Monday 19 March 2018

Ronnie Whelan: Klopp has got almost everything right - but his refusal to rein in his players is costing him

Read Ronnie Whelan every week in The Herald

Jurgen Klopp watched on as Liverpool threw away at commanding lead at Bournemouth
Jurgen Klopp watched on as Liverpool threw away at commanding lead at Bournemouth
Ronnie Whelan

Ronnie Whelan

It’s maddening. Every time Liverpool build you up to the point where you’re almost willing to trust them, something like this happens.

This defeat by Bournemouth is the result of a set of circumstances in which Jurgen Klopp decided that Lucas was a better option at centre-back than Ragnar Klavan once Joel Matip had to withdraw.

Mamadou Sakho had his feet up at home because he crossed Klopp and is not in the picture.

Matip is the glue that binds the defence but it is also now obvious that he has a settling impact across the whole team.

There was nobody on the pitch smart enough to understand that when you are two goals in front away from home and cruising, it’s time to tie the game up.

Liverpool had this game won twice and still managed to throw away three points.

With all due respect to Bournemouth, this wasn’t a ding-dong battle at all. They were outplayed comprehensively and Liverpool’s wild cavalry charge when they were comfortably in control of the game was ridiculous.

Across the span of several managers, players have shown this same brittleness under pressure. It has almost become a cliché.

I thought Klopp had addressed the problem and found a way to manage until he can bring in new defenders. He definitely steadied the ship in that regard and Matip is the key.

But he needs help and Klopp must react quickly to this problem. It could be the difference between winning the title or just fighting for a place in the top four.

He could swallow his pride and bring Sakho back because Lucas is no solution and he must do something if Matip is out for a while.

I hope he has transfer targets and maybe even for January but Liverpool need to change from being a club that reacts to one that plans for the future and for exactly circumstances like this. Need I mention Mario Balotelli?

So many knee-jerk buys have failed and a lot of money has been wasted.

There is also the problem between the posts. Ask yourself a question. When was the last time Liverpool had a goalkeeper in the Ray Clemence class? Silence.

Loris Karius is a young man, very young to feel the weight of a very big club on his shoulders. He may work out or he may not but I wonder why it is that a Liverpool title challenge should be his proving ground?

Liverpool need a battle-hardened, top class goalkeeper to put backbone into the defence.

There is a bigger picture here as well. This is not simply about Klopp buying better defenders or a world class goalkeeper.

His refusal to rein in his players cost Liverpool three points. Clyne and Milner were still bombing forward at 3-1 and all I could think of was - why?

You’re in front, well in front and I don’t care what vision the manager has about the way his team should play, that’s the time to take a moment, slow the game down and tighten everything up.

Tell your full-backs not to cross the half-way line for a while and if you’re making a substitution, bring on a defender – certainly not someone like Adam Lallana who plays on the front foot.

Klopp made a call and it was to go for the jugular after Emre Can made it 3-1. Sadio Mane came off and Lallana replaced him. I could not understand that move at all. Unless he believed that Lalana was a better defensive option than bringing Alberto Moreno on at left-full, releasing James Milner to move into midfield or Klavan which would have allowed Lucas to do the same.

My belief is that he felt that throwing Lallana on to try and maintain momentum was his best option which tells you all you need to know about Moreno and Klavan.

And that’s fair enough but you can do that without your-full backs throwing themselves forward as if they were chasing the game.

This was a big surprise for Klopp, a bucket of very cold water over the manager and his players.

He should have been looking at West Ham and Middlesbrough as a relatively comfortably six-point build-up to the Merseyside derby in two weeks but these are just the kind of teams that seem to expose Liverpool’s weak seam.

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