Ronnie Whelan: Sell Coutinho and sort out the amateur defence, Jurgen
IT’S time for everyone at Anfield to stop the hand-wringing over Philippe Coutinho and sell him because Jurgen Klopp needs to spend big on defenders.
I rate Coutinho as an attacking player but I’ve always had doubts about him as a man to build a team around. Too often I see him drift out of a game and the very best in the business don’t do that.
He’s not a man to lead or to rally players when the going gets tough and while Barcelona can indulge talent like that, Klopp cannot afford to.
Liverpool should milk this deal for as much as they can get and they are playing hardball but I don’t think they should hesitate if it comes to a crunch moment.
We’ve been here before with Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez and played the same card with each of them but with differing results.
Torres moped around Anfield and might as well been sitting at home for all the use he was in his final season but Suarez obeyed his nature and gave everything he had, bit into every tackle and chased down every lost cause.
Coutinho doesn’t do that now and I don’t see him doing it if he really wants to go to Barcelona and Liverpool say no. It would damage the squad if he left, there’s no doubt but I liked what I saw from Liverpool going forward against Watford as much as I was depressed by what happened at the back.
The two months which should have been used to improve on the decent defending we saw in the run-in by buying better players has produced nothing apart from £10m Andy Robertson who wasn’t even in the match day squad for Watford. Going forward, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Firmino were devastating and exciting but at the back, Klopp’s defenders were like amateurs.
Basic knowledge of defending is absent and for someone who played in front of lads like Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen, the drop in standards is shocking.
This is visible across football. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at in the season opener between Arsenal and Leicester. Every year it seems to get worse. You watch kids games these days and every contact between defenders and attacking players is whistled up. The lightest touch is penalised.
Read more here:
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Defenders are chosen these days for their ability on the ball or to attack, a notion taken to the limit by Pep Guardiola with his insistence that his goalkeeper should be a ball player.
He wasn’t too fussed about defending at Barcelona and if he follows the same path at the Etihad this season it will be because he spent enough money to fill every gap in his squad with top quality attack minded footballers.
Klopp doesn’t have that luxury and by the looks of things the only way to solve at least some of his problem is to ship Coutinho off to Barcelona for a big fee.
While we wait to see how that unfolds, Klopp is faced with a huge Champions League play-off against Hoffenheim tomorrow and I’m filled with anxiety about that game. Failure to reach the group phase and Liverpool fans will have to deal with the Europa League again, not a prospect anyone would enjoy.
Coupled with a performance against Watford which showed all the old failings in the Premier League, a similar first-leg against a tough Bundesliga team would heap an uncomfortable amount of pressure on Klopp.