Liverpool fans have long been waiting for the club’s first Premier League title since 1990. The 27 years spent on the league champions’ waiting list have changed the mentality of Reds’ fans. They know that Liverpool FC is one of the greatest football clubs and it really is, but the only problem is that this greatness lies in the past. It is part of football history.
If Liverpool appointed any manager other than Rafael Benitez in 2004, could they have become a lesser club in the English top flight? This is a painful notion that could be debated via arguments, but it cannot be rejected by default.
Within the last 25 years, the Reds have been very close to getting back to the top on a few occasions – especially in the seasons of 2001/02, 2008/09 and 2013/14.
During the 2001/02 campaign, Liverpool were managed by Gerard Houllier. They played a 4-4-2 system with Emile Heskey and Michael Owen leading the attack. Sami Hyypia played in central defence and Vladimir Smicer was in midfield alongside Danny Murphy, Steven Gerrard and Gary McAllister. The Dutchman Jari Litmanen was also part of this very good Liverpool team. Most of these players played in that memorable final in Istanbul in 2005 when the Merseyside club won the Champions League.
In the 2008/09 season, Rafa Benitez led Liverpool to a title challenge, finishing just 4 points short of Manchester United. This was probably the best team Liverpool had produced within the last 25 years. Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Dirk Kuyt, Javier Mascherano and Yossi Benayoun were all playing at the top of their game and were the star players of this talented side. In fact, Benitez’s men had lost only twice in the season, in their away fixtures against Spurs and Middlesbrough. They actually won both fixtures against title rivals Manchester United – 4-1 at Old Trafford and 2-1 at Anfield – but dropped too many points due to draws at home against Stoke City, Fulham, West Ham, Hull City, Everton, Man City and Arsenal.
It was the loss of points at home that cost Liverpool the title in season 20013/14 as well. They lost at Anfield against Southampton and Chelsea and drew against Aston Villa. The 2-0 home loss against Chelsea was the game which caused Liverpool to lose the title to Man City. On these two previous occasions, it was by chance or collective performances that cost Liverpool the title. During 2013/14, Liverpool probably lost the title due to Brendan Roger’s inability to manage games and his individual players’ game. Rogers was obviously tactically unprepared to manage the team’s expectations and the tense games at the final stage of the season. His infamous decision to move Steven Gerrard to the position of holding midfielder weakened Liverpool in midfield, while at the same time didn’t help the defence. Despite being a world-class midfielder, at the age of 34, Gerrard simply wasn’t the right choice for a defensive midfielder.
Liverpool’s poor defensive record!?
Ever since Rafa Benitez left Anfield in 2010, Liverpool have been a defensively weak team. In Rodgers penultimate full season, when Luis Suarez led the team and almost won the title, it was the Reds’ defence that failed the team. Even though they scored a lot of goals, Liverpool ended the season conceding 50 goals, which was the worst defensive record among the top 5 teams.
In comparison, in the 2016/17 season – the first full season for Jurgen Klopp at Anfield – Liverpool conceded 42 goals. Despite the slight improvement in 2016/17, the current season hasn’t started well for Liverpool’s defence either. Klopp has recently said that Liverpool don’t have a “general defending problem”, which is far from true. They obviously have serious defensive issues to resolve. However, the defensive woe is not news at Anfield as the Reds’ defence has been unstable ever since Benitez left the club.
This season, where Liverpool lost 5-0 on their visit to the Etihad Stadium, if this game wasn’t included, the Reds’ defence would actually be comparable to those of Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal, simply if we don’t count the five goals that Man City netted against Klopp’s side.
Are the Liverpool fans right to put pressure on Jurgen Klopp!
No! Every time a Liverpool manager builds a team capable of challenging for the Premier League title – which happened on four occasions within the last 25 years, with the latest one happening now – fans get very anxious about Liverpool’s performances. Every time when Liverpool underperform, a large number of fans become negative and start putting pressure on the manager and the players. They have already started doing that with Jurgen Klopp and the current squad.
Klopp came and took over from Brendan Rogers, who left a squad of average quality that lacked motivation. Luis Suarez had just left for Barcelona, while Rogers wasted the last season in which Steven Gerrard could have played at its best, by switching him from offensive to defensive midfielder and keeping him on the bench. Everyone knows what happened with that system!
Jurgen Klopp has been brought in to recreate Liverpool as a strong team that plays exciting, offensive football and he has been doing that ever since he has taken on his role as a manager at Anfield. His Liverpool side definitely needs defensive improvements if they want to win a trophy. Klopp has recently suggested that it is Liverpool’s attacking players who owe the team this season, as they have missed too many chances and haven’t scored the goals that would have won games against Sevilla, Burnley, Spartak Moscow and Newcastle United. Considering the opportunities the strikers have had to score goals in those games, Klopp’s assessment looks correct.
In the next home fixture against Manchester United, it is again Liverpool’s strikers who should prove that they are worthy of their places in the squad by scoring goals that their team will definitely need to get all three points against this very solid Manchester United side.
However, whatever happens on the pitch, probably the most important thing for Liverpool are the fans’ expectations. If the fans can understand where Jürgen Klopp’s side stands and if they are objective when comparing this Liverpool side to Man City, Man United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal, they’d help a lot by providing Liverpool with the kind of support they need to get the best out of this season. So, let’s hear the fans speak.
The fans expectations?
I have asked the administrators of the Facebook page “Liverpool Football Club – Est 1892” and some other Reds’ fans the question: “What can Liverpool achieve in the Premier League & in Europe this season and what can Klopp do to improve the team?” Here are their answers.
Alex Graham: “Top 4 in the league, knockout stages in the Champions League, possibly just last 16 though if we don’t win the group. What does Klopp have to do? For me, he has to stick with one goalkeeper, preferably Mingolet, bring in a defensive leader, of course we all want Virgil van Dijk. This will tighten up the defence and get lallana back to full fitness to give us more creativity up front. Also with the lack of performance coming from RB Leipzig, I think that Keita coming in Jan is now a viable option and then could potentially transform our season.”
Paul Grealish: “I think we’ll find a way out of the Champions League group and after that it depends on things like the draw and where we can strengthen the squad in the January window if the club decides to spend at all. I think Top 4 in the league is by no means beyond us but we really need everyone right at it and staying fit and healthy for the whole season”.
Ashley Roberts: “Top 4 and last 16 of the Champions League is an OK season I think, considering we didn’t get VVD and Keita. We are crying out for a finisher and a leader at the back, also would like to see better use of substitutions and obviously better defensive coaching. Maybe even coaching additions would prove worthwhile? Hypia? Bring back Steve Clark. We will struggle to finish in the top 4, if we don’t strengthen in January or at least get someone who can teach the art of defending.”
Paul Abraham (published in Liverpool Echo Liverpool section): From day one I always thought Liverpool would achieve something special under Klopp and although two finals and Champions League qualification represents definite progress I still feel the ‘special’ is yet to come. Having said that I’m sick of watching Liverpool with my hands over my face and pains in my chest so far this season and I’m already looking ahead to next season when Keita and (surely) Van Dijk will strengthen the first team considerably but this season cannot be allowed to drift. Some of Klopp’s decisions about players (Moreno, Sakho) have bordered on the bizarre and his lack of a Plan B does worry me a little but if not Klopp then who? The answer is no one; Klopp still has the experience, personality and that unquantifiable ‘X-factor’ that makes him great for the supporters and a great fit for the club and more importantly a huge draw for the world class talent only a few managers can attract.
John Ferris (published in Liverpool Echo Liverpool section): When I heard the news of Klopp coming to Liverpool I thought great manager, but I have been left slightly disappointed with his refusal to except some of Liverpool’s players are simply not good enough. We have had numerous occasions to strengthen the defense and forward line but his refusal to do so has left me wondering is he the right man.
Will Sweeney (published in Liverpool Echo Liverpool section): Over the 2 years we’ve been treated to incredible matches and atmospheres (Dortmund etc). However, I still fear that sometimes he doesn’t see what we see – too much faith in defenders (if we couldn’t get VVD we needed someone else). But maybe the reason why I’m frustrated at the minute along with our other fans is that we know what this team could do, we believe that we are better than the last few weeks, and that is down to allopathic personality to me. I really really want him to do well, and I believe he will.
Simran Singh (published in Liverpool Echo Liverpool section): Personally I think Klopp has done a good job, the level of players we are now able to attract is because of what he is doing. Two cup finals and a top 4 finish is pretty decent considering the first year he had, no summer to create his own squad and still got to two finals. The problem we have as modern day fans is that we want results now and I feel many fans are constantly looking at what’s happening in Manchester. However the harsh reality is we are far behind what they are doing and to get to that level takes time unless we spend that type of money. We should give him time, let’s not forget only seven games have been played this season, Klopp will turn this around.
Colin Williams (published in Liverpool Echo Liverpool section): Liverpool’s defensive frailties were around when Kenny came back. The problem at Liverpool is the transfer committee, the quality of scouts and the goalkeeping coach. From Kenny’s time to now they have not brought in nor identified the right talent for the club. (90% of the players who were purchased during this time have been sold off.) For example, when Liverpool sold Suarez, it is clear they were not aware of Mbappe, Lemar, Jesus just naming a few here. I could go on. Unless there is a drastic change in the personnel of the transfer committee, scouts and goalkeeping coach we will continue to see the Liverpool not reaching the heights it should be reaching.
Stephen Lefebvre: No trophies = No success, simple as I like Klopp but don’t understand like most fans some of his decisions. People talk about time an so on, but Conte came and won the league, Jose came and won 3 trophies, and then strengthened were they needed too. Have we in the two years he’s been here? The answer is no. I’m not calling for his head, but come the end of the season and we’re left with no silverware again and no Champions League then them questions need to be and will be asked.
Kakra Solomon: Klopp has to bring in VVD or similar defender of his quality and height, got to bring Naby Keita, and of course an out and out striker to bring some fear factor upfront. Klopp needs to bring some composure around the penalty area and teach his attackers how to make incisive assist. He must have alternative formation of the 4-3-3.
Ramish Omer: He is the best thing manage us after the Shanks and Paisley. He has brought the spirit back in the club, no one can argue about it. One thing I appreciate in the man is that he will never criticise his boys in front of the media, knowing the media will destroy the slightest glimpse of having a solid and confident back four.
Tamil Maran: Looks like Liverpool are going backwards. Never improved the on actual of the team problem. Selling Sakho was a big mistake. Sold for £30 million in the last day of transfer. Money goes in the drain as the defence concede goals.
Warren Davies: Any one who wants Klopp out need their heads testing. The man is a breath of fresh air for the club. Success will come. Just be patient. He’s undoing years of bad habits and bad work so patience is needed.
Paul Jones: If I remember, in 2009 Dortmund had a rocky start to new year. They won one game in seven, then in the final 10 games they won eight, so just trust him he will come good.
Danny Gaskin: Best manager with Rafa since the glory days. The moaners and cry babies need an education in football. Maybe then they will realise: a) we are lucky; b) we are getting close to something good. Imagine if Virgil Van Dijk and Naby Keita came in January?