Monday 16 September 2019

Richard Dunne: 'If you go outside that core 14 or 16 players in the Liverpool squad, the quality is not there'

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson gets his hands on another trophy (Getty)
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson gets his hands on another trophy (Getty)
Richard Dunne

Richard Dunne

Liverpool have to overcome their travel fatigue from that midweek trip to Turkey and get their heads right for Southampton tomorrow.

This is where Liverpool’s squad comes under the spotlight. They knew before the season started that they would have these extra games, the Super Cup and the World Club Championship. Those tournaments are an inconvenience, but they are also the price of success – this is the reward for winning the Champions League, which clubs are so desperate to win.

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And these games could take a toll on Liverpool over the course of the season, in terms of the depth of their squad.

I looked at Fabinho at the end of the Super Cup and he was dead on his feet, Jordan Henderson played 120 minutes and it’s very hard to just get up and go again to play in the Premier League. Whether it takes a toll this weekend or in a few weeks’ time, we can’t be sure, but this intense period will have an impact.

You look at Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, playing long into the summer in the African Nations Cup, players like Henderson and Virgil van Dijk were away at the Nations League. They had a lot of players playing through the summer and there will be a cost from such exertions, it might not be in injuries but possibly a loss of form, or both.

You can get away with things like that when you are going for a title or chasing the Champions League, but in the early stages of the season, when you are trying to get going, fatigue can have an impact.

The Super Cup is scheduled long before they know which teams will be in it so there’s not much you can do about the venue, and the timing seemed to be OK as the Spanish and Italian leagues have not started back yet so their clubs could have used the Super Cup in their pre-season, but the Premier League starts earlier and it’s a problem when two English clubs make it.

The venue, Istanbul, is a fair distance away. There was a late kick-off to start with, then you pile on extra time and penalties, plus the heat, and now Liverpool have to come back from that and try, somehow, to get ready to play Southampton at 3.0pm tomorrow.

I imagine that the Liverpool squad would have stayed over in Istanbul on Wednesday night. The thinking in the game now, certainly at Premier League level, is for the players to get a good night’s sleep, instead of travelling back right away, and they could even have trained in Turkey yesterday morning and flew home then.

I suppose they’d have had a meal on Wednesday night at at their hotel in Istanbul, but it would still have been in the early hours before they got to bed.

I guess they’d train again in Liverpool this morning, do some tactical work, and travel to Southampton then.

When I played for Ireland away from home, we usually flew back straight after a game, the clubs wanted their players back in time for training the next morning.

It’s different at club level, you are already with your club so the staff there know your situation, but when you have been away with your national team, the club manager and staff  want to know a player’s situation, so they can be in control of your recovery for the game that weekend.

Liverpool had the staff they needed to do all of that over in Turkey.

Staying over in Istanbul would have been the best option.

If you fly back right away you get on a flight late at night, you've not eaten properly, you don’t sleep on the plane and then you need to get up the next day and do a few hours training, without proper sleep, and all the time you’re getting ready for a big Premier League game.

So it’s not an ideal lead-in for Liverpool to play Southampton, but at least they have a trophy to show for the trip.

I think it would have been a bigger deal for Frank Lampard to have started off his coaching career with Chelsea by winning a European trophy.

It’s always good to add trophies to your cabinet and it makes Liverpool the most successful English club of all time in Europe so they will see it as a big deal.

I saw Fabinho saying that every time you win a trophy you go down in the club's history as a legend and that is a factor. The players worked hard to get to that stage and they should treasure it, it's a UEFA trophy and it should mean something.

But I do still have my doubts about the Liverpool squad, Naby Keita took a knock before the game and wasn't available, it's little things like that which can mount up. Everyone else needs to put in that bit extra as the manager can’t afford to give players a rest.

If you go outside that core group of 14 or 16 players in the Liverpool squad, the quality is not there, and all of those factors could hamper them this season.

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