Saturday 14 December 2019

Richard Dunne: 'Warning signs are there for Liverpool as Klopp's men approach crucial period of their season'

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with Jordan Henderson (Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine)
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with Jordan Henderson (Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine)
Richard Dunne

Richard Dunne

December is a busy time for clubs but it looks as if the fixture list and other matters are taking a toll on Liverpool and Manchester City.

And neither of them are playing at 100 per cent right now. They are not where they can be or need to be in terms of performance. The results are OK but could be a lot better.

Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.

Log In

One thing Liverpool and City have in common is that they try to play the same personnel as much as possible. They both have big squads, but the starting XI doesn't change all that much from week to week. However, both will be stretched over the month to come.

They both play at such a high tempo, and have done so for a long time, that you expect them to hit a wall at some stage, and now it's a matter of how they can recover.

Liverpool haven't been losing but they have picked up a couple of draws in the last few weeks and they need to get out of that run.

If they start picking up knocks, they will really run into trouble, especially in the Festive period when they have so many games.

The manager would love to have a week's rest to recover, get his players ready again, but that's not available to him and it's hard to deal with.

This is where the managers, and their staff, really start to earn their money. You really need to work with your staff to know who is fully fit, who is at risk of injury, who is looking tired.

It was a tough match for Liverpool against Napoli and they didn't want to be going into their last group game, away, needing a result, especially with the fixture list they have coming up.

I am sure Jurgen Klopp would have liked to go to Austria and be able to rest a few players but that's not the case now, and it got even worse, losing Fabinho to injury as he has been vital for them.

It's not just the game but all the other things which cause problems for players and clubs: it's the travel, staying in different hotels, moving all around the place, that disrupts your rhythm.

I know that Klopp said before the Napoli game this week that he wasn't taking it and progress to the next stage for granted, but in his heart he would have felt that the last group game in the Champions League, away to Salzburg, was one where he could have given senior players a breather.

Wednesday against Napoli was about getting the job done and they didn't do that. That game reminded me of the Aston Villa match they had a few weeks ago, you go behind in a game and all of a sudden you have to battle and scrap, that is always difficult. You can't always rely on getting a late winner. They got one against Villa but Napoli were too good to let that happen.

You need to be able to perform for 90 minutes and not just react to something that has happened to you in the game. And what worries me about Liverpool is what we saw again on Wednesday night, their inability to keep a clean sheet.

City are conceding goals as well and not winning games, draws with Atalanta and Shakhtar in the Champions League don't look great. I feel as a club they felt the job in the Champions League was done, but it wasn't quite done, City are just about getting over the line in Europe and not exerting themselves too much.

You can't switch off and then expect to switch back on again, football doesn't work like that at the top level. You have to keep that tempo up all the time, you can't pick and choose the games you decide to play in.

The Champions League, for me, looks like a distraction for City. The fans don't seem that up for it and overall they don't seem to have that excitement for the group stages.

They only get interested as a club in the knockout stage, and you can get caught out by that.

City probably went into that game with Shakhtar thinking, we have beaten them three times in the last four years so we'll beat them again, but if you are not at 100 per cent, any team is capable of causing you problems. City, at least, have made the last 16.

Liverpool really raised themselves for some games, especially the Man City one, but then you can have a drop in your levels and they need to mind that in the matches ahead.

Liverpool's next games are against Brighton, Everton and Bournemouth, those are ties that can win you titles, if you win them, but they need to go and do it, get back to what they are good at, playing at a high tempo again which other teams can't live with.

When Liverpool are pressing and pushing, at their peak, I feel other teams can't even think. It's so tough to play against as you don't have a second to think about what you need to do, so Liverpool need to raise their levels more, get three wins from the next three games and sustain that level of play, if possible.

City will plod and I can see them going on a run of seven or eight wins in a row, they will find their form. They have had their setbacks, they've not had an ideal start to the season but they are still in there.

I can see them putting all their focus on the Premier League for the next couple of months and then we'll see what City are made of.

They did it last season, winning 14 games in a row after Christmas, this is when they warm up in the season, so Liverpool need to be aware of that and react to it.

They are missing defensive players but the injury to Segio Aguero is a blow. As good as Gabriel Jesus is, he doesn't have the same sort of aura about him in the team that Aguero does.

Who is your sportstar of the year?

Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.

Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.

Simply click here to register your vote

Herald Sport

The Left Wing: John Cooney on Ulster's European run and bouncing back from World Cup disappointment

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport