20 May 2016

The Heat Is On: 7 massive consequences of Liverpool's failure to beat Sevilla

Another year, another abject failure for Liverpool. The Reds finished 8th in the Premier League (pitiful), and threw away a golden opportunity to qualify for the Champions League, all of which means that there's no European football at Anfield next season. Some will argue that this a 'blessing in disguise' in that Liverpool can now focus on a dedicated title-challenge, and in theory, that's a possibility. However, in reality, this season's underperformance will have some far-reaching negative consequences for the club.

1. Loss of Revenue. No European football = significant loss of extra revenue. By failing to qualify for the Champions League, Liverpool will lose €12m just for appearing in the group stages; €1.5m per win, or €500k per draw, plus a share of the €480m 'market pool' distributed to clubs for appearing in televised Champions League games. The same (to a lesser extent) applies to the Europa League.

2. Development Regression: Players only improve by testing themselves against the best, and lack of European competition means Liverpool's players will not be able compete against the cream of Europe. This may have a knock-on effect on the development/improvement of some of the club's players.

3. Academy Blackout: With only one game a week for most of the season, Academy players can forget about getting regular first-team game time. Unless Klopp drastically reduces the size of Liverpool's first-team squad, there will be too many senior players vying for game time to give Brannagan, Ojo et al the minutes they need to develop. Academy players barely got any Premier League chances this season, and Liverpool were in FOUR competitions, and constantly decimated by injuries. I don't see how that will change next season, especially with Klopp under intense pressure to deliver a top four place (which inevitably means he'll play his strongest team in every league game).

4. Player Frustration: With a significantly reduced fixture list, it'll be difficult for Klopp to keep all his players happy. Only eleven players can start each week, and with no midweek European games, frustration will inevitably grow in the ranks over lack of regular game time.

5. Transfer Woe: Liverpool will probably struggle to attract the type of player required to take the club to the next level. Very few elite players are going to give up Champions League football to play in the Capital One Cup (!) The Reds are currently linked with the likes of Pastore, Gotze, Mkhitaryan etc, but why would any of those players sign for a team that just finished 8th in the league? Even Gotze, who appears to be nailed-on, is probably reconsidering his options right now. Klopp is allegedly a draw for players, but that won't be enough.

6. Average Players: With no European football, Klopp will probably be forced to keep average, underperforming players at the club as he won't be able to bring in the necessary top-quality, European-class upgrades. That almost certainly means another year relying on the likes of Lallana, Mignolet, Moreno etc.

7. Pressure on Klopp: Winning the Europa League would've given Klopp some breathing space, and papered over the cracks of the club's pitiful league performance. Unfortunately, Klopp is now under massive pressure to deliver a top-four finish next season. With Europe out of the equation, he will have plenty of time to plan (and train for) an assault on the top four, and he won't be able to cite fixture congestion/lack of training time as an excuse. Additionally, there will be constant (valid) comparisons to the 2013-14 season, when Liverpool almost won the league after failing to qualify for Europe. If Rodgers - allegedly a vastly inferior manager - can do it, Klopp can do it too...right?

On the plus side:

* The reduced fixture list may work in Klopp's favour: In 2013-14, Liverpool played only 43 games for the whole season. At Dortmund, Klopp's team played 44 games in the title winning 2010-11 season, and 46 the following year (when BVB retained the title).

* Klopp is used to playing fewer games, having a winter break, and having more time to train/prepare, so, in theory, the reduced workload should be a help for him, and not a hindrance.

Unfortunately, the reality (that very few will want to face) is that finishing in the top four next season will be more difficult than ever, especially with:

* Guardiola at Man City, and Mourinho (possibly) at Man Utd. That's two top four spots gone already.

* A Rejuvenated Chelsea team (under Conte), and Arsenal's inevitable top-four finish (18 years in a row).

* Much improved teams like Spurs, West Ham, and Leicester in the mix (all of whom finished ahead of Liverpool this season)

* The massive increase of TV cash, which will help so-called smaller teams become more competitive, including West Ham, Leicester etc.

Klopp is an excellent manager, but is he good enough to overcome this reality? Sorry, but I don't believe he is. I'd have more faith if he'd had more of an impact in the league this season, but the brutal truth is that Klopp presided over Premier League regression, and equalled Liverpool's worst ever Prem finish. For me, that is a huge concern.

As for next season: Good luck, Jurgen - you're going to need it.

Author: Jaimie K



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