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Despite Champions League final, Jurgen Klopp should not be immune to criticism

Jurgen Klopp
Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool

Despite Champions League final, Jurgen Klopp should not be immune to criticism

Despite improvements under the German, flaws remain at Anfield.

Prior to the Champions League final, the media spotlight was firmly focused on Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The game was painted as being a contest between two of the best players in the world, both of whom have had remarkable seasons and it was widely predicted that it would be one of their nights.

However, by Sunday morning we were talking about neither of the star duo.

Salah had been substituted mid-way through the first half clutching his left shoulder following a tangle of bodies with Sergio Ramos whilst Ronaldo was a peripheral figure throughout the game and had minimal impact.

Instead, the media focus was redirected towards a different pairing.

First, Gareth Bale had cemented his place in Champions League history by producing a remarkable overhead kick just moments after coming on as a second-half substitute.

It was an incredible moment of brilliance by the Welshman and it was a stunning strike that deserved to win any game of football.

If Bale was the hero of the evening, then Loris Karius falls into the villainous category.

The German goalkeeper was at fault for Real Madrid’s opening goal, when he needlessly rolled the ball out against Karim Benzema, and for the Spanish club’s third, when he pawed Bale’s long-range shot into his own net.

However, Karius should not be alone in having his performance critiqued and it is time that we turned a critical eye towards Jurgen Klopp’s reign at Anfield.

Since being appointed as Brendan Rodgers’ successor in October 2015, the German has undoubtedly reinvented Liverpool with his enthusiasm, energy and attacking philosophy.

He has re-established the club as one of English football’s so-called ‘big four’ and the team have produced some of the most dynamic, entertaining football of any Premier League club this year, barring perhaps Manchester City.

Klopp is likeable and clearly connects with the Liverpool supporters, yet that should not make him immune to criticism.

For all of the positive developments facilitated by the 50-year-old, the simple fact remains that he has not been able to bring any form of silverware back to Anfield.

In fact, Klopp has lost all of the previous six cup finals that he has overseen and has not won a major trophy in over six years. His supporters will point to the fact that he has reached three cup finals with Liverpool – but glorious failure is ultimately still failure.

No one is saying that the German should be replaced, at least not any time soon, but he certainly has a big summer ahead of him. In short, he needs to win a trophy next season to validate his philosophy and the progress that Liverpool are making.

Karius’ error-strewn performance on Saturday evening actually underlined some of the mistakes that Klopp has made over the previous couple of years.

It has been no secret that Liverpool have required a world class goalkeeper for some time now and it is an area that the 50-year-old has simply not addressed.

Furthermore, when Salah departed the field during the first half a quick look at the Liverpool bench confirmed that there is a definite lack of strength in depth.

Klopp opted to introduce Adam Lallana, a man who has played very little football during an injury-ravaged twelve months, whilst his counterpart for Madrid, Zinedine Zidane, was able to call upon Bale, one of the most expensive players in history, when he wanted to alter the dynamics of the contest.

This summer will tell us a great deal about Klopp. He needs to ensure that he addresses some of the key deficiencies in the current squad and that will require making significant investment in the transfer market.

It will also tell us a great deal about Liverpool.

Prior to Saturday, Jordan Henderson told ESPN that winning trophies is part of the club’s ‘DNA’, yet that seems somewhat presumptuous.

Liverpool last won a trophy in 2012, when they defeated Cardiff City in the League Cup final, and in the subsequent gap Leicester City, Wigan Athletic and Swansea City have all won major honours.

It is time for Liverpool’s hierarchy to demonstrate that they have the ambition to re-establish the club among Europe’s elite and that means making significant investment. The arrival of Virgil van Dijk in January was a positive step, yet that level of spending needs to be replicated in the summer.

Ultimately, success for a club like Liverpool is based on the amount of silverware that is collected within the trophy cabinet and it is clear that Klopp needs to start delivering on that front.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

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