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Liverpool

Papering over the cracks: Have Liverpool actually improved under Jurgen Klopp?

Martyn Cooke

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On Saturday evening it was impossible not to be impressed by the smooth, fluent and dynamic attacking play that Liverpool produced to thrash West Ham United at the Olympic Stadium.

Two goals from Egyptian winger Mohamed Salad and additional strikes from Joel Matip and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain blew the home side away in devastating fashion as The Reds secured a 4-1 victory on their trip to the capital.

Jurgen Klopp’s team were good – very good in fact – and West Ham had no response to Liverpool’s pace, power and dynamism in the final third.

When Liverpool play well, like they did on Saturday, they are an irresistible attacking force with the forward line of Sadio Mane, Philip Countinho, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah capable of causing chaos within any defensive unit.

However, a quick glance at the Premier League table will show that they are already trailing league-leaders Manchester City by nine points and, to put their start to the new campaign into context, they have picked up the same number of points as Burnley.

Since arriving at Anfield two years ago Klopp has failed to mount a genuine title challenge or secure any silverware – so how successful has the German’s reign been?

A failure to correct long-standing issues

When Liverpool appointed Jurgen Klopp to replace Brendan Rodgers two years ago there was a genuine sense of excitement around Liverpool. The German was one of the most highly rated coaches in Europe and had done an exceptional job whilst managing Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, barring a turbulent final season.

His personality and passion was expected to galvanise the club and recapture the bond between players and fans whilst his high-intensity, all-out attacking philosophy appeared destined to secure silverware.

However, progress has been slow, much to the concern of some supporters, and there has certainly not been a sharp uphill curve in the club’s fortunes since Klopp took over the reins.

Liverpool appear to be no closer to challenging for the Premier League than they were under the guidance of Rodgers and many of the issues and inconsistencies that led to his departure have yet to be corrected by Klopp.

The primary issue remains Liverpool’s defence.

In their opening seven league fixtures Manchester City and Manchester United conceded just two goals and during the same period Liverpool’s leaky backline shipped 13. Their defensive frailties have continuously undermined any potentially progress or success that their impressive attacking play might facilitate.

There remains uncertainty in the goalkeeping department with neither Simon Mignolet or Loris Karius appearing to possess the ability or mentality to hold down the number one spot for any significant period of time.

Klopp has regularly switched between the two goalkeepers and the fact that his own signing, Karius, has struggled to acclimatise to the English game will be a considerable source of frustration.

All of the club’s rivals have goalkeepers of the highest quality – Manchester United have David de Gea, Tottenham Hotspur have Hugo Loris and Manchester City purchased Ederson in the summer  – leaving The Reds trailing considerably behind in that area of the pitch.

In the centre of defence Liverpool appear equally as fragile. Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan have all looked suspect at various time during the previous two seasons and you sense that one of the trio will always be likely to make a crucial error at the most inappropriate moment in a match.

The failure to secure Southampton‘s Virgil van Dijk during the summer will haunt Klopp until the next transfer window and it is undoubtedly an area that requires immediate attention and significant investment.

There is also a lack of star quality in central midfield where there is an over reliance on the relatively unimaginative trio of Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Emre Can. Neither of the three are particularly expansive in their play whilst Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has to yet find his feet at Anfield.

Again, Liverpool’s rivals possess midfield players that are on a different stratosphere in comparison – Manchester United have Paul Pogba, Manchester City have the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva, Chelsea have N’Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas whilst Tottenham have Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli.

Papering over the cracks?

So, how much progress have Liverpool really made since the arrival of Jurgen Klopp?

The impressive victory against West Ham United will have excited and enthralled supporters, but the team’s lack of consistency and Klopp’s failure to correct long-standing issues still leaves the club some way short of being able to challenge for the Premier League title.

A four-goal win against a struggling team does little more than paper over some of the cracks in the current Liverpool’s side.

Why is it that two years on from his appointment, Klopp has yet to solve the fragility and lack of quality in his defensive line?

In truth, how many of Liverpool’s goalkeepers, defenders or central midfielders would get into the Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur or Arsenal teams?

The answer is none, which demonstrates that Klopp may have created an impressive forward line but that his team is unbalanced, top heavy and has been built on a weak foundation.

Klopp currently retains the favour of the vast majority of Liverpool supporters but there is an underlying sense that the club should be making more substantial progress.

There was once a time when The Reds were the dominant force in English football and yet the current team will face a struggle to secure a place in the top four when the campaign reaches its climax.

Brushing aside West Ham may paper over some of the cracks, but Klopps undoubtedly has plenty of work still to do at Anfield and it could be soundly argued that he should have already have done much more.

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.

Champions League

Gareth Bale’s red-hot Real Madrid form should scare Liverpool

The Welshman has scored 11 goals in his last 15 appearances.

Max Cohen

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Gareth Bale
Photo: Getty Images

In Real Madrid’s final league match of this season on Saturday, Gareth Bale swept home a lovely right-footed finish to open the scoring against Villarreal.

That goal marked the Welshman’s 11th goal in his last 15 appearances for club and country; a remarkably prolific run of form that should scare Liverpool ahead of next weekend’s Champions League final.

Injury problems have marred much of Bale’s time at the Bernabeu, and he suffered a lengthy two-month absence from the first team this fall.

Yet, after returning from his injury lay-off, the former world-record signing has hit full form in the last two months.

In that time period, the winger has scored a hat-trick for Wales, braces against Las Palmas and Celta Vigo, and a crucial goal versus Barcelona.

This spring resurgence presents a worrying prospect for Liverpool’s defence, who already will have their hands full trying to keep Cristiano Ronaldo in check in Kiev.

(Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)

Add in Gareth Bale hitting full form, and suddenly the task at hand for Jurgen Klopp’s men appears far more difficult.

The 28-year-old also has quite the decorated history for los Blancos in cup finals. In his debut season for Real, Bale scored sensational winning goals in both the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals.

The following season in the European Cup final, the Welshman assisted Real Madrid’s sole goal and scored his penalty in the ensuing shoot-out; his cup final record is simply superb.

Combined with Bale’s recent tremendous goalscoring form, the prospect of facing up against the powerful winger might strike fear in the Liverpool backline.

But the Reds have proven adept in stifling some of the best attacks in Europe this season.

Liverpool famously restricted high-scoring Manchester City to just one goal over 180 minutes in the quarterfinals and the Reds will have to conjure up that heroic rearguard performance in order to stop the on-form Gareth Bale next weekend.

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Liverpool

Liverpool should turn to Steven Gerrard and Rangers to solve their Rhian Brewster problem

Liverpool are struggling to keep the teenager, but a move to Ibrox would see him work with new Rangers boss and Kop legend in Glasgow.

Mathew Coull

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Liverpool are facing something of a battle to keep hold of their star young striker Rhian Brewster. The young England talent, who was sensational for England’s under-17s in their World Cup triumph last summer, has been heavily linked with a move to German side Borussia Monchengladbach. In fact, the approach from the Bundesliga outfit has been anything but amicable.

Liverpool know they have a top talent in their hands in the form of Brewster, but he obviously fears for his first-team opportunities at Anfield.

What Liverpool need to do is present the young striker with a clear vision for his future and it should involve club legend, Steven Gerrard.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The former Liverpool captain has recently taken his first steps into management with Scottish giants Rangers. Now he will be looking to improve his options at Ibrox, as they look to catch Old Firm rivals Celtic.

Brewster has in fact been linked with a move to Gerrard’s Glasgow rivals, but it would be a better move for the teenager to head to Ibrox.

Under the guidance of former Liverpool under-18 boss Gerrard the striker would be more likely to play first-team football.

The deal would offer the talented striker what he wants, regular first-team football. Rangers would be happy with any deal. His arrival would be welcomed and would add some fresh firepower to the attacking ranks at Rangers.

(during the International Friendly match between Sydney FC and Liverpool FC at ANZ Stadium on May 24, 2017 in Sydney, Australia.

Meanwhile, Liverpool will know he is in the trusted hands of a club legend who will do all he can to ensure Brewster continues to mature, all whilst hopefully improving Rangers’ frontline.

Presenting a full plan for his development would give Brewster the desire he needs to remain at Liverpool. Heading to Ibrox would then be a perfect opportunity for him to start finding the net and adapting to the men’s game.

A Rangers loan switch makes perfect sense for all parties.

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English Premier League

Gianluigi Buffon would be perfect solution to Liverpool’s goalkeeping position

The veteran shot-stopper would represent a significant upgrade for the Reds.

Jake Jackman

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Gianluigi Buffon
Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool‘s season has not finished yet as they prepare for the Champions League final, but speculation is already beginning to ramp up ahead of a crucial summer.

Jurgen Klopp has done a great job at Anfield and the club have developed into a team capable of challenging for major honours.

This season, they didn’t have the consistency or the quality to compete for the Premier League title, but they have shown how good they are in Europe.

The Reds have never won a Premier League title and supporters will be desperate to put an end to that awful run over the coming years.

They already have a very good squad, but Klopp will want to add three or four quality players this summer to push them on.

During recent days, Gianluigi Buffon has announced that he will be leaving Juventus after an incredible career with the Serie A champions.

However, the goalkeeper won’t be retiring from playing and a number of top European clubs have been linked with a move for him.

(Photo by Andreas Solaro/Getty Images)

Liverpool are one of those, Italian pay-per-view sports channel Premium Sport, via the Mirror, and it could be a transfer that makes a lot of sense for the club.

Loris Karius has impressed since coming back into the team, but he isn’t a top-tier European goalkeeper and Liverpool could look to improve their options between the sticks.

As he would be available on a free transfer, Buffon has immediate appeal.

His experience would be invaluable to have around the training ground. This is a young squad and the Italian international would provide a winning mentality that would be a positive influence.

Buffon has received some criticism for his performances this season, with his display against Real Madrid being noticeably poor.

However, he remains one of the best goalkeepers in the world and he would improve the starting eleven at Anfield.

He is approaching the end of his career, but he could do a fine job for one or two seasons and have a positive impact on the younger goalkeepers at the club.

It would be a little harsh on Karius, but he would have to look at the positives if Buffon does sign as he can benefit from working with the experienced shot-stopper.

(Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)

Over the course of this season, it has become clear why Klopp chose to sign his compatriot last summer as he has been reliable in goal.

That said, he hasn’t stood out as one of the best in the league and if the Reds are to challenge for the league title, they will need a better option.

The summer ahead is an opportunity to push on from a good season for Liverpool, regardless of what happens in the Champions League final.

If they do manage to lift the trophy, they will become a very attractive proposition for top European players and it would be a statement of intent to bring two or three into the club.

Under Klopp, they want to be seen as a force to be reckoned with. Their goalkeeping position is a weakness and Buffon would be a fine addition on a free transfer.

It would send a statement and show that the Reds are now a top team once again.

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