When Jurgen Klopp arrived in Liverpool less than 2 years ago, it was a match in heaven. A passionate young manager with an entertaining style of play, managing a club with a strong fan base and a demand for success. But after 2 seasons and 4 transfer windows, things haven’t improved as much as originally thought. Klopp currently has a very similar to record to the manager previously sacked by Liverpool, Brendon Rodgers, and has failed to fix consistent issues with the squad, so let’s analyse their biggest issues
Lack of a Consistent Goalkeeper
One of Klopp’s first signings was a young goalkeeper from the Bundesliga, Loris Karius. At his previous club, Mainz, Karius had a relatively good season. He averaged 2.53 saves a game, which is very good for a young goalkeeper, but in his first full season at Liverpool, he managed less than 2 saves per game. Buying such a young goalkeeper who never played for such a big club was a huge risk, and so far it hasn’t paid off. The young German being seen as the clubs number one clearly was too much pressure for him. There are many games where you can simply point out where he was poor, but the most obvious game would be against Manchester United at Anfield. Even though it did end 0-0, you could see an unsure and a scared character on the pitch. One of United’s only chances was a ball over the top to Zlatan who hit it over the bar. But if you kept your eye on Karius, he just seemed so unfocused and unprepared. Even though Karius was poor throughout the season, Klopp does have to take some blame for this. Karius’s situation was very similar to the situation David De Gea was in when he arrived back in 2011. He was signed as a long term goalkeeper but didn’t have a great first season. He also lacked confidence and concentration. But instead of playing him as the first choice, like Klopp does with Karius, he made sure if he wasn’t in good form, he would play Andreas Lindergaard to ensure De Gea’s confidence wasn’t completely damaged. Klopp doesn’t know how to manage his keepers. He currently is playing Karius in the Champions League and the League Cup, and he isn’t looking any better. He should be played in games where Liverpool have a high chance of winning, not in a competition that could define their season. Mignolet is now being relied on more, because of Karius not showing any real improvement. Mignolet is a player very controversial between Liverpool fans. Some think he has improved and his positioning has definitely has improved, but others still think he is as unreliable as ever. Klopp still needs to improve this position. Mignolet isn’t getting any younger and Karius might still need time. He needs to rather sell one of them or buy a quick fix, until Karius is able to be the first choice.
By far the most obvious issue with their side is their defence. The constant issues being the left back, the centre halves, and the depth. One thing that needs to be mentioned about this defence is that Klopp hasn’t spent much on the defence at all. Players like Sakho, Lovren, Clyne and Moreno were signed before the German’s arrival. Klopp has signed Andrew Robertson for £11m from a relegated Hull, Joel Matip on a free from Schalke and Ragnar Klavan for £4.2m. Many have criticised all these defenders at some point, being Klavan’s poor awareness, Moreno ball watching or Matip out of position, many have to remember that the manager is to blame here. When you pay £4.2 million for a player in today’s market, you are going to get a £4.2 million quality player. Liverpool’s defence isn’t good enough because they haven’t brought in players good enough to win the league. Klopp is mainly playing in a style that involves Liverpool playing a high line and having such a reliance on their defenders being able to read the game. But because these players aren’t good enough it makes them look worse. At Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp had two very good centre backs in Hummels and Subotic. Both were dominant in the air and intelligent. Klopp clearly doesn’t believe in spending on defence and prefers to spend on attackers and forward thinking midfielders. This is proven by the fact that Klopp has spent a lot on forward players. He’s spent a combined £144 million on Salah, Mane, Keita and Wjinaldum. All these players score and assist for the club. Klopp’s system relies on the forward players scoring and pressing the opponent. He wants to make sure that the forward press is perfect, and it is. But the defence just isn’t good enough. He needs players who can play his system while also not full of mistakes. It’s their refusal to spend on defenders that is hurting them. They were constantly linked to Van Dijk but it only felt like it was taking effect on the player’s side and not the club. Van Dijk was forcing the move and Liverpool still seemed unsure on the deal. He would have definitely would have replaced Lovren or Klavan and given them a real presence at the back. But he probably will never join the club. Liverpool need to fix this issue and buy players of a real high quality. With Keita arriving, the best thing to do is sell Coutinho and fix that defence, while also fixing some other issues that I will address.
Now the issue I think they’ve started to resolve but still haven’t completely fixed. Liverpool last season missed Coutinho and Mane, their two best players for a month. Those two are their best players by a mile, and without them, they struggle to open teams up and have no killer instinct. The signing of Mo Salah means that Coutinho can play deeper and have more of the ball, but they let Origi go out on loan. He’s a player who isn’t exactly a guaranteed starter, but he was versitile and full of pace. With the young Belgian off their books for the season, they only have Sturridge and Firmino. Both are excellent players but if Firmino was to get an injury, they would miss out on his incredible set of talent. He is able to drop deep and draw a defender with him, giving space for Mane and Salah to run through. Daniel Sturridge doesn’t have the same desire to draw defenders away. The English goal scorer prefers to play like a real number nine, and not like a false nine. Firmino is one of the reasons Liverpool have such pace and danger in the final third, and without him they will definitely struggle. Their midfield is in a very similar position. If Lallana or Coutinho is playing there, they will easily dismantle teams. But that’s the problem. Without them both they struggle to break teams down who play very deep. Can is a great box to box midfielder, but doesn’t have quality that is good enough in the final third. Jordan Henderson is good at many things, but not great at anything. He excels in a deeper role but struggles going forward. Wjinaldum sometimes can pitch in with a goal, but he fades in and out of games and can’t be heavily relied on, especially on away days. Liverpool need to sign a striker with a similar style to Firmino and can contribute with more goals. Timo Werner was a name that was mentioned in the summer and that would be an excellent addition. Keita might solve their midfield issue, but if they’re selling Coutinho then they aren’t adding to the squad.
If Liverpool can solve these issues, and if Klopp can actually spend on his defence, then they should be much more likely to stay in the title race for longer. If Klopp doesn’t get these issues solved by next season, I’m afraid he might get the sack.