Jack Hallows reflects on a miserable night for Klopp’s Liverpool over in the French capital and ponders what it might mean for them going forward.
Last season it was a case of a Champions League love in for us Liverpool fans, this season however, I’m almost looking forward to seeing the back of it.
The competition started with a bang for Klopp’s men against the same opposition that they played tonight, with a 3-2 win at Anfield marking the perfect start to their attempts to qualify from a fairly dubbed, ‘group of death.’
Since then however, it’s seemingly been one farcical debacle after another with away losses to each of our three opponents in the group leaving Klopp and his players as red in the face as they are in the jersey.
Where’s it all going wrong?
Liverpool’s away day blues
The Reds’ 2-1 defeat to Paris Saint Germain on Wednesday night marked the first time ever that Liverpool have lost all three away games in the group stages of Europe’s elite competition – something that they didn’t even manage to do during that Brendan Rodgers season.
It continues a fairly shocking trend for Klopp in Europe’s top competition with Liverpool, the German losing all of his last five away trips (including the final in Kiev) with the Reds’ conceding 12 times and scoring just four.
If you go back even further and look at the whole of Klopp’s record in Europe while at Liverpool, it doesn’t really get much better.
His entire away day record in the Champions League (including both the final and the match away to Hoffenheim in the play off rounds last season) for Liverpool reads:
Goals scored: 24
Goals against: 16
It makes for interesting reading that the Reds have actually scored 8 more goals away from home than they’ve conceded despite only winning four times, however, they did score 15 of those goals in three matches against Maribor, Sevilla and FC Porto.
Their aggregate from those three games reading 15 scored, 3 conceded.
Remove those and it’s a case of 8 played, 2 won, 6 lost, 13 conceded, 8 scored.
Their record in the Europa League campaign of 2015/16, while with a far inferior side to that they possess now, wasn’t much better either, with the German steering Liverpool to just two wins away from home – a 1-0 against Augsburg and the same scoreline in Kazan.
There’s nothing wrong with getting the business done at home and Liverpool are fantastic at that, remaining undefeated at Anfield in European competition under their manager but they simply have to improve away from home.
A monotonous midfield
A big part in being able to do so, would be to stop playing the midfield combination of Wijnaldum, Milner and Henderson.
All three players are good footballers in their own right that each bring something to this Liverpool side under the right circumstances but when fielded together, as a flat three, they’re so stylistically similar that it’s as if the Reds are playing with nine men.
Ten at a push.
We saw when Naby Keïta was introduced that there was finally a link between the midfield and the attack, with the Guinean’s dribbling ability and willingness to play risky passes to try and make something happen invaluable.
With Henderson, Milner and Wijnaldum constantly looking for the safe option and all tripping over each other to try and play the same role in the team, Paris Saint Germain were free to simply stroll through the middle of the park at leisure.
The most damning part? They did so with just one midfielder on the pitch in Italy’s Marco Verratti.
If Klopp is going to have success this season and at very least challenge for silverware, he’s got to start taking the brave option and field the likes of Keïta, Fabinho and Shaqiri more often to break up the monotony that has haunted the Reds’ midfield play.
We see it with the likes of Spurs and Man City week in, week out in the Premier League.
When opting for a four at the back system, they play a sitting midfielder – Fernandinho for City and generally Dier or Wanyama for Spurs – with two attacking minded players ahead of him.
We’ve already seen how good a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1 with Shaqiri bolstering the attack is for Liverpool but if Klopp is keen to persist with 4-3-3, then the balance needs to be gotten right.
A trio of Milner, Wijnaldum and Henderson simply isn’t the answer.
A catastrophic break up
I understand what Klopp was trying to do in fielding Gomez at right back and reintroducing Dejan Lovren to the starting line up but this was hardly the time to do so.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is more susceptible defensively than Gomez but given how the 20-year old handled Neymar at Anfield and the fact he’s just come off the back of a stellar, goalscoring performance at the weekend, he probably should have started.
Not least because it would’ve meant Klopp didn’t have to break up the Gomez/Virgil partnership which has been so successful this season.
The pair seem to have a stellar understanding between them, knowing where the other wants them to be at all times and the fact they both possess a ridiculous amount of physicality, height and recovery pace has meant that opposition sides find it very hard to bypass them aerially or on the ground.
Lovren in his own right is a decent defender and has had his fair share of decent moments in a Liverpool shirt but the combination of Lovren/Virgil is nowhere near as solid as when Liverpool’s no.4 plays with Gomez.
Lovren has height on his side and will always put his body on the line but his occasional rashness, willingness to be seen, felt and heard at all times and lack of pace make him susceptible when coming up against fluid attacking lines like PSG’s.
His inclusion works against sides like Watford who rely on physicality but on this occasion, his selection was a certain misguided move from the manager.