This has been a regular occurrence for Liverpool and it has arrived again. The Reds are now stumbling across the finishing line of this season with few injuries limiting their squad depth. With the system Jurgen Klopp plays, it is a necessity that he has a bench that can play at around the same intensity as his first eleven. There have been few injuries and three-game a week is taking toll on players who have played a lot this season.
This January transfer window, they got their most important cog in Virgil Van Dijk but sold Phillipe Coutinho. Obviously, the Brazilian didn’t want to stay at the club anymore and so it was a forced move. Though, it galvanised the squad in a sense that the current front three are doing well with the team looking more balanced. Albeit, it sucked out a required quality depth in the squad in case of injury/fatigue.
Adam Lallana was always a doubt to take crucial part in this season, so Klopp’s men were virtually an injury away from getting short-handed in midfield. With Coutinho very capable of filling roles in midfield and attack, the Brazilian’s sale was always going to be a risk.
Emre Can got a bad back very early in March, which meant Liverpool were down to four CMs to play in an intense period. The Oxlade Chamberlain injury was purely accidental and can be counted as unlucky. Going for a challenge in the first leg against Roma and got his knee turned. So, post that moment, the Reds had three fit CMs to play with for the rest of this season.
With games in midweek of highest intensity followed by physically tough ones in the weekend, it was going to be tough. Draws against Everton, Stoke City and West Brom were all due to games coming in midweek or the game taking place 3 days before. This is not a problem if you are a big club who wants to fight for almost all accolades possible. But it is an issue when there are almost 13 fit players to play the last and pivotal part of the season.
With all due respect to other bench players in that current Liverpool squad now. They are no where near good enough. For example, Klopp shuffled his pack in the back four against West Brom. Liverpool looked rusty defensively with Joe Gomez (injured), Alberto Moreno and Ragnar Klavan playing. Their midfield had no Jordan Henderson against Chelsea on Sunday and lacked penetration.
The front three also looked jaded in the past 2 games which is genuinely understandable. Mohamed Salah has played 3738 minutes, which quite a lot for a player like him. We should actually give him credit for his fitness and continued agility so far. Roberto Firmino did get some minutes off in rotations but he also has played 3660 minutes. If we relate the amount of work/running he does on a football pitch, this is high for a season.
The reason why Sadio Mane looked the most fresh was because of his unavailability for few games in first part of season. He has played 2983 minutes which is manageable.
If we see the overall picture, the one thing which strikes straightaway is lack of quality in bench. Which in turn means Klopp can’t turn to his bench and implement any plan B. He hasn’t had any plan B in strike department and he hadn’t been needed to do so as well. He rotated his midfield until bare bones is in sight with injuries. The quality backups for the defensive positions isn’t there too. (with all due respect to the players).
So, if we tally the factors and injuries, we might well say it is a tough time to be a Liverpool manager. In addition, the way Klopp makes his players play, there is bound to be fatigue after certain point of time. So, a bench with equal quality is a necessity when it comes to a season under the German. This is because at various junctions, the bench will be as equivalently needed as the first choice.
Liverpool need two to three players to cover that up. Then only they will be touted as a squad capable of challenging on all fronts. Rather than a starting 11 which is good and bench very flimsy.
Article Compiled by Mizgan, Subject given by Mushir