Jurgen Klopp insists he is not “too loyal” to his “underperforming” senior players and says Liverpool will only look to bolster their squad in January if deals are “available and doable”.
Klopp has a number of problems to solve after admitting Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Brighton was the worst performance of his managerial career.
His side have already lost six times in the Premier League – after being beaten only four times in 63 games in all competitions last season – and are 10 points adrift of the top four.
Speaking on the eve of Liverpool’s FA Cup third-round replay with Wolves Klopp said the issues at Liverpool are “complex” and cannot be resolved by simply spending in the transfer window, despite admitting the need to strengthen – Liverpool have already spent up to £ 45m on the signing of Cody Gakpo this January.
Under particular scrutiny has been Liverpool’s aging midfield with captain Jordan Henderson himself admitting Saturday’s defeat at Brighton “lacked energy”.
Henderson (32) and Fabinho (29) – who have won every club trophy during their time at Anfield – and 31-year-old Thiago, a later arrival but still a double cup winner last season, remain the Reds’ first-choice midfield .
Staving off criticism he is overly-reliant on the so-called old guard, Klopp said: “I heard I’m too loyal but I am not too loyal. The problem is too complex. If you can then go out and bring in another player to replace him, then it makes sense.
“But if you cannot bring anyone in, you cannot take anyone out. I am not too loyal. At Dortmund before I left, I said something had to change here – either a management change or a lot of other things needed to change.
“I will be here for as long as I am wanted. If no one tells me to go, I will not go. It is something for the future, in the summer, not now. The only thing I want is to fix this situation – that’s all.
“It is clear that there will be an important period of change. There have been injuries, but no one is interested in that. The boys feel the responsibility, but we’re sticking together with all we have.”
He added: “Do we have to strengthen? Oh yes. But is this the right moment for it? I cannot see it because of the situation we are in, I think I know exactly how that is, and that’s it. I cannot change the answer every week. Even when we lost another game since the last press conference, it doesn’t change.”
Klopp: We aren’t stubborn
Klopp also addressed questions over whether a particularly poor run of form, which has been compounded by injuries to Luis Diaz, Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota and most recently Virgil van Dijk, will force the club’s hand in the January window.
“We look outside as well,” he said. “It’s not that we are stubborn and think that’s it, we’ll go with these boys until 2050 or whatever. That’s not how we see it, it’s all about what we can do and these kind of things – and what you want to do More important is what you can do.It’s always the same, every year.
“I cannot change my answers – if the solutions are out there for us, available and doable, of course we would bring in players to help. But we have an existing squad as well and we are underperforming, definitely, I know that. But I cannot sit here and blame everyone else, the players, all the time.It is my responsibility.
“That’s my job to [get them to perform]. We have limited options but we have players with contracts here, they are not available. But if we bring in players, we cannot bring them all in the Premier League and Champions League list.”
Liverpool struggles Q&A: Injuries, fatigue or finances?
The reason for Liverpool’s struggle is a simple question with a multi-faceted answer.
A number of factors have contrived to create the current situation the most testing Klopp has faced in his time at Anfield. The manager will point to injuries: he had four forwards missing at Brighton – two long-term absentees – as well as influential centre-back Van Dijk.
Fatigue, both physical and mental, has also played a part. Klopp finally admitted on Friday that the 63-game 2021/22 season which saw Liverpool win two cups, almost lift the Premier League and Champions League, and play in every match for which they were eligible has impacted his squad. Captain Jordan Henderson confirmed after the Brighton defeat the players were low on energy and confidence.
tired? Low on energy? How how?
Well, off the back of Liverpool’s marathon previous season their starting midfield three at Brighton – Henderson (32), Thiago Alcantara (31) and Fabinho (29) – had a combined age of 92. Of the alternatives James Milner is 37, Naby Keita and Curtis Jones have missed a lot of the campaign with injury while youngster Harvey Elliott has struggled in an under-performing team.
So why has Klopp not freshened up his squad?
In one word: money.
Owners Fenway Sports Group found £35m-£45m to bring in PSV forward Gakpo this month even though he was a longer-range target because they wanted to fend off interest from other clubs. Klopp wanted Aurelien Tchouameni to bolster his midfield but the France international chose Real Madrid in the summer.
Midfield remains the area in real need of attention and the suspicion is FSG are budgeting for a break-the-bank deal for Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham.
What can Klopp do then?
Having ruled out making any more signings this window it looks like he will have to muddle through.
Getting forward Firmino and Darwin Nunez back fit will help but his option in midfield is to put greater faith in the likes of Keita and Jones and hope they can provide the refresh.
What’s the short-term fix to their general problems?
Finding a way not to be so defensively fragile would be a start. Liverpool have conceded the first goal 21 times in their last 35 matches and have not kept a clean sheet in the Premier League since October.
That is another issue which can be traced to their midfield deficiencies, but they have looked so open at the back opposition teams know they will always get chances. A change in formation may help but Klopp has already made minor tweaks without much success.
Sky Sports’ Lewis Jones:
The spotlight is shining so brightly on Liverpool’s defense right now it’s blinding those in view – yet, to focus solely on the individuals playing at the heart of the backline would be allowing others to escape criticism.
Yes, Joel Matip was at fault for the opening Brighton goal with a sloppy pass but up until that point, he and Ibrahim Konate had defended with great cohesion and assurance. They simply had to as the pressure towards their goal was relentless from a Brighton side that are purring right now.
And why were the Liverpool centre-backs so busy? Well, it stemmed from the Liverpool midfield trio of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Thiago, who was playing in a very odd role just off the two strikers. It did not suit him.
Brighton’s duo of Alexis Mac Allister and Moses Caicedo made the Liverpool trio look like they should be considering playing in a veterans league.
The midfield is the heart of a Jurgen Klopp team – when it malfunctions, like it is right now, then the forward line and backline suffer. This Liverpool team are not only malfunctioning but threatening to spin out of control.