John Giles - There is a big gap in Jurgen Klopp's football knowledge
Read John Giles every week in The Herald
WHEN a manager reaches into his bag of excuses and can come up with nothing more than blaming players, he’s in trouble. Jurgen Klopp is in that place now.
I wasn’t a bit surprised by the poor defending which led to Liverpool’s 2-0 League Cup defeat by Leicester but I thought Klopp would know better than to publicly blame his players, whether it’s their fault or not.
The more I see of Liverpool under Klopp, the more convinced I become that the blame lies firmly at his feet, although he is not helped by a group of defenders who lack some basic skills.
I saw some comparisons with Brendan Rodgers in the newspapers yesterday and from where I’m sitting, Liverpool are worse off now under Klopp.
Defending was also a problem for Rodgers but he had decent defenders like Jamie Carragher to work with and it always helps if the personnel know the job they are supposed to be doing.
I look at Klopp’s Liverpool and I see the fundamentals of defending ignored, players out of position often and chaos every time they have to defend a set-piece.
After the Leicester defeat, Klopp claimed he was sick of this type of defending and yet he is responsible for it.
He also said this about the first goal: “We always have to defend these situations better. The second ball after the corner, it’s close but it’s not offside. So we need to make it more clear that it’s offside. The only thing you can do is to push up – we didn’t.”
For me, those words expose the flaw in his thinking. There are many things you can do to defend a second ball without pushing up. His instinct was for his players to rush out when the right thing to do is clear your lines.
Every kid who ever played the game has been told “clear your lines” and only then think about pushing up or counter-attack.
Deal with ball and clear it away from the penalty area. If the defender can do that calmly and well, he can then prompt the type of attack Klopp wants to see.
Klopp has the cart before the horse and his comments take the guesswork out of this situation for me.
I didn’t really know what he was up to with his players on the training ground but I see it now.
I thought all along that his defensive options were not great but I can now see that players like Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Ragnar Klavan etc are not being organised properly.
It is possible to produce a decent defensive unit from ordinary players once they are being told to do the right things but if the coach has a big gap in knowledge, well that will manifest itself eventually on the pitch. I think that’s what we have seen at Anfield since Klopp took over.
To be positive about Klopp, he has brought a lot of great things to Liverpool. They are very attractive to watch when Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino are working well but it will never be enough as long as other teams out there are paying attention to their defending and also have the money to buy top attacking players.
Do the numbers. Liverpool have conceded the same number of goals as Manchester City and United, and Chelsea combined. You’ll win nothing with defending like that, no matter how many you score.
The problem for Klopp now is that this is a theme of his time at Anfield and has become embedded as a characteristic of his team.
I think everyone was fooled by the spell they had at the end of last season when they had to knuckle down, gather points and make certain of a top four finish.
Liverpool had four clean sheets in that spell and the consensus was that this was a sign that Klopp had got to grips with Liverpool’s inconsistent defending.
If anything, it’s got worse and Klopp was not able to do anything to impact on the situation in the summer transfer market.
I believe he wanted Virgil van Dyke alright but I never thought the club owners were willing to pay the amount needed to get him.
All of this leaves Klopp in a difficult position. His team can’t defend and he doesn’t seem to be able to fix that. The hope he brought to the Kop has been diluted by what they seen every game.
The Liverpool ex-pros have been adding their opinion and to a man, the criticism is focused on the defence and the defenders.
This is all so similar to the path Rodgers took and while I believe Klopp still enjoys a lot of support among Liverpool fans, it is now being tested by events.
They know their football and it doesn’t take a genius to work out what is wrong with Liverpool. A few more poor performances would crank up the pressure on Klopp in a very serious way.