As Liverpool raced into a 4-0 first-half lead against Norwich on Friday night, the question of player fatigue occurred to me, and whether Jurgen Klopp should already be considering the same.
It was Liverpool’s first Premier League game of the season so surely any talk of resting players is completely over the top? It is, of course, if you’re talking about giving someone a break because he is already tired. But after a surprisingly underwhelming summer in the transfer market, it’s no secret The Reds need luck on their side in 2019/20 when it comes to avoiding injuries.
Looking from the perspective of minutes accumulated over the course of the season, it might never be too early for Klopp to start protecting his star players.
Granted, there are other factors to consider in August like getting your players match-fit and up to the level they need to be at. However – taking Mohamed Salah’s case, in particular – the Egyptian forward looked very sharp in the Community Shield and the Norwich game. He seems to have kept himself in excellent shape over the summer. Therefore, it’s the second half of this season that needs to be taken into account for a player whose game is largely based on his ability to sprint, with and without the ball.
Salah, like Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Alisson, had an extra-long 2018/19 season due to his international excursions. Salah and Mané both played a massive part in the AFCON while Firmino and Alisson led Brazil to Copa America glory. All this after these players had played an integral part in Liverpool’s sixth European Cup triumph at the start of June.
So, if Liverpool are ahead 4-1 with just over 20 minutes of play remaining against a newly-promoted side at Anfield, should Klopp be saving the legs of stars like Salah and Firmino? Firmino played 86 minutes of the game and Salah played the full 90. Mané only made a brief cameo appearance late in the match. Were such ‘unnecessary’ extra minutes necessary for Salah and Firmino?
The Club World Championship will be contested in Qatar and is scheduled for December – a month notoriously famous for the UK’s gruelling winter football schedule. This Wednesday night, The Reds play Chelsea in Istanbul in the UEFA Super Cup, another fixture adding minutes to the legs of players who will all have to push themselves to limits they have never experienced before in their professional careers. The 2019/20 season won’t be taking any prisoners.
As over the top as it may sound, Liverpool might just need to start taking precautions now in preparation for what is sure to be a gruelling season? Klopp hasn’t been keen on many early substitutions and, despite Adrian’s enforced first-half introduction after Alisson’s injury, he took the same approach against Norwich. It was the 74th minute before Mané came on… and he replaced Divock Origi, a player unlikely to play nearly as many minutes as Salah or Firmino.
With Adrian the only incoming signing that could be considered a first-team squad member, Klopp has left himself a very small group to work with. Now, along with his backroom team, he needs to preserve energy whenever possible or the second half of the season could be a very long hard slog for The Reds.