20 Aug 2016

Liverpool Player Ratings: Klopp sabotages 'fantastic' £25m star (again); LFC condemned by transfer failures

Burnley 2-0 LFC. Yes, you read that correctly. A newly-promoted team who - prior to this afternoon's game, had *never* scored a Premier League goal against Liverpool - beat Jurgen Klopp's expensively assembled team by two clear goals. It's a disgraceful result, especially given the financial disparity between the two clubs (Burnley's starting XI cost less than Wijnaldum and Lallana combined), and none of Liverpool's players come out of the game with much credit.

* Mignolet (5.5): Not much to do overall, and couldn't really be blamed for the second goal. However, Mignolet deserves (IMO) criticism for his lame, almost decrepit attempt to save Sam Vokes' shot for the first goal. Mignolet had a good ten seconds to see the action unfolding and prepare for the shot, but he got nowhere near the ball, and didn't even bother to extend his arms fully mid-dive. A pathetic attempt at a save.

* Clyne (4.5): Sloppy in possession, and gave the ball away in the lead-up to Burnley's first goal. Seemed to panic in possession at times, and offered absolutely nothing going forward.

* Lovren (6): Solid game overall, but failed to block two shots that led to goals. In both cases, Lovren was the last defender before the shot, and on the second goal, he made the cardinal sin of turning his back and hoping for the best. Still, 96% passing accuracy, and 7 interceptions/tackles/clearances. Also, didn't lose possession once during the game.

* Klavan (6): Another decent game overall, but caught out of position for the second goal. Attempted to tackle Gray on the halfway line, and lost out, which led to Defour being clear to run on goal (with no central midfielders anywhere near him. 13 tackles/interceptions/Clearances etc, the most in the team. And, like Lovren, Klavan had 96% passing accuracy and retained didn't lose possession.

* Milner (5): Woefully out of position for the first goal, and didn't appear to have the stamina to get back into position quickly. Hardly surprising given the fact he's a right-sided midfielder playing out of position. Created four chances, but end product in the final third was generally poor (especially crosses).

* Hendo (5): His partnership with Wijnaldum is a non-starter, and should be abandoned forthwith. Henderson cannot be effective if he has to play as a makeshift DM and/or deep lying playmaker. He's a box-to-box midfielder, and his main emphasis should be on pushing the team forward and scoring/creating goals. Against Burnley, Henderson spent most of his time defending, and that shows with his defensive stats, which are the second best in the team (behind Klavan).

* Wijnaldum^ (4.5): Everyone but Klopp can see that Wijnaldum is not a central midfielder! He's spent 80% of his career playing in an advanced forward role (out wide, or as a number-10), and he excelled last season in forward role. It consequently makes sense to play Wijnaldum in his best position right? Wrong. Klopp, in his infinite wisdom, continues to play him out of position, and consequently neuters his effectiveness. Bravo! Wijnaldum will continue to underperform until Klopp WAKES UP and plays him in his best position.

* Lallana (4.5): Typical Lallana. Good game against Arsenal (it's a big game, so he's able to motivate himself) but when the going gets tough, he disappears. In games like this, Lallana has to step up and make a difference, but he failed yet again. I couldn't care less about his pressing, Liverpool needed Lallana to make a game-changing impact, and he wasn't capable. And the less said about his end product/final ball the better.

* Coutinho (4.5): Prior to the game, Henderson ridiculously compared Coutinho to Messi and Ronaldo, so a poor performance was, perhaps, inevitable. There's little variation to Coutinho's game, and that showed today with his usual schtick of cutting inside and shooting. Suspect decision-making on the ball, and suspect concentration at times, which led to easy passess going astray. Coutinho's inconsistency is an ongoing issue, and Klopp doesn't appear to be able to fix it.

* Firmino (4.5): I've made this point several times before, but Firmino should play as a striker or not at all. He is totally ineffective as a winger/number-10, and his stats for Liverpool show this (1 assist/0 goals in 21 games out wide). As a striker, Firmino has 21 goals/assists in 27 games, so just play him in his best position already! Klopp must have these figures too, yet he still insists on shoehorning Firmino into a role in which he's generally ineffective.

* Sturridge (4.5): Unfortunately, Sturridge's pace is gone, but that doesn't explain why he constantly drops into midfield to receive the ball. He needs to be in the box, not playing alongside Henderson, and Klopp needs to rectify this issue ASAP. Even without pace, Sturridge is still a deadly finisher, and with a few more games under his belt, I have no doubt he'll be back amongst the goals. For now, though, Firmino should (IMO) be Liverpool's first-choice striker.

* Origi (4): Did absolutely nothing after coming on. No shots, dribbles, crosses, or key passes, and only touched the ball 5 times in 28 minutes.

* Moreno (4.5): No mistakes this time, but for the love of God, sort out your final ball into the box! Moreno's crossing is atrocious, and every cross he made went to an opposition player. This is symptomatic of the final ball mediocrity that afflicts the entire team. Most of the time, Moreno, Lallana et al just hit and hope; there's no finesse, intelligence, or accuracy whatsoever.

* Grujic (6): Forced a save minutes after entering the field, but outside of that, no discernible impact.

* Klopp (3): The players deserve criticism (what else can you expect when FIVE of your first XI are part of a national team than endlessly fails on the biggest stage?) but the buck stops with Klopp. Perhaps some fans will now (partially) understand why I have issues with Klopp's managerial approach:

- Failed to sign a left-back and a defensive midfield, and what happened? Burnley's goals came via the left-flank, and a horribly exposed central midfield area. In both cases, the defence had zero protection from the centre mids.

- Milner and Wijnaldum played out of position; Henderson unable to play his natural game; one dedicated DM left on the bench (Stewart), and another player more suited to the DM role also ignored (Can).

- Failed to motivate the team at half-time. The second half saw more of the same turgid play by Liverpool, so what happened to Klopp's fabled motivational skill?

- Incapable of changing the game. If Klopp's outdated gegenpressing system fails, he has no tactical plan B. Defeating gegenpressing is easy (cut out midfield; balls over the top to pacy attackers etc), and Burnley clearly figured this out (as will many teams over the season).

- In my view, one of the reasons the players appear to lose heart is they *know* that the gegenpressing approach doesn't work in every game. When a team gets the upper hand (like Burnley did), the players toil away, knowing that the system they're using *doesn't work*, and there's nothing more disheartening than being forced to continue with a failing system, especially when you personally know a change of approach will (probably) yield a positive result.

- Arsenal/Burnley = Barcelona/Mainz. This team is motivated for the big games, but can't produce the same enthusiasm, drive, and hunger for the smaller games, and that is Klopp's fault.

When all is said and done, though, one defeat doesn't define a season. Liverpool will lose games this year, and this is just one of them. It may even have a positive impact as Klopp may finally wake up and realise that the club needs a left-back and a DM before the end of the transfer window. Tom Werner confirmed this week that there's money to spend, so there's no excuse not to plug the gaps in the squad.

The downside to this result is, of course, the intense pressure it places on the team to beat Spurs next week. Today's defeat means it's already a must-win game, and Liverpool lose at White Hart Lane, the club will be in the unenviable position of playing catch-up just three games into the season.

Bottom line: the Arsenal victory doesn't mean Liverpool are the greatest team in the Prem, and losing to Burnley doesn't mean the the world is ending. That said, there's still no excuse for capitulating against relegation fodder (again).

^ Hailed by Kevin Keegan as a 'fantastic' player


Post a Comment