Despite Liverpool’s constant improvement in 2018, Jack Hallows identifies where Jürgen Klopp still has work to do going into the 2018/19 season.
It seems a little harsh to really criticise Jürgen Klopp or his players for anything given how well we’ve managed to steady the ship after a tough couple of months earlier in the campaign but Liverpool have in recent weeks shown there is definitely still room for improvement.
This is something that has been a problem ever since Klopp arrived and that the German still hasn’t come to terms with.
To say the Reds’ results in lunchtime kick-offs are relegation worthy is bizarrely not an inaccurate statement. Liverpool have won just once this season when playing as the ‘early kick-off,’ drawing five and losing two of their matches starting at 12.30 or 1.30pm.
To put it simply, this is dreadful.
It doesn’t get much better when you include results from the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons either! Liverpool have played 26 times in one of these lunch time kick off slots since Klopp’s arrival, winning just eight.
This is something Klopp absolutely has to address next season, especially if he hopes to lead the Reds to silverware, as the deeper they go into cup competitions – both domestic and European – the more likely they are to play fixtures in reworked slots such as these.
Squad Depth & Balance
It’s probably to Klopp’s credit that he has the Reds right in amongst the top four battle and with one foot in the Champions League final with the squad at his disposal.
Having started the season with what looked a competitive squad full of healthy competition, sales, loans and injuries have taken their toll to the point that the Reds’ starting XI practically picks itself now.
There are no questions over the front three due to an evident drop off in quality when even one of them is absent, there are only three fit midfielders available to the club and half our defensive options are either missing or still working their way back from long-term absences.
It’s vital that Klopp and his transfer team identify this and act smartly in the coming summer window to ensure that this time next season we aren’t seeing a similar bare-bones effort.
While this squad still requires one or two upgrades to become a Premier League title challenging outfit, there is also a need for significant squad depth to be added, especially when the expected departures are factored into the equation.
The club absolutely must be looking for higher level back-up to our magnificent front three because try as they might, current pair Danny Ings and Dominic Solanke just aren’t of the level required. Meanwhile Emre Can’s impending departure to Juventus means at least one more midfielder should be brought in alongside Naby Keïta.
At the back it remains to be seen how many outgoings end up being sanctioned but one would imagine Simon Mignolet will certainly move on, necessitating a move for a goalkeeper while the likes of Joël Matip and Alberto Moreno aren’t exactly safe.
The 2017 window saw the club predominantly target talents capable of strengthening the starting XI but unfortunately this approach combined with untimely injuries to the likes of Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana meant that overall depth was neglected. A balance must be found this summer.
Winning Over ‘Not Losing’
Statistically, Liverpool are actually one of the hardest teams in Europe to beat.
Jürgen Klopp’s men have only been defeated four times in the Premier League this season, losing just once to a side outside the top four and are still as-of-yet unbeaten in European competition. They’re also the only team in any of England’s top-flight divisions to boast the moniker of being unbeaten on home turf.
“So where’s the issue here?” you’re thinking.
The issue is that despite this, Liverpool have drawn 12 Premier League games (only three teams have drawn more) and even at times struggled to finish games off during their Champions League group stage, sharing the points on three out of six occasions.
Now of course, I’d much prefer to walk away with one point over none but on many occasions, the Reds have actually surrendered leads to gift their opposition the point rather than earning a draw themselves.
Leads were squandered in both ties against Sevilla during the Champions League group stage while Arsenal, Tottenham, West Brom, Chelsea, Everton and Watford have all come back to steal a share of the points off Klopp’s men – generally scoring in the final ten minutes.
Of course, refereeing decisions didn’t help the Reds in a number of these games but that’s football. You still have to win the match.
Klopp has certainly to his credit done the first part of his task and deserves plaudits for making Liverpool incredibly hard to beat. Now however, it’s time to start turning these draws into wins.