James Winstone discusses whether or not Liverpool’s EFL Cup run cost Liverpool the chance to challenge for the Premier League title.
Jürgen Klopp told the media that Liverpool’s poor run of form was down to their EFL Cup semi-final disaster over the two legs and firmly believes the Reds would still be close to the leaders Chelsea had they not have competed at the level they did compared to Chelsea.
Let’s go back to the 11th of January, under the lights at St Mary’s in the EFL Cup semi-final. Liverpool were the favourites to win the tie against Southampton and why wouldn’t they be? Their form prior to this match had been unbelievable and were still extremely close to first place with amazing results like a win against Man City, 3-0 against Middlesbrough and so on. This match, however, proved even the EFL cup has its magic at times when Nathan Redmond scored the winner for Southampton in an abhorrent game for the Reds.
It was then we took the Saints to our turf at Anfield and many expected Liverpool to rise to the occasion and score just enough to get through on aggregate. No. We were once again terrible and a Shane Long winner in the 91st minute saw us out of the cup on 0-2 aggregate.
Liverpool fans were split on the reasons why we were so poor in the fixtures. Was it because Sadio Mané was at the AFCON? Was it because our form before had caused our players to become too relaxed and expect another win? We don’t know the answer for sure but one thing we do know is that the Liverpool fan base was as divided as ever with arguments and just general unhappiness spreading through the club like a virus.
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This all had an effect on the players too as we went on to have one of the worst starts to a year we’ve ever had and slumped to consecutive defeats at Anfield and away until the fourth of February by which time Chelsea were already threatening to run away with the league title.
The manager has now recently stated that the team were exhausted and felt they had more games to play than Chelsea causing their key players to sustain injuries and be unable to play in the Premier League matches. When asked about what Klopp had learned from their poor run of form compared to Chelsea, the Reds boss had quite the bit to say.
Speaking to Sky Sports, he stated, “December to January. Not even Chelsea came through without any problems but they were able to play the same team all the time.
“They left the EFL Cup when, before it started? [The fourth round] I don’t remember them playing one game in that competition. ‘Get rid of this.’
“I spoke to Antonio [Conte] for a long time at Anfield, maybe 25 minutes, and he mentioned it [the fixtures] but said they could play the same 13-14 players all the time. That is the big difference!
“In December we missed players and did not have the best schedule. From 31st of December to 2nd of January you could see the difference physically. Oh, my God – what have we done?
“It was not that we had all the players to change it at Sunderland. It was a few things. On a few things we had an influence and on others we did not have an influence – we conceded goals, offside against us, penalty against us.
“We could have had two, three or four points more. With two points more instead of an offside goal for Man United, and I don’t want to make a story of it.”
So in this interview, Klopp basically claims that the EFL Cup cost his Liverpool side to slip down in the league positions and because Chelsea had been knocked out extremely early on, they had more time to prepare and train for the Premier League games. He also does show that he’s fully aware of the unfortunate decision gone against Liverpool like Manchester Utd’s clear offside goal and the penalty decision that went against us.
Now that Liverpool are out of both cups and have their main man Sadio Mané back, could we see the Reds rise up to second once again but this time remain there until the end of this season or possibly even still challenge for first place if Chelsea somehow manage to drop points.
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