dreams and targets for the season are on hold and two managers with strong reputations have failed to deliver.

Koeman paid for that with his job and on the pitch, where it counts, his team did nothing to suggest that he would be able to put things right.

Everton’s influx of cash came with a Director of Football, Steve Walsh, the lad who brought N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez to Leicester and I have always wondered about Koeman’s control with him around Goodison.

I think Koeman was forced to accept Wayne Rooney, although I would stress that no fault can be attached to him for Everton’s poor performances.

But I wonder whether anyone other than Gylfli Sigurdsson was down to Koeman and not the Director of Football, who arrived with great fanfare, is on a big salary and has to be doing something.

Whoever was responsible, Everton didn’t come anywhere close to filling the void left by Romelu Lukaku and in the end, Koeman took the hit.

I’ve seen reports suggesting Koeman is arrogant, which is hardly a great revelation. The implication is that the players didn’t like him and the fans didn’t warm to him all of which may be true and I’m sure, didn’t help him.

Klopp embraced Liverpool’s tradition and his dividend is the patience being shown by supporters yearning for success.

But they know their football at Anfield and I think the defeat by Spurs gave them a definitive answer about their manager which won’t be easy to accept.

For some time now, there has been a loose assertion that Klopp has been handicapped by poor defenders and that Liverpool’s soft centre is irrelevant because they have the attacking talent to score more than any other team.

When it became clear that that Liverpool had no other plan, the very obvious failings of players like Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno gave Klopp some level of protection from criticism.

The big question for me was not whether the players were good enough but whether Klopp knew how to organise a defence properly and I got my answer during Harry Kane’s first goal for Spurs.

Lovren was poor for the goal, sure, but Klopp’s entire defence was a mess. It looked like players trying to do something they had worked on the training ground but very badly.

That’s down to Klopp or whoever he has outsourced control of his defence to. He said after the game that he could have defended the goal himself in his trainers but that was just deflection.

To be blunt, I don’t think he knows what he is doing with his defence. Trying to play an offside trap against Harry Kane is foolhardy enough but suicidal if you can’t organise your men to move in a line.

Klopp is supposed to be the great communicator and if he does have a solution to Liverpool’s defensive woes, he should have no problem explaining it.

Ronald Koeman paid the price for Everton’s poor form with his job but Steve Walsh must shoulder some blame for their summer signings.


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