My opinion on the season so far.
There are a lot of fingers all over the forum, pointing to different reasons why things have gone so poorly. Some reasons have more merit than others, but the most important thing is that there are many reasons, not just one, and each impacts on the other.
For starters we went from a consistent and reliable front three of Sadio, Bobby and Mo to whatever we could put on the pitch due to injuries to Bobby, Jota and Diaz. We never had the luxury of easing in Darwin as he got used to the team and the system. Darwin has actually done really well in isolation, it’s only in comparison to what was happening previously and of course with Vigo the Carpathian and in the context of the wider struggles of the team.
As others have said, an important part of our system was always the press from the front and the Bobby role, which was never the traditional number 9 and often resulted in opposition fans writing him off as shit for not scoring 20 goals every season.
It’s not the the only way to play, and we can have success with a player like Nunez leading the line, but it takes time to adapt, not just for him, but everyone else on the pitch who is being asked to perform a slightly different role.
Which leads me to the change of system. This was clear very early on, and the fingers are pointing at Pep.
Now, I get the reluctance to try and put any blame near Klopp. He’s the best manager in the world, so anything that goes wrong must be the owners not backing him, or his back room team causing issues, or the players not performing.
Now Jurgen will be the first to tell you, that the buck stops with him. The buying of players, the training on the pitch, the choice of system, none of it is going on without his knowledge. He isn’t a glorified cheerleader who just turns up and shouts a bit or hands out hugs. Everything that is happening, is happening with his knowledge and say so. Perhaps the new system does stem from Pep, but it’s not like Klopp is oblivious to it.
Equally he is not oblivious to the make-up of the squad. He was happy with what he had at the start of the season, and felt it was enough to compete.
Of course once you lose Naby, then Ox, then Thiago, then Hendo, then Jota, then Diaz, then Jones, then the guy you brought in on loan to try and help you cope with the injuries…well, of course it’s going to impact what you’re doing.
Suddenly, as I said, Nunez has to play whenever he’s available (the red card not helping) there’s no luxury of rotating with Bobby and Jota, easing him in over time. Players like Elliott, Fabio and Bajcetic who should be used with their gradual development at the forefront of thought suddenly have to be relied upon. And no disrespect, they’ve all done okay, just not being used how I’m sure Klopp would have imagined; cameos here and there, used in rotation to rest the 1st team players or to adapt to different opposition teams.
Now, you can argue about the wisdom of relying on a midfield with well documented injury issues. For me a midfielder was a must as soon as we lost Ox, but before then, going into a season with Milner, Thiago, Hendo, Fabinho, Ox, Keita, Jones, Elliott and Bajcetic, I don’t think it was entirely unreasonable before the injuries to not think we might be okay. Particularly as the drop in form of many of the players wasn’t exactly predictable.
Even if you disagree, and think we should have definitely sold Ox, Keita and bought Bellingham + A.N Other, and FSG should have stumped up the cash; well the truth is we don’t know what is happening behind the scenes.
Sure, if we go one more summer without arrivals in midfield, then it will be inexplicable, BUT, it might be that we are waiting till this summer to land two specific targets.
Please don’t misunderstand, I’m only speculating, but it would make an awful lot of sense to not buy any midfielders if you had been given some assurances that if you waited just a bit, that you would be able to sign the exact two midfielders who you wanted to sign in the first place, rather than buying any old player to fill a gap and then being unable to buy the ones you wanted.
For me this is a transition year in the most absolute sense of the word, and it might not make sense until after the fact when the injured players are available and the new players have been bought. What has gone wrong, isn’t just a change in players, a change in the system, the injuries, the perceived ‘lack of investment’. It’s all of these things in conjunction, which happening to any team, would derail proceedings.
We can be unhappy with individual performances, we can have a wishlist for transfers, we can make criticisms about anything, but we should always have the full picture in our minds when we do this.
For me, until we do or don’t sign players for the midfield in the summer, I don’t have the full picture, and I’m happy to wait and see.