Has Jurgen Klopp been figured out already?

“Has Jurgen Klopp been figured out already?”

I was shocked when I heard those words muttered during the broadcast of the Liverpool-Watford Premier League match this past weekend. I’m sorry, but to say that when the man has less than half a season under his belt is just ludicrous.

While Liverpool are not playing well right now, after being held up as potential title challengers a few short weeks ago, the answer is never that obvious. Many claim that in order to defeat Liverpool, all you need to do is defend deep and wait for their defense to collapse.

While there is some truth to this, it’s not down to Jurgen Klopp, who has spent a mere two months with the players. This is still very much a Brendan Rodgers team. It’s his players and Klopp has to work within those confines for the time being. This is a boon and a curse. Without a doubt, Rodgers left behind some players that Klopp will absolutely adore working with. Players like Jordan Henderson, Jordon Ibe, and Philippe Coutinho all fit what Klopp look for in players.

Freeze frame from the lead up to Watford's 2nd goal against Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool.

Freeze frame from the lead up to Watford’s 2nd goal against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

Where the problems lie are the players that simply do not fit what he tries to do. Unfortunately, these are also some of the more important players in the
squad. Martin Skrtel has been an important member of the squad since Rafa Benitez was here, but, while capable of some great last ditch defending, he naturally doesn’t work in a team that pushes for a high line. The image to the right is a freeze frame from the 2nd Watford goal this weekend. Notice how deep he is standing, compared to the rest of the defense. We can see Alberto Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne wide, and Mamadou Sakho sitting deeper, with Odion Ighalo in what should be an offside position if Skrtel was in line with the rest of the defense. To further delve into how preventable that goal was, Skrtel does a terrible job of trying to get the ball off Ighalo once he’s beaten. While we can chalk that up to being in poor form, he is caught sitting too deep far too often to work in a Klopp system. This isn’t to say he’s a terrible defender. He worked great under Benitez, where the defense was expected to sit deeper.

This doesn’t excuse the rest of the defense, who combine to currently have the most defensive errors in the league by four, and the second most defensive errors that have lead to goals. This is simply not good enough for a team with Top four ambitions and comes down to the players individually.

Another serious issue is the goalkeeping. Simon Mignolet has had massive ups and downs at Liverpool, but the downs are becoming shockingly too consistent. On his day, he’s a magnificent shot stopper, but this seems to have changed this season.

That stat is terrible for a goalkeeper who’s biggest strength is shot stopping. When you add in the defensive errors that both he and his backup, Adam Bogdan, have been guilty of, you get a shaky defensive structure.

This would be okay if, like the brilliant 2013/14 season, they matched defensive weakness with undeniable attacking strength, but that hasn’t been up to snuff lately. Daniel Sturridge is hurt again, Christian Benteke has been fairly out of form, Danny Ings is out for the season, and Divock Origi is very young, though capable of real quality. Worst of all, the new Brazilian who can play a false 9 (really well, like in the Manchester City game) has been nonexistent.

Those stats are not fun reading for Liverpool fans. These are only a few of the issues facing Liverpool. The biggest is, of course, the mental weakness. This is the most significant issue with the team. Some of the players have the mental fortitude to keep playing even when they fall behind. Some of them do not. To know one from the other, all you need to do is see who kept running after they fell behind.

This will be Jurgen Klopp’s biggest challenge at Liverpool. At the beginning of his tenure, he asked for the fans to become believers again. They have responded and gotten behind him. Now he needs the same from the whole of his team. We have to remember, Klopp and the players are still figuring each other out. They are still working on the system that will take Liverpool forward. Just look at what Watford’s manager, Quique Flores had to say:

Jurgen Klopp is trying to bring something that could turn out beautiful at Liverpool. It will take time, and it will take a reshaping of the team. More importantly, it’ll take a reawakening of belief in the players.

So has the Premier League figured out Jurgen Klopp? Of course not. Klopp’s just working on figuring out the Premier League.

About Jeff Snyder

Jeff Snyder is a professional writer and has been in sports broadcast for almost half a decade. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheJackAnty.