By Shaun Wylde – @ShaunWylde
Like most Liverpool fans, I’m over the moon with the progress that the club has made under the guidance of Jurgen Norbert Klopp.
When you compare where we were when he took over to where we are now it is indisputable that he has revolutionised our clubs fortunes.
We make big signings, elite players want to wear our shirt and we are a team that other elite outfits have to completely adapt their approach for when facing us because of how much they fear us, not to mention we are in the middle of a title challenge against a team backed by the financial might of a country!
This is all down to Klopp and he should be lauded for this. This doesn’t, however, make him exempt from criticism and I think recently there have been plenty of reasons to question his decisions. The most glaring of which have been his team selections and substitutions.
Klopp has shown a very pragmatic side this season, when he first came in we played exciting high-octane football with a great attack but this usually came with a downside regarding goals conceded.
This was true even last season but Virgil van Dijk and Alisson and the signing of Fabinho as well as a tactical tweak has helped shore up the back as well as providing stability in midfield. This came at the expense of exciting football which was okay earlier in the season when we still managing to scrape wins but we appeared to turn a corner in December where we played exciting football and kept a tight defence at the same time.
Our problem earlier in the season had been an inability to link midfield and attack and for some reason this has become a problem again.
It’s baffling to see both Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri snubbed against Everton when they both offer something no-one else in the squad does, it’s confusing when Milner is playing extremely frequently no matter how he performs and it’s frustrating to see Klopp become so overly defensive when it seems unnecessary.
A point at Manchester United is never a bad point but under the circumstances we really should have beaten them considering the injuries they suffered in the first half.
I know Klopp was planning for them to attack us and his plans were scuppered when they couldn’t after losing so many players but Klopp should have taken the initiative and changed things so we could break them down. In the end it’s a point at Old Trafford though so you can’t really complain but the approach at Goodison Park was completely bizarre.
Is it really necessary to play three defensive minded midfielders against Everton? I don’t believe so, considering we have a top goalkeeper with the most clean sheets in the league, the best defence in the league and the best defensive midfielder at Liverpool since Javier Mascherano, it feels like we should be focusing on trying to provide ammunition for our forwards more than being so defensively-minded.
Our front three have been criticised plenty for their performances this season and while Salah missed a hatful of chances against Everton, they’re just not getting the same sort of supply they got last season which is magnifying their misses.
It’s a weird decision to play Henderson, Gini and Fabinho in midfield when not one of them can get between the lines the same way Naby and Shaqiri can. It’s even weirder that when it’s clearly not working Klopp decided to take off Gini for Milner which honestly felt like a pointless substitution that gave Everton the initiative, if anything, instead of opting for a more positive option.
Obviously the most inexplicable substitution was taking off Mané for Lallana, which left me feeling truly disillusioned with Klopp for the day. I believe this all stems from a lack of something the German talks about regularly in pre-match interviews and press conferences…bravery.
This isn’t to say Klopp isn’t brave, but this season he has become more pragmatic and it sometimes feels like he is scared to lose the position he has got us in. We have gone into the majority of big games this season almost too cautious.
If Klopp had gone for Fabinho over Milner straight away against Man City away perhaps we would have come out of there still unbeaten. If we had gone for it more against Arsenal away maybe we could have won that.
Napoli away, PSG away, Man United away, Everton away. There are quite a few examples where we potentially could have left with more points if we had been a little more positive with our team selections and substitutions at key points.
This isn’t just an attempt to bash Klopp and I prefer to be positive as much as possible with Liverpool because we are genuinely having an amazing season and if we don’t win the league then it won’t be because we didn’t want it enough. I just feel that Klopp has become too defensive recently.
It was good to demonstrate a more controlled approach from us this season and we could never be as open as we have in the past but there is a middle ground and it felt like Klopp found it around December time.
He needs to find it again, in my opinion, because we need to be ready for when Manchester City slip up. I personally think they will drop points one more time this season and we need to be there to capitalise, lets hope Klopp gets it right.
Do you think Jurgen Klopp is too cautious? Do you think he’s get his priorities spot on to give the Reds the best chance of winning the Premier League? We want to hear from you!