WARNING: The following article contains opinions that may offend over-excited Liverpool supporters.
Not many managers can come seventh in their previous season and still be considered one of the hottest properties in the managerial world.
Jurgen Klopp has it all. The personality and charisma of your favourite uncle, the ambition of an X-factor contestant and the history of success like Liverpool Football Club itself. He was basically born to take the club back to the top.
Yet, I can’t help but think that even Klopp may not be able to salvage anything for Liverpool this season. Here’s four reasons why:
1: He can’t bench the whole back line
Perhaps Brendan Rodgers’ biggest downfall was his inability to either recognise the self-combustive tendencies of his defence or do anything about it. Things looked to have settled early this season with three clean sheets from as many games, but all that came undone at home to West Ham and you know once it rains, it pours (just look at the woeful goal they conceded against Everton).
Question marks were continuously raised over the decision to play Dejan Lovren in the centre of defence. Brain-explosions at a frightening frequency aren’t even the biggest concern with Lovren, but rather a lack of understanding with the rest of the back line. Admittedly he had been dropped for the few matches prior to the Welshman's sacking.
Since Nathaniel Clyne has been out of action, Rodgers opted for a three man back line featuring a stuttering Skrtel, an out-of-position Emre Can and the ‘caged lion’ Mamadou Sahko. This also meant dropping Joe Gomez who looked almost as bright as Nathaniel Clyne at the start of the season, despite his lack of experience.
Assuming Klopp arranges this Liverpool side similarly to how he ran Dortmund, it is likely Liverpool will return to a four-man back line featuring Moreno/Gomez, Skrtel, Sahko/Lovren and Clyne with Toure and Jose Enrique off the bench. Doesn’t look too flash, does it?
2: No inspirational leader in the dressing room anymore
A story circulated way too much last season and not enough this season is the impact of Steven Gerrard leaving his beloved club. While age played its cruel tricks and Gerrard became less and less influential on the field, the effect the captain had in the dressing room appears to be tremendously understated.
While replacement Jordan Henderson was considered the perfect protégé, his influence since becoming injured has dwindled to minimal and James Milner doesn’t appear to be doing any better. The team looks flat and uninspired, and while Jurgen Klopp will aim to become that inspirational figure, it might not be as effective. Here’s why…
3: Language Barrier
Jurgen had a fantastic rapport with his players at Dortmund. Even in last season’s dire circumstances he managed to inspire a comeback from dead last to seventh in the league. However, he and a majority of the players spoke fluent German.
If Liverpool can be commended for one thing, it’s the dedication to providing homegrown British players first team opportunities. This is probably best represented by the decision to appoint James Milner vice-captain in his first season at the club above Liverpool veteran Martin Skrtel.
Klopp is bilingual and has proven he can be quite proficient speaking English, but will he be able to get his point across to a very English dressing room without the nuances? Former Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn seems to think not.
“I’d absolutely trust him to have no big problem with English, but sometimes, as far as motivating a team goes, there are subtleties in the team language…”
4: Europa and other distracting competitions
Say what you will, the Europa League is still very much a competitive, high-intensity competition. There’s a reason no English team hasn’t won the trophy since 2001. However, on the other hand, it’s a trophy that should not be inconceivably out of Liverpool's reach. Sitting second in their group with two draws, isn’t the worst start to a campaign and with Klopp at the helm you would expect progression to the knockout round.
Where it gets complicated is what Fenway Sports Group want Liverpool and Klopp to focus on. Surely for a club with the amount of pride and history Liverpool has, it has to be a return to the top four in the Premier League. Yet, there may be a bigger push for the squad to end their trophy-less run since 2012 (League Cup). In most circumstances, a League Cup trophy would not be considered celebration-worthy event for the fans in the Kop, yet it might just be a platform to build confidence on (just look at Arsenal after two FA Cup wins).
In all likelihood, Klopp will aim to resurrect the Premier League push for this season, but you feel that the longer this stretched squad competes in other competitions, the less realistic this objective becomes.
Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware of what Klopp is capable of and the FSG have absolutely made the best decision for the club, but someone had to bring this situation back down to earth.
After all, you can’t run a cattle farm if all you have is sheep.