At the start of the season, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool looked like a truly irresistible force. The Reds were tearing teams to shreds with their quick, incisive attacking play while simultaneously gegenpressing the opposition into submission.
At one point, Sky Sports advertised the Merseyside giants as the favourites to win the Premier League title in the betting market but now, the German manager’s team is lingering dangerously close to a season of complete failure.
Make no mistake, if Liverpool do fail to secure Champions League football, Klopp’s first full season in England’s top flight will have been a disaster. In reality, there will be no solace to take from a campaign which required either a trophy or entry into Europe’s top tier competition.
It is a cut-throat world in footballing management, but from the perspective of the fans, bringing in a manager of Klopp’s ilk simply had to bring results. For too long, Liverpool have lingered in the pits of obscurity, occasionally making a title challenge, but success on a consistent basis has eluded them in the Premier League era.
The biggest failure of Klopp’s season has to be the FA Cup and the insulting way with which he treated his tie against Wolves. The Reds would go on to lose 2-1 in a game where the manager – despite not having any European football – decided to field an entire second-string team. It was an act that defied description, a club in desperate need of a trophy choosing to insult the pedigree of the competition because of a league fixture in a week’s time.
It was the definition of criminal in the footballing dictionary but after their embarrassing exit, many thought Liverpool could easily secure a top four spot. Well, they were wrong. A few big wins away at Stoke and West Brom in recent weeks looked to have secured their spot but a 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace and a 0-0 draw with Southampton has made the prospect of failure a dangerous reality.
Two big tests lie ahead in the form of West Ham and Middlesbrough; one slip, and Arsenal look ready to steal in against the odds. If that does happen, Klopp should hang his head in shame.
After being handed the advantage on numerous occasions, the German manager’s failure in his primary objective is enough to render him unsuitable for the task next season. It is a brutal assessment – particularly taking into consideration Arsenal’s leniency with Arsene Wenger – but one that could be necessary.
The former Borussia Dortmund man has enforced his style of play and had two transfer windows to acquire the personnel to suit his philosophy but yet, there is still a prospect of total failure. Klopp’s reign seems unsustainable, particularly his high-energy style which seems to have caused a number of muscle injuries in his players despite their relatively light schedule.
Throw the prospect of Europa League football into that mix and Reds players will be dropping like flies clutching their lactic acid-filled muscles. Are Liverpool in a better situation than they were under Brendan Rodgers? No, they’re not. Klopp’s success is limited to sporadic world-class performances against the rest of the top seven, apart from that, he has been implausibly average.
Failure to bring about Champions League football will have seen Liverpool’s progression plan stagnate and looking back at how quickly Rodgers was shown the exit door, why should Klopp not face the same fate?