Defensive frailties marring Klopp progress
Champions League football a real possibility
Securing Champions League football is very much within Liverpool’s grasp this season, and, if it were to happen, Jürgen Klopp’s first season tenure at Anfield would have to be seen as a success. Critics will downplay it, of course, pointing to the fact that it came via the backdoor of the Europa League, a competition the Reds have now been installed favourites for, after their epic fightback against Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals.
Villareal are no pushovers and will pose a real threat in the semi-finals but only a fool would bet against Liverpool going all the way now.
Have Liverpool really progressed under Klopp ?
Liverpool do seem to have been gaining some momentum in recent weeks so how does their domestic form stand-up, on top of their exploits in Europe? In the Oulala infographic below a distinction has been made between Liverpool’s 2015 Premier League form, following Klopp’s appointment and how they have fared in the current calendar year.
At first glance, the statistical improvement is impressive and surely enough to have Liverpool fans licking their lips at the prospect of finally securing that long-awaited first Premier League title. The Reds have scored more goals than any other side in the current calendar year, which is no mean feat considering how well a free-scoring Spurs team have been performing, in particular.
However, despite this apparent improvement, Liverpool, who sit in 7th place in the table, would actually only be in 8th place if the table was ranked by points gained since the 1st of January. That is quite an alarming stat and the reason is obvious – concession rate. Only Stoke City, of all the sides currently ranked in the top half of the table, have conceded more times than Liverpool.
This has serious implications for fantasy football managers. The likes of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi, James Milner and Adam Lallana, who can all operate in advanced areas, clearly warrant consideration. But what about the back-line?
The Reds rearguard has only racked up three Premier League clean-sheets in 2016, so once you factor in the 23 goals they have conceded, it becomes clear that selecting Liverpool defenders would have been fraught with danger. Only Alberto Moreno emerges with any credit, partly due to his three assists and solitary strike in his last three league starts.
Simon Mignolet is in for a big summer – he looks like an accident waiting to happen – he’s likely to play second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois for Belgium at the Euros, but if he was to get the nod, how he performs in France could easily determine his Anfield future. Make no mistake about it, Belgium are serious contenders, but one glaring mistake could easily signal the end of their campaign and if that was to happen it might just be the final straw for Jürgen Klopp!
It will be fascinating to see what changes the German makes over the summer – can he turn Liverpool into genuine title contenders?