BBC Sport pundit Garth Crooks has hit out at Jurgen Klopp after the Reds were held to a 2-2 draw by West Brom, with Jake Livermore and Salomon Rondon cancelling out Liverpool’s two goal lead.
In his BBC Sport Team of the Week column, Crooks slammed the Liverpool coach, criticising his tactics and team selection as well as his comments after the Baggies mounted a late comeback.
“Jurgen Klopp’s suggestion that the Albion pitch not being watered at half-time was somehow responsible for his team losing a two-goal lead is about as pathetic as it gets,” he wrote.
He also said that Liverpool “had two eyes firmly fixed on their mid-week Champions League game against Roma.”
“The Reds made five changes to their starting line-up, let a two-goal lead slip from their grasp and made a poor substitution.
“Yet manager Jurgen Klopp thinks he had nothing to do with this 2-2 result. Wow!”
It is hard to see exactly why Crooks took exception with such a move, given that even with the draw and assuming both Tottenham and Chelsea win their games in hand, Liverpool would still be in the top four by five points with three games left to play.
Given that, for the first time, all top four sides will qualify directly for the group stage, it is of little real consequence to the Reds if they finish in second or fourth and rotating is vital to have players fresh for a Champions League semi-final.
Klopp was criticised in 2016/17 for not rotating the likes of Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, leading to injuries, but he seems to be managing his squad more effectively this campaign.
In one piece of praise, Crooks was pleased to see the return of Danny Ings, as he said “It was great to see Danny Ings back in a Liverpool shirt and looking so effective.”
“Two years he spent recovering from injury and, from the look on his face, putting Liverpool 1-0 up must have felt like winning the lottery.
“Why Klopp took off the striker, I don’t know. Ings needs game time and was running Ahmed Hegazi ragged at the time.
“The West Brom central defender must have been delighted to see Ings substituted. Liverpool’s game started to fall apart the moment the striker left the field.”
In fact, this criticism is the most bizarre of them all. Ings played over an hour for only the second time since October 2015 and was taken off in the 66th minute, replaced by a capable alternative in Roberto Firmino.
Mohamed Salah doubled Liverpool’s lead after that point and it was almost a quarter of an hour before Jake Livermore halved the deficit. Whilst Ings may not have been on the field for the collapse, correlation does not equal causation and Liverpool taking their foot off the gas and poor defending were to blame, rather than a substitution.