29 Apr 2016

'Really frustrated': Anfield legend blasts Klopp for Liverpool's 'negative' approach to Villareal. Fair?

What a choker. Jurgen Klopp's repeated failure to start Daniel Sturridge in the Europa League finally came home to roost last night, and after the club's last-gasp 1-0 defeat to Villareal, Reds legend Steve McManaman blasted Liverpool's 'negative' approach to the game.

Speaking to BT Sport^ after the game, Macca barked:

"Liverpool were far too negative. I thought they’d come and try to score goals, but they were too negative. That's what's got me really frustrated. I'm up there shouting and waving them forward. But it was as if we'll take 0-0."

It feels like Liverpool played for a draw because that's precisely what happened: Klopp prioritised defensive solidity/pressing over creativity/individual flair, and the team paid the price:

* Sturridge should've started the game, it's that simple. Any argument to the contrary is (IMO) motivated by blind faith and/or the obligate fan compulsion to make excuses/rationalise (in the guise of 'supporting' the team).

* Sturridge is on fire right now, and he's had FIVE days to recover since the 2-2 draw with Newcastle, so why ignore him? In what universe is it a good idea to leave Liverpool's most prolific attacking player on the bench for the THREE biggest games of the season (Dortmund x 2 and Villareal).

* The failure to bring Sturridge on as a sub is a prime example of the negativity of Liverpool's approach. Firmino, for example; Klopp obviously played him to provide pressing/tracking back etc up-front (an obvious defensive tactic), and consequently, the Brazilian spent most of the game playing deep, running around trying to nick possession. This neutered Liverpool in attack, and removed any consistent, discernible threat in the opposing penalty area.

* There's also another issue to consider: Klopp will probably play Sturridge on Sunday (there's no reason not to), and if he completes the full 90 minutes, what happens next Thursday? Following the current pattern, Klopp will probably bench Sturridge again, but it's surely unthinkable to leave the club's best goalscorer on the sidelines in a European semi-final in which the team needs to score?

* In my view, what Klopp should've done is start Sturridge last night; rest him against Swansea on Sunday, and then start him again next week. Now, he's made a rod for his own back, and faces the prospect of flouting his own manifestly apparent rule (i.e. not starting Sturridge twice in one week).

Still, when all is said and done, the tie is still eminently winnable, even with a 1-0 deficit. Liverpool have home advantage in the second leg, and with 14 goals scored in the last 4 home games (an average of 3.5 goals per game) there's a strong probability that the Reds will score the goals needed to progress to the final.

It's definitely not a foregone conclusion, though; Villareal may be several notches below Dortmund, and - on paper - Liverpool appear to be the better team, but that means absolutely nothing in a one-off European game.

* Transcribed whilst watching live

Author: Jaimie K


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