Liverpool’s inconsistency under Klopp is a worrying trend
On Saturday evening, another inquest was begun into Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool tenure. For the third consecutive year under the German manager, the Reds lost in the FA Cup Fourth Round. This time it was 2-3, at Anfield, to Premier League strugglers West Bromwich Albion. The beloved manager has obviously improved the Anfield mob but its inconsistency is baffling. Hugely encouraging results against elite sides are immediately followed by unexpected capitulations to smaller teams.
The Reds are in a mini-slump at the moment. Prior to West Brom, they lost to Swansea. That the two setbacks followed the inspired 4-3 victory over then-unbeaten Manchester City is maddening. Liverpool was majestic against Pep Guardiola's Citizens. It showed the grit, determination, and fight ever present in its displays against similar opponents.
Such performances set the Kop up for a fall. Afterward, Liverpool contrive to lose against lightweights like league bottom side, Swansea. The pattern has become all too familiar under the charismatic German tactician. Liverpool fans can’t place which Reds team that will turn up for a particular game unless they're familiar with the entire Premier League table. Seeing quality wasted infuriates supporters who have watched their storied team fail to challenge for major trophies for so many years.
Klopp is a likable character. He embodies the heart of the Kop. Yet there are question marks surrounding the way he prepares his team for strenuous mental examinations. The German has lost his last five finals as a manager. After winning his solitary cup to date, a DFB Pokal over Bayern in 2011-12, he was been beaten by Bayern in the 2012/13 Champions League and 2013/14 German Cup. He lost the domestic tournament to Wolfsburg the following season. With Liverpool he was beaten by City in the League Cup and Sevilla in the Europa League, both in 2015/16. It is a damming indictment on his abilities as a top-level manager.
His record unbelievably mirrors that of predecessor Brendan Rodgers, leading many to question whether Klopp has had the impact the club anticipated upon hiring him.
It is difficult to explain a team that looks like world beaters one match then hopelessly downtrodden the next. Is it lack of motivation? Is there no winning mentality? No killer instinct? Players appear willing to turn up the screw against top clubs to defend their prestigious colours, then return to punching the clock against also-rans.
The cheerful German's two finals with Liverpool were both winnable. The Reds bossed the first half against Sevilla in 2016. Their defence remained in the dressing room after intermission, however. The League Cup defeat to City that same year was in the pre-Guardiola era. Pellegrini, already a lame duck, motivated his players to defend his honour.
With a coach of Klopp's ability and a team of Liverpool's stature, one or two trophies should be on the mantle by now. Every one of the Merseysiders' top six rivals has won silverware since the Reds last claimed honours in the 2012 League Cup. That includes Tottenham.
Klopp has been backed in the transfer market, most especially with the signing of Holland International, Virgil Van Dijk. But the 26-year-old is finding it hard to improve the Anfield rearguard. Klopp remains a proponent of the heavy metal, Gengen press style of football he applied to great effect in the Bundesliga. He upset the odds to win consecutive league titles ahead of Bayern Munich, and also reached the Champions League final. In the Premier League, it is continually being exposed by clubs the Reds should be handling with comparative ease.
Perhaps this Liverpool squad doesn't take his manic urgency seriously until confronted with a genuine challenge. His players exert all their mental and physical energy in the biggest matches but do not reach the same levels when the stakes are low. Klopp must lead the team to new heights or risk being labelled an underachiever.