19 May 2016

Tactical Fail/Rodgers Mk-2: Five reasons why Jurgen Klopp totally blew it against Sevilla

The dream is dead. After some fantastic European victories this season, Liverpool finally crashed and burned last night in the Europa League, and although Alberto Moreno will inevitably take most of the heat from fans, Jurgen Klopp must (IMO) accept the lion's share of blame for Liverpool's second half horror show against Sevilla.

For me, Klopp got it wrong in the following five areas:

* Central Midfield Debacle: In a game of this magnitude it is reckless (and naive) to start with two inexperienced central midfielders. Emre Can has little top-flight experience in that role (and it showed yet again with costly mistakes), and Milner is not a dedicated central midfielder. As I argued prior to the game, Henderson should've started alongside Can, and if not Hendo, then Allen or Lucas, both of whom are dedicated international central midfielders who know what they're doing in that position.

* Milner Misused: Milner is Liverpool's top creative midfielder this season (21 goals/assists), yet Klopp chose to waste him in central midfield when he had three superior options available. Milner needed to play out on the right (his most effective position) in place of Adam Lallana, who contributed next to nothing offensively (but still more than Coutinho!). Playing Milner in the centre robbed the team of a rich source of chances and assists, which partially explains the team's creative paucity in the second half.

* Rodgers MK2: Klopp basically made the same mistake as Brendan Rodgers: he fatally decided to rely on Lallana to step-up and make the difference. Going into the game, Lallana had just 2 goals in 14 games, yet Klopp just had to shoehorn him into the starting lineup. He basically played favourites instead of doing the best thing for the team, which was to ensure *balance* in midfield, and play aces in their places. Seriously, in what universe is Lallana a preferable option on the right to the significantly more prolific Milner? The same question applies to Milner ahead of Hendo, Lucas, and Allen in central midfield.

* The Moreno Problem: Klopp failed to react to the obvious defensive deficiencies on Liverpool's left side. Moreno had a nightmare for most of the game, and it was obvious very early on that, defensively, Coutinho + Moreno = recipe for disaster. Time after time, Moreno got caught out of position (which led to problems in the first half), and his concentration lapses led to all three Sevilla goals. Despite this, Klopp failed to act early enough to head off the impending defensive disaster. To solve the problem, he could've moved the defensively sound Nathaniel Clyne to left-back; switched Milner to right-back (solid and dependable), and brought on Allen, Lucas, or Henderson to partner Can.

* Failed Plan B: What was the point in bringing on Benteke? With Milner - the team's most effective crosser - in central midfield, Henderson on the bench, and Lallana and Firmino subbed off, there was no one left on the field capable of providing decent service. By the end of the game, Liverpool had three strikers on the field being fed by assist-averse players like Can (2 assists in the last 28 games), Allen (2 assists in 27 games ), and Coutinho (exciting player, but only 2 assists in the last 18 games, plus anonymous on the night). With respect, I fail to see the tactical gameplan here.

Klopp deserves great credit for some magnificent results in Europe this season, but he blew it against Sevilla. The warning sign have been there for weeks, though, with the most obvious red flags being the recent capitulations against Southampton and Newcastle, and just two wins in six games going into the Sevilla match.

Ultimately, Klopp botched the Europa League final, just as he botched Liverpool's league campaign. According to some Reds fans (and certain elements of the sycophantic media), Klopp is one of the world's best managers, but finishing 8th in the Prem (two points less, and two positions lower than the allegedly inferior Rodgers) is simply not good enough.

After last night's debacle, I don't see how this season can be classified as anything but another abject failure.

Author: Jaimie K


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