Will Ferrell was dropped off in the parking bay marked with a VIP sign outside Anfield’s new main stand on Saturday morning; there as a guest of Tom Werner, Liverpool’s chairman whose background is in the entertainment industry.
Ferrell is a Chelsea fan who once regretted a comment made on stage at a GQ magazine event about José Mourinho’s defensive tactics when soon after, Mourinho was sacked. "I feel horribly guilty because I feel like I had a hand in getting him fired," he wrote on social media.
It is imaginable that Ferrell, in Ron Burgundy mode at least, would have judged that Liverpool did anything but stay classy in their miserable defeat to Swansea City; their management of the game lurching between the staid and the chaotic.
Liverpool’s domination of the ball in the first half was nearly absolute but Swansea’s defensive game plan worked better, reducing Liverpool to half chances from slung crosses; the pattern proving once again that possession statistics can be misleading because Liverpool were not really in control of what was happening.
Then in the second half, Liverpool were all over the place, even in their recovery from two-nil down following Fernando Llorente’s goals. By seeking to smother Swansea at two-two they were already playing like it was injury time despite there being 20 minutes to go. Gaps were left in defence and when Gylfi Sigurdsson’s winner came on minute 75, Liverpool’s players might as well have walked off the pitch there and then because Anfield was flattened.
There is probably no chance of Ferrell’s allegiances switching after watching this mess. Assessing Jürgen Klopp’s words afterwards, indeed, it seems as though Ferrell might be the closest Liverpool come to making a new signing before the January transfer window closes. It is ironic when you consider Jordan Henderson’s injury problems since the turn of the year and Emre Can’s unsuccessful attempts to cover for him. Maybe Klopp’s team could do with a new Anchorman.
Klopp has consistently said that the focus of Liverpool’s recruitment plans has been around the issue of squad balance rather than financial frugality. And yet, if Liverpool aren’t careful, the monies retained from this month’s inactivity might end up being placed on an improved contract for Sadio Mané (above) when he returns from international duty with Senegal, should his agent choose to make the point that his client’s value has increased without him even being there.
Finding a way to replace Mané’s pace from the options within Liverpool’s current squad has proven to be impossible. Mané’s absence has had a negative domino effect on the team when you consider Klopp’s solution has been to take Adam Lallana out of a role where he was previously thriving, swapping him on Saturday with a midfielder so evidently low on confidence as Can.
Klopp was asked whether Liverpool could have done more to find new players to stop all of this happening. He and everyone else involved in transfer processes at Liverpool have, after all, known about Mané’s unavailability since the moment they signed him last summer.
“I understand it is absolutely normal people ask whether we should have brought players in. The situation is yes, on the one side pretty simple, but on the other hand it is pretty difficult,” he reasoned.
“It is not that we don't want to bring players in. We do. But the thing is, the players we want because we think they help us, the clubs don't sell. It is not about money in this situation, it is the winter transfer window.
“Clubs are saying 'no we have half a year to go, we cannot find another player like this; we prefer to take money in the summer, [rather] than a few pound more in the winter than whatever'. So it is pretty easy.
“You see the situation (needing replacements at this stage), it's tight, it's close, we know that, but if the right decision is not possible in signing the right player, then you cannot make the wrong transfer.
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“It is not as if there are 20 players out there who could make this team stronger, who are running around and are available. That is the situation.
“That is why I say we know the situation, we are prepared to move, but for the right player. We are not the only side who can decide the outcome of that. The other club (the selling club) makes the decision too.”
Is it too easy for Klopp and Liverpool to fall back on the idea that the market is not working for them, though? Liverpool have not performed anywhere near their best since the start of November, back when everyone was telling them how wonderful they were. This was a period when the club felt comfortable announcing the appointment of Michael Edwards as sporting director, a role he’d pretty much been doing on the quiet for 18 months anyway.
Perhaps there are more questions to answer, questions that can’t be answered in full publicly but certainly internally if they wish to go there. Basic questions like: did Liverpool’s promising early run of form cause decision makers to overlook what might happen when Mané was not there? Was it ever considered that the squad is too small to cope – that deals could have been in place for January 1? Or even, is the new sporting director struggling now that everyone in football knows what his responsibilities are? Is he finding it harder driving a bargain in what, in fairness, is a more difficult period to negotiate in? Has he flapped his first official test?
There are issues Klopp should ponder as well. If Liverpool lose to Southampton at Anfield in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final on Wednesday night his record across December and January this season and last will be identical, only this year he does not have the excuse of it being his first Premier League winter. There is a potential for it to read: P 13, W 5, D 4, L 4, and that, really, is in keeping with any manager in charge of a mid-table team. What could he have done to prevent Liverpool’s very average results? Is his attitude towards January too Wengerian, too reluctant?
On Saturday, in fact, Klopp made a very puzzling decision by withdrawing Roberto Firmino from the centre of his forward line and repositioning him on the right, despite the Brazilian being on a hat-trick. He had also been Liverpool’s best player. And that decision, as Burgundy would put it, should be viewed like him. It was “...kind of a big deal.”
(© Independent News Service)
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