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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.

Liverpool

Three reasons Jasper Cillessen is the man to solve Liverpool’s goalkeeping woes

Liverpool look poised to make a move for the Barcelona shot stopper.

Liam Thomas

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Jasper Cillessen
Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool will look to sign Barcelona outcast Jasper Cillessen before the transfer window shuts in a bid to solve their goalkeeping woes, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Cilleseen’s talent is undeniable, and despite a massive lack of game time at Barcelona, the Dutch international is still highly rated amongst Europe’s elite goalkeepers.

Reports suggest Cillessen will listen to offers from Europe’s biggest clubs. However, if given the opportunity for some game time with the Spanish giants he would be happy to stay in Catalonia.

(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Nevertheless, Liverpool’s interest in the 29-year-old could prove to be the golden opportunity for Cillessen to get the first team action he has been craving.

But is the Dutchman the man to solve Liverpool’s problem position? Here are three reasons why he is the right man to do so.

1. A cheaper alternative to Alisson

Liverpool have been linked with some of the hottest goalkeeping talents in Europe since the transfer window reopened and one name in particular that has been thrown into the Reds hat is Roma goalkeeper, Alisson Becker.

However, Jurgen Klopp seems reluctant to fork out over £60 million for the Brazilian’s services and Cillessen would be available for a much lower price.

This doesn’t take anything away from the Dutchman’s talent. In fact, Cillissen is more tried and tested on the big stage than Alisson.

2. Winning mentality

Cillessen would bring to Anfield with him a thirst for silverware, a trait that Jurgen Klopp seems to be trying to incorporate into his side.

One La Liga title,  two Spanish cups and three Dutch league titles already sit proudly in the Dutch shot-stoppers trophy cabinet, and it is this winning mentality that Liverpool have been craving to have between their sticks.

3. The chance to be Liverpool’s number one for years to come

If it is first team action that Cillessen wants so badly, he may not have a better opportunity to get that than at Liverpool.

Cillissen would have the chance to rise to the occasion and take over a position that currently has no front runner and the fact that the Reds could just be on the cusp of greatness could make them and the Dutchman a match made in heaven.

The chance to be number one for one of Europe’s biggest clubs can only be motivational for a player of Cillessen’s ability and ambition.

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Jurgen Klopp’s comments give Daniel Sturridge hope ahead of crucial preseason

The 28-year-old looks set to get one last chance at Anfield.

Max Cohen

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Daniel Sturridge
Photo: Getty Images

The future of striker Daniel Sturridge is one of the biggest question marks overshadowing Liverpool’s pre-season campaign.

Although the English forward endured a forgettable 2017/18 season and seemed to be on his way out at Anfield, recent comments from Jurgen Klopp should give Sturridge hope ahead of a critical next month.

When asked about the 28-year-old’s Liverpool future, Klopp struck a conciliatory tone that must have heartened Sturridge.

“I always said there is a future, it’s about what we do in the moment. At the moment it’s all good and we don’t have to make decisions. I don’t think about my players like this – like, maybe he’s in or out,” Klopp told Sky Sports.

These quotes reveal the German is keeping an open mind ahead of the looming deadline of the transfer window, and has indicated there is a future for Sturridge at the club.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

As there is still a month remaining before the transfer window slams shut, Klopp maintains he has plenty of time to make a decision and has essentially challenged Sturridge to work his way back into first team contention.

Sturridge has been working diligently this summer, most recently scoring two well-taken goals against Chester in a friendly.

Although Liverpool’s attack is undoubtedly filled with top-class talent, if the striker can continue his good form he could stake a claim for a role in the upcoming season.

Liverpool fans still remember his heroics in the 2013/14 season, and although that was perhaps a different Sturridge then we see now, it can be argued he still has those deadly qualities that allowed him to shine in previous years.

The Reds’ upcoming participation in the International Champions Cup will be telling for Sturbridge’s future.

If he can excel against the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City, and Manchester United, then Daniel Sturridge could be granted another chance to revive his Liverpool career.

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Five ins and outs Liverpool could complete this week

Liverpool are still in the market to conclude several deals before the end of the window.

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Liverpool
Photo: Getty Images

The 2017/18 campaign represented a pretty positive step in the right direction for Liverpool and their ardent supporters will be hopeful that progression is continued during next season.

The Reds might have lost the Champions League Final against Real Madrid at the end of the season but reaching such a stage represented a real achievement for Jurgen Klopp and the football club.

This summer will be massive for the German boss as he goes about assembling a squad that can finally make a genuine attempt to win the Premier League crown that has eluded Liverpool for so long.

Naby Keita and Fabinho have already been added to Klopp’s squad and more incoming activity is likely to take place at Anfield in the coming weeks prior to the campaign getting underway.

With the World Cup now done and dusted several clubs might begin to ramp up their transfer dealings and here at TBR Football we have identified five deals that could be completed by Liverpool this week…

Harry Wilson loaned to the Championship

The flying winger was a sensation during the second half of last season when he was loaned out to Hull City and a full season in the second tier might be on the cards for the youngster during 2018/19.

Frank Lampard is keen to take the 21-year-old to Derby County on a season-long loan, according to the Mirror, and it is a move that could be vital for Wilson’s progression, whilst some might see it as make or break in terms of him ever breaking into Liverpool’s first-team.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

In Wilson’s 13 appearances for the Tigers last season he netted seven goals and provided four assists. The Rams will be hoping to see a similar level of form should they complete a temporary deal later this week.

Nabil Fekir deal revived

As per an article in the Mirror, there is every possibility that Liverpool could still complete a deal to sign France attacker Nabil Fekir from Lyon this summer.

The 24-year-old was reportedly close to signing for the Reds prior to joining up with France for the World Cup, although a deal never materialised for whatever reason.

Despite the arrival of Xherdan Shaqiri from Stoke City it seems likely that Liverpool will be in the market for another playmaker and Fekir fits the billing of a player who could have a real impact on the Premier League.

Complete deal for KAA Gent winger

Whilst adding stellar recruits to push for a title challenge is clearly the immediate priority for Liverpool, one eye will still be kept on the future and 23-year-old Moses Simon could represent a big signing in the coming years.

The young Nigerian has been linked with a move to Merseyside following an interview with AOI Football which has now sparked speculation surrounding Simon’s future.

Simon is a bit of an unknown quantity to Premier League supporters and if he does sign for Liverpool it will be interesting to see just what plans Klopp has for his development.

Goalkeeping arrival

According to Spanish news outlet Sport, Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen is a target for Liverpool this summer and a price for the Dutchman has now been set by the Catalan giants.

The 29-year-old can apparently leave the current champions of Spain for £26.4 million and given his pedigree that would represent a decent piece of business for Liverpool should they get a deal over the line.

A new custodian has to be the priority for the Reds this summer with huge doubts cast over Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius last season, whilst youngster Danny Ward is inexperienced and unlikely to get a chance just yet given Liverpool’s Premier League ambitions.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Markovic on his way?

Despite relative promise when he first signed for Liverpool, the future of Lazar Markovic looks particularly bleak right now and he looks to be on his way out of the club this summer.

 

The 24-year-old hasn’t featured in Liverpool’s first-team friendlies to date and following the signing of Shaqiri he is now even further down the pecking order at Anfield.

It does remain to be seen at this stage just where he will end up but an article in the Liverpool Echo two weeks ago seemed to indicate that Markovic would be able to leave the club on the cheap.

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