What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Seven days ago, Liverpool found themselves as a force to be reckoned with in three domestic competitions. LFC were in the second spot on the Premier League, they were one game away from the League Cup Final at Wembley Stadiums, and looked like a sure bet to advance to the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Today, the Reds find themselves ten points behind Premier League leader Chelsea, dumped from the League Cup on the back of a 1-0 loss to Southampton, and most stunningly, crashed out of the FA Cup on a 2-1 choke-job at home to Wolverhampton…a bottom-half team from the Championship.
The warning signs for this were apparent throughout January. A 2-2 draw at bottom-dweller Sunderland, the inability to score at Anfield against a League Two side in Plymouth Argyle, capped by an embarrassing 3-2 loss at the hands of relegation-zone member Swansea should have every Scouser in the Kop understanding this club may not be the treble-threat we were envisioning.
Time to take a hard look in the mirror, Liverpool fans. Yeah, I simply be a “treasonous colonist” who can only be Liverpudlian in spirit, but I can still see some big problems we have.
1) The Lack of Intensity as a Team
Remember all the stuff which had us all excited about this club back in September and October? The bold play in the middle, keeping the ball in the enemy end, and a an earnest desire to create quality scoring chances not only from the front three, but from the mid-fielders as well. Come January, all that has been replaced with a sloppy-footed sideways game which leads to clumsy attempts on goal, which lead to disorganized and feeble defending of the inevitable counter-attacks.
There’s a stiffness in the Liverpool attack half which resembles the mono-pedal figures clamped to the rod of a foosball table, and their sloppy defending puts one in mind of the hapless foosball flails of an over-matched side, all of which leaves whichever tuna sandwich the Reds play in net to be treated like the yellow tin duck in a shooting gallery.
2) The Lack of Individual Intensity
At first, this would seem obvious given point #1. While it may be, it still merits mention as Jürgen Klopp’s entire philosophy depends on a high-level of teamwork, which can only be achieved by a high-level of individual effort. Take Klopp’s “heavy metal football” analogy for example. The throb of the bass must meet the thump of the drum, and the wail of the guitar must integrate seamlessly over the other two or else the result is a thunderstorm of random noise which suits nobody. Right now Liverpool football is a teenage garage band where the guitar is out of tune, the drummer is off-time, and the bassist is playing a shovel.
The timing is the key aspect; the tempo at which Liverpool plays the ball on the attack and finds space off the ball are the keys to Klopp’s philosophy. Therefore it shouldn’t come as a shock that it is the lack of that speed and movement which has led to this general malaise. Granted, there have been injuries which do play a role in this situation, but all clubs must deal with the fitness of players. That notwithstanding, we can play the rotating scapegoat game all we want; depending on the day this is all the fault Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge, Emre Can, the injury to Sadio Mane, ad infinitum… The fact is that at any given moment, several of the spark plugs are not firing in the engine of Liverpool football.
3) The Role of Jürgen Klopp
What none of that addresses is the fact that despite what you think of Jürgen Klopp has to accept responsibility for a lack of rotation and a clear overuse of some players. Since his arrival on Merseyside and up until now, Liverpool fans have been reticent to trade in their blind optimism driven by Klopp’s charismatic, toothy grin for open criticism, it also must be understood that Klopp is making two fundamental mistakes with this club.
With all the changes Klopp made to his team for Saturday’s loss – only goalkeeper Lorius Karius and forward Roberto Firmino kept their place sin the starting 11 – there’s a failure to realize that a decade of mediocrity has left the Reds as a side which is far too thin and does not contain enough quality to make these kind of wholesale changes.
The second is fed by the first. With that lack of depth and the concomitant lack of options, Liverpool is predictable without it’s aforementioned pace and use of space. Swansea, Southampton, and Wolverhampton all left Anfield with victories because all a side needs to do to beat the Reds is to play back, sop up Liverpool’s half-hearted attack and counter-punch like a Cuban welterweight.
Today, Klopp’s side finds itself seemingly adrift and completely adrift. Their once fabled attack has become impotent, the adjustments are as feeble as the situation driving them – line up Firmino wide left, then spend the last 45 minutes drifting into the middle as much as possible while using Philippe Coutinho as a deep play maker. Three straight opponents have sniffed that out, and you can bet Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side will do the same come Tuesday.
Don’t misunderstand me, this isn’t intended to be the genesis for the “Fire Klopp” movement; far from it. Rather, this is all about two things we Liverpool fans need to admit. The first is we all need to sit back and wait for the true vision of the Klopp era to take shape. We all want that elusive Premier League title and/or the return to the ranks of European football royalty, but to do that will take some time. We don’t need another repeat of 2013/2014 where the title was within the grasp, only to have the 3-3 draw at Crystal Place in the second-to-last match of the season rip it away… as well as signaling the beginning of the end for Klopp’s predecessor Brendan Rogers. This club is only two points off second place with 48 left available; a return to the Champions League is a lock barring a complete collapse.
The second is to remember that the Premier League is to European football what the BiG Ten is to American college football. The Premier League has more depth than any other European domestic league. Think about it. For Bayern Munich to win the Bundesliga, they really only have to worry about two or three clubs. The same applies for Barcelona or the two Madrid clubs in La Liga, or the “usual” suspects in the Italian Serie A. Teams in the Premier League beat the crap out of each other every matchday; even the teams that get relegated to the Championship are usually better than middle-of-the-pack sides in other leagues. How many other relegated sides such as Newcastle would hang on to a world-class manager like Rafa Benitez?
That’s why Liverpool needs to look long-term and build depth with the idea being returning to the royalty of European football won’t be short-lived. To do that, they can’t just have a great club; they need a deep club that can handle the rigors of multiple competitions. That won’t happen overnight.
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A bad week indeed for the Reds concluding with that FA Cup debacle. Just started getting involved in that competition this year and love seeing smaller pitches when replays are in order or the lower division clubs are lucky in the lottery. Getting my head around the FA Cup took time but enjoying it. Liverpool and Klopp certainly got a wake-up call this past week. I wonder about some of these teams “hitting a wall” in January. Lots of moaning about the multiple games in such few days around Boxing Day-New Year’s Day and then these competitions in between. I think that’s the hardest thing to understand about soccer…all the competitions during league seasons. Fans understandably want their team to max effort for every match.
The fans “in the know” understand teams which have the depth to be a force in multiple competitions. Liverpool fans don’t understand their club dropped from those ranks and it will take Klopp time to rebuild. The contrast in is Leicester City. those fans get simply avoiding relegation in the EPL is acceptable with a deep showing in the Champions League, because that’s how you really grow your club.
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