Liverpool FC’s 3-1 victory was their first over Chelsea FC in 3 1/2 years, having never beaten the Blues throughout Brendan Rodgers’ tenure as manager. Despite all the signs of optimism on show at Stamford Bridge, however, new manager Jurgen Klopp is right to call for patience from the Reds’ supporters and critics alike.
Jurgen Klopp has not put a foot wrong ever since he was appointed Liverpool FC manager earlier this month. He has constantly spoken well of the players he has at his disposal despite the lack of quality in comparison to richer teams in Europe. He has never once spoken ill of the work of managers that have come before him, and even though he has expressed his certainty at Liverpool winning trophies as long as he remains in the job at Anfield, he has also been at pains to make it clear that the road to success for Liverpool will be long and hard, and will not involve shortcuts of any kind. As Klopp said post the win over Chelsea FC, one win away at the champions does not make a team ready to challenge for the title.
Any club as rich as Liverpool FC that has 19 players out on loan should not expect any sympathy if they are short of options within the squad due to injuries. The Reds entered the season knowing fully well that they will be playing in 4 competitions, and the decision to loan out so many players has been of the club’s own accord, so the lack of options available to the new manager now that so many players have gotten injured is one the club has to live with until 2016.
That being said, the Merseysiders are suffering from extreme bad luck over the fitness of players within the squad ever since the past 4 weeks. Jurgen Klopp has shown his willingness to give young players a chance if they show the right attitude; and he would surely have given Danny Ings and Joe Gomez a proper chance had they not suffered cruciate ligament injuries on consecutive days.
Liverpool FC have been at risk of running out of strikers altogether but for Divock Origi staying fit. Klopp has also not spent a single training session with Jordan Henderson, who is not just the club captain, but the midfielder most suited to a typical Jurgen Klopp midfield setup.
The Reds’ squads have not been filled with as much raw talent as others even during Luis Suarez’s time at the club, but injuries to the players Klopp would have liked to work with are not making things easier for him. Unlike most managers, however, Klopp has not complained about injuries, knowing fully well that moaning in the press does not help an injured player recover faster. Calling for patience, as Klopp has done, and stressing that life for Liverpool does not suddenly become easier because of a new manager is the right thing to do.
Options up front
Social media has become a comedy club for fans and critics to laugh at Liverpool FC for going from Luis Suarez to Daniel Sturridge to Divock Origi up front, but one must acknowledge that the club have been hit especially hard up — to the extent that the next best option to throwing Origi up front is not fielding a striker at all.
Klopp himself tried to hijack Liverpool’s bid to sign Origi back in June 2014; so his show of confidence by throwing Origi up front in his very first game in charge should not be a surprise to anyone. Yes, Origi was not even involved in Liverpool’s win over Chelsea FC on Saturday, but unless Origi does not put in 100% in training, it is unlikely that he will continue to be given a chance by Klopp depending on the availability of other strikers at the German’s disposal.
To put Liverpool’s luck with injuries into context, Bayern Munich’s fourth choice striker is Julian Green, Real Madrid do not have any senior strikers lining up behind Karim Benzema and Jese Rodriguez, while free spending and free scoring Manchester City have just two senior strikers, not counting Kelechi Iheanacho. The strikers currently out injured for Liverpool are no clowns, having all played and performed in the Premier League before.
Christian Benteke is the 4th most prolific striker in the last 4 seasons in the Premier League, Daniel Sturridge has the best goals to games ratio of any Liverpool FC striker in the modern era, while Danny Ings was himself showing signs of linking up well with the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana and threatening to push on further from the 11 he scored for a goal-shy Burnley last season.
All said and done, Divock Origi, at this point in time, has not shown enough quality whenever he has played up front on his own — not holding the ball well enough or linking up with the likes of Coutinho and Lallana behind him. However, given Liverpool’s luck with their strikers’ fitness over the last month, Jurgen Klopp will be forced to turn to Origi, and hence is right to call for patience with the young Belgian rather than the criticism he has been receiving from outside.
Transfer window and finding solutions in-house
Jurgen Klopp would surely have noticed by now the imbalance in the Liverpool FC squad, the oddity of sending a truncated squad of 21 for a competition as gruelling as the Europa League and the fact that the club have 19 players out on loan, some of whom could have provided cover due to the recent injury crisis.
He also knows that the magic bullet of the transfer window is not available for another 2 months. But like in his previous job at Borussia Dortmund, Klopp is already showing that he is not just a hired gun manager only here as a magnet for players of a higher profile, but also that he is capable of finding solutions within his own squad.
Liverpool put themselves in a ridiculous situation at the end of the summer transfer window of having just 1 player at each full-back position within the squad — knowing that Alberto Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne would both require a rest at some point of time before breaking down completely, but also that both could not be rested as changes were already made in the centre of defence.
Liverpool are starved of left-backs coming through the academy, so resting Moreno, giving youngster Connor Randall a chance to make his debut in the position he was best at, while asking the more experienced and natural full-back in Nathaniel Clyne to play on the other side was the right thing to do. Klopp’s choice of resting Moreno instead of Clyne while simultaneously getting the right balance at the back that would enable Liverpool to keep a clean sheet shows that there was indeed a method to Klopp’s madness.
Looking back in hindsight at Klopp’s tactics for Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Chelsea, Klopp’s intelligent use of Christian Benteke ensured that he got the right result out of him. Sending Liverpool FC out without a recognized striker for the first half was aimed at keeping position in midfield and drawing Chelsea’s defenders out of position, while also ensuring that Benteke was not unnecessarily risked from the start.
The former Borussia Dortmund manager has also noticed that the absurd shortage of wingers and even more absurd abundance of No 10s at the club means that it will take some time for Christian Benteke to build a relationship with the players behind him. With that in mind, Klopp getting Mamadou Sakho to set up the goal that gave Liverpool the lead was his immediate solution to getting Benteke involved.
The aerial ball made use of Benteke’s strength in the air, and the knockdown to Coutinho eventually proved to be the assist. This kind of a setup is akin to Klopp’s days at Dortmund, were he resorted to the use of Mats Hummels as a deep lying playmaker when Nuri Sahin first left the club, ensuring that the service to the front men was not cut off due to an outgoing transfer.
Jurgen Klopp may be best known for his work outside England, and hence supporters look to him to bring players of a higher profile into the club. But Klopp is not just a tracksuit manager that performs elaborate goal celebrations on the sidelines — he is more intelligent than critics give him credit for. His greatest quality is his ability to find solutions within his own squad. Klopp’s methods do not involve shortcuts, and hence he is right to call for patience until his methods lead to the success that Liverpool supporters are craving for.