Following a week of disappointment and unrest, John Dykes casts his eye on Anfield and investigates if there is any transfer business Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp should be doing by the end of January.
It was only a loan deal, involving a player who had made just nine league appearances (four of them off the bench) this season, scoring only two goals. Yet for some Liverpool fans it was one blow too many after a week when they had taken a lot of punishment. Not least from gloating Manchester United supporters.
When news of Daniel Sturridge’s temporary move to West Bromwich Albion (partly to rekindle his hopes of getting a World Cup call-up) filtered through, my “The John Dykes Show” producer and passionate Liverpool fan Dan Ogunshakin vented on social media. He declared Liverpool’s decision to be “madness” as well as “unnecessarily reckless and negligent”.
He, like many other Liverpool fans had finally broken in the face of the frustration that comes from seeing a team go 18 games unbeaten – conquering the runaway league leaders and remaining unvanquished at Anfield for nine months – to exiting the FA Cup at home to West Brom shortly after losing to the Premier League’s bottom-placed club, Swansea.
— JohnDykes (@JohnDykesFC) January 29, 2018
But to get words like “madness” and “reckless” out does seem to be a bit of an overreaction. You could argue that Liverpool had simply suffered a couple of bad results against Premier League sides but the ferocity of the fans’ response speaks volumes about the underlying dissatisfaction they feel over a number of issues affecting the club.
Some say Liverpool’s inconsistency can be (and should already have been) solved in this transfer window with the purchase of a new goalkeeper. Although the Reds’ defence as a whole comes in for regular criticism, Liverpool actually allow teams relatively few shots on target: 10 in the last four. However, those shots have resulted in eight goals and Liverpool’s goalkeepers, Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius, have conceded from 80 per cent of the shots they have faced. Liverpool goalkeepers are currently averaging a save only every 180 minutes of game time.
VAR has stopped more goals for Liverpool than Mignolet and Karius combined this season. pic.twitter.com/IiAxLnabYk
— Troll Football (@TrollFootball) January 27, 2018
Spanish fullback Alberto Moreno comes in for regular criticism from Liverpool fans, as does centre-half Dejan Lovren. Some fans say the club desperately needs to hire a coach specifically for the defence. Midfielder Emre Can at times looks like a world beater and at others he is the butt of fans’ criticism. Liverpool can be expected to score against the very best teams and to concede to the very worst. That leads us to the other major debating point: manager Jurgen Klopp.
On a UK radio phone in last Saturday, a Liverpool fan furiously demanded the manager be sacked. Others have written to football websites and on social media demanding the same. Elsewhere, Klopp has been ridiculed for making too many excuses for defeats (the latest being that the West Brom defeat was cut short on the orders of a TV broadcaster).
Klopp is the latest professional to suffer the odious modern-day fate of being called a “fraud” by some ignoramus or other. Of course, he does not deserve that sort of disrespect. He is a high-quality coach, who achieved extraordinary success in Germany and having done more good than bad during his three seasons at Anfield.
Wins after 134 games in charge of Liverpool…
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 29, 2018
His first season could have brought two cups and his first full season yielded a fourth-placed finish. In my opinion he “fits” Liverpool, sends out teams that are capable of playing thrilling football, good enough to beat anyone on their day. This season could yet deliver another top four finish and a run deep into the knockout stages of the Champions League. He is charismatic, one of the most iconic figures in the Premier League, and English football would be a poorer place without him.
Yet he and Liverpool have got major problems to address and they are mostly self-inflicted.
Their transfer dealings have been mixed. Philippe Coutinho wanted to leave and, once they accepted the inevitability of his departure, Liverpool made spectacularly good money selling him to Barcelona. Virgil Van Dijk restored fans’ belief that big players want to play for Liverpool by forcing through his move, albeit at a premium price. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s move to Anfield was mocked by many but appears to have been a smart enough piece of business.
So far so good in the marketplace. But why hasn’t Klopp been able to get Liverpool to buy a goalkeeper to replace his two incumbents? Also, in finally allowing Sturridge to go elsewhere in search of game-time, Klopp has conceded that the England man doesn’t have a future at Anfield. So, why not replace him sooner?
Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge both joined #LFC in January 2013 and have departed the club this month – the latter on loan. They contributed a combined 334 appearances and 117 goals. pic.twitter.com/ex8WNTflfi
— Melissa Reddy (@MelissaReddy_) January 29, 2018
Of course, Klopp hasn’t actually replaced Sturridge, even though Dominic Solanke, Danny Ings and Ben Woodburn could all offer support for the overworked Roberto Firmino. It was apparent even two seasons back that Klopp wasn’t convinced by Sturridge, so I think he should have got the high-earner off Liverpool’s books and brought in a proven goal-scorer.
Tactically, Klopp isn’t immune to criticism either, and I’m not just talking about his alleged inability to coach a defence. I’m in the school of thought that believes he needs to develop a Plan B or even C. As thrilling and often ruthless as his high-pressing game is, it only takes a slight dip in intensity from his players for Liverpool’s shaky back four and goalkeeper to be “got at” and recent games have reminded us just how that ends.
So, those are just some of the underlying issues that led to these recent explosions of frustration from Liverpool fans only a fortnight after they put four goals past a brilliant Manchester City side.
There is a fix and it’s a simple one. Buy someone, Liverpool, preferably a goalkeeper and do it now! By the time the January transfer window shuts, Liverpool must be all over the back pages.
That in turn should buy enough goodwill from the fans and hopefully enough points on the board between now and the end of the season for the arrival of midfielder Naby Keita in the summer to send Klopp into a new Premier League season and Champions League campaign with the weaponry needed to finally land some silverware.