Thursday 22 August 2019

Comment - After the events of Saturday night, Liverpool fans should belatedly start to question Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp made some big selection decisions against Chelsea on Saturday....and many of them backfired
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp made some big selection decisions against Chelsea on Saturday....and many of them backfired
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Questioning Jurgen Klopp has been akin to committing a cardinal sin for Liverpool fans over the past couple of years, but the gloss that enveloped this engaging German tactician following his arrival in English football is getting chipped away with each passing week.

There will still be a large majority of Liverpool fans who still view Klopp as the Messiah they dare not question.

He is their great hope for a better future, the perfect fit for a club desperate to revive glory days that are fading into distant memory.

These devoted disciples have invested too much faith in the German tactician whose endearing interview techniques and passion on the touchline make turned him into their own 'Special One' long ago, yet the events of Saturday evening at Anfield should have focused a few minds.

The visit of Chelsea has become a marquee game in Liverpool’s fixture list, so when Klopp chose a game against Antonio Conte's Blues to ring the changes to his team and rest star names Dejan Lovren, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, he needed their replacements - Ragnar Klavan, Daniel Sturridge and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - to justify his decision with match winning performances.

While Oxlade-Chamberlain showed flashes of inspiration in a game that failed to live up to its pre-match hype, the home fans leaving Anfield after the 1-1 draw against the reigning Premier League champions could only conclude that Klavan and Sturridge cannot be relied upon to produce the good for Liverpool when it matters mosts.

Klopp's unexpected selection moves backfired, yet his mistakes on this eye-opening evening did not end there as he also played a key role in the Chelsea goal that cost his side two valuable points against a top six rival.

With Liverpool leading 1-0 courtesy of Mohamed Salah’s latest well taken goal, Klopp should have moved to seal up his side’s notoriously porous defensive line long before Willian carved out Chelsea’s 85 minute equaliser.

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Chelsea's Willian scores the equaliser at Anfield

In his position high in the Kenny Dalglish stand working for Liverpool.com’s live commentary, the club’s former striker John Aldridge was screaming at Klopp to bring Alexander-Arnold on for the final 15 minutes of the game, with Chelsea going for broke and pressing for an equaliser.

The Liverpool manager claimed after the game he wanted to make that change moments before Chelsea’s equaliser, yet Aldridge is among those suggesting his hesitancy in making the substitution was a fatal mistake.

“Klopp made a big tactical error against Chelsea last night and it may have cost Liverpool a win,” argues the ex-Ireland striker. “I could see that equaliser coming and was calling for him to go to five at the back and cut down the space Chelsea were finding on the flank.

“He should have done it long before the Willian goal and I feel Klopp could have got a win in that game if he was a little more decisive in making the change sooner.”

Such glaring selection and game management errors from a high-profile coach are worthy of scrutiny and with Liverpool already well off the pace in what has become a one-team Premier League title race dominated by Manchester City, Klopp now faces a week that will test the loyalty of his Anfield subjects to the full.

Anything less than wins in away matches against Stoke on Wednesday and Brighton next Saturday will add weight to the argument that the affable leader of Liverpool’s brave new world has, in fact, failed to move the club forward since he succeeded Brendan Rodgers in October 2015.

With so much good will propelling the Klopp train at Anfield no Liverpool fans wants to see him fail and yet he must be wary of pushing his popularity bank towards bankruptcy among the club's anxious supporters.

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