Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool’s January transfer strategy is obvious after cracks exposed
Jurgen Klopp: Two key decisions went against Liverpool in West Ham defeat
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They may possess the finest attacking unit in the World, but Liverpool’s away defeat to West Ham confirmed Jurgen Klopp’s worst nightmares. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane tormented David Moyes’ backline, but even they could not penetrate a Hammers’ side who are now as tough as, well, hammers.
Over the last few seasons, Mane, Salah, and Roberto Firmino, whose hamstring injury ruled him out of the contest at the London stadium, have flown through West Ham in the capital – the last time they lost to the Hammers in Premier League football was January 2016.
Salah is steamrolling the Premier League golden boot race and he arguably entrenched himself as the most in-form player on planet earth. Unfortunately for the Reds, when Salah cannot find the breakthrough, they do not have many others who can.
And it is the one thing Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel have over the former Borussia Dortmund manager. Jack Grealish has started two of his last four Premier League matches on the bench, where he was joined by Raheem Sterling, the very player who is trusted by Gareth Southgate ahead of the former Aston Villa star.
Meanwhile in West London, Chelsea have been without £150m worth of strikers, yet they were still able to deploy £71m Kai Havertz in their stead. Klopp has worked miracles during his time at Anfield, but even he must be casting the occasional jealous glance at his rivals.
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Liverpool’s only signing of the summer was £36m defender Ibrahima Konate, and Klopp has rarely turned to the former RB Leipzig star. There was even an argument to suggest, the 22-year-old Frenchman should have been in the back four to deal with West Ham’s inch perfect set pieces.
January will be a crucial period for Klopp’s men as it was last season. Despite Virgil Van Dijk’s season ending injury, Liverpool dealt with the December rush of fixtures admirably, with three wins and three draws.
But their lack of squad depth was spectacularly exposed in January, and by the time March had arrived, Klopp’s men had lost eight of their last 12 matches. Panic set in as Liverpool desperately brought in Ozan Kabak on loan from Schalke and even signed Ben Davies from Preston North End – the latter did not even play a single minute for the Reds.
And Liverpool’s lack of depth has not improved too much since last season’s disastrous title defence. Konate may have plugged a whole in defence, but Salah’s exceptional form has merely papered over the cracks in the rest of the squad.
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When Liverpool trailed West Ham 3-1, Klopp’s best attacking options on the bench were Divock Origi, who did not score a single Premier League goal last season, and Takumi Minamino, who has only found the net in three of his last 31 Premier League appearances.
While Origi halved the deficit with a spectacular strike, their arrivals into the contest did not trigger a hush of anxiety around the raucous Hammers’ fans.
Liverpool’s fear factor diminishes every minute Salah, Mane, and Firmino have not found the net. West Ham flew out of the traps with the first goal, and they became more confident as the game went on.
The greatest Premier League teams not only defeated sides in the tunnel, they also found a way to win from the substitutes bench.
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Sir Alex Fergsuon had the likes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham during United’s glory years.
They were not the best players in the world, but their fresh legs and supreme knack of managing to find the net in the most crucial stages, resulted in them carrying a similar fear factor to the players deployed ahead of them. And this is where Klopp’s side are severely lacking.
January could be a crucial transfer window for the Reds, who face Arsenal, Southampton, Everton, Wolves, Aston Villa, Newcastle United, Tottenham, Leeds, and Leicester City before the winter market opens.
December is a cold, unforgiving period of football where seasons are derailed, and injuries are caused.
Contingency plans and signings must be targeted in January, otherwise Salah’s exceptional form could count for nothing.
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