13 Sept 2016

Anfield Smackdown: Man Utd legend slates Klopp for massive 'Liverpool' failure last season. Fair?

It's now 4 months since Liverpool's Europa League capitulation against Sevilla, and the defeat remains a bitter pill to swallow. What went wrong? Every fan has their own take on that, but for Man Utd legend Alex Ferguson, the blame lies solely with Reds boss Jurgen Klopp.

Writing in UEFA's 2015/16 Europa League Technical Report, Ferguson offered the following verdict on the Reds' 3-1 defeat to Sevilla:

“In the second half, Liverpool had no energy, and they couldn't get the ball. The space in midfield became bigger. I never had a team who could press all season.”

There's an obvious subtle criticism of Klopp's 'heavy metal' approach to football here, and anyone who watched the game (and is capable of objectivity) will see the merit in Fergie's assertion. As well as being knackered from endless pressing and running, Klopp also got it wrong in the following 5 areas (IMO):

* Central Midfield Debacle: It was reckless to start with two inexperienced central midfielders. Emre Can had little top-flight experience in that role (and it showed with costly mistakes), and Milner is not a dedicated CM. Henderson (arguably) 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 was Liverpool's top creative midfielder last 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. 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 still shoehorned him into the starting XI. He played favourites instead of doing the best thing for the team, which was to ensure *balance* in midfield, and play aces in their places.

* 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.

* 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, the team had no one 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 previous 28 games), Allen (2 assists in 27 games ), and Coutinho (exciting player, but only 2 assists in 18 games prior to the final).

Prior to the Sevilla game, the warning signs were there for all to see, with the most obvious red flags being the capitulations against Southampton and Newcastle, and just two wins in six games going into the final.

Klopp deserves great credit for some magnificent results in Europe last season, but he totally blew it against Sevilla.


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