Jürgen Klopp: ‘This is my squad now’
Injuries will affect Liverpool manager’s selection for opening Premier League tie
Jürgen Klopp: Likely starting XI at Arsenal on Sunday reflects his belief a team should evolve and develop under his tutelage on the training ground. Photograph: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
Jürgen Klopp has deprived himself of a convenient excuse should Liverpool fail to advance in his first full season in charge. “This is my squad now,” he said. “This time it is my team.” And this is not a manager who measures “his team” by signings alone.
A €81 million-plus outlay on seven recruits plus 16 departures – and counting – represents another summer overhaul at Anfield. There were seven additions to Brendan Rodgers’s squad last summer and nine in 2014. Yet the likely starting XI at Arsenal on Sunday also reflects Klopp’s belief a team should not start from scratch but evolve and develop under his tutelage on the training ground. He was true to his word in giving players every opportunity to prove themselves last season and a comparison with the manager’s first game in the Premier League 10 months ago, also in north London, demonstrates faith as well as areas where Klopp felt change was necessary.
Seven members of the 18-man squad for the goalless draw at Tottenham Hotspur last October are no longer at Anfield. Only one of the departures was in the starting lineup, however, and Martin Skrtel had paid a price for Liverpool’s defensive weaknesses long before his summer transfer to Fenerbahce. Lucas Leiva could be a second player to leave from Klopp’s first-team selection before the transfer deadline but, as with every transfer window it would seem, the Brazilian remains impermeable to outside interest.
Offloading six of the seven substitutes at White Hart Lane shows Klopp was concerned more about the strength of the squad than the core of the team inherited from Rodgers. The six – Joe Allen, Jordon Ibe, Kolo Touré, Jerome Sinclair, Adam Bogdan and João Teixeira – have moved on for fees totalling just over €37 million . Only Connor Randall remains from that substitutes’ list.
Injuries will have on impact on Klopp’s selection for the Premier League opener at the Emirates just as they did at Spurs, when Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson were among the absentees. The goalkeeper Loris Karius and the central defender Joel Matip could have enhanced Liverpool’s new look but for injuries that interrupted their pre-seasons. In their absence, with Simon Mignolet reprieved in goal, Klopp may give Liverpool league debuts to only three summer signings: Ragnar Klavan, Georginio Wijnaldum and Sadio Mané.
DefendersLiverpool’s manager has signed two central defenders – Matip and Klavan – and released two this summer – Skrtel and Touré. He will have rebuilt the core of his defence since Tottenham should Karius dislodge Mignolet in goal but the presence of Dejan Lovren against Arsenal is testament to Klopp’s ability to improve a player and his faith in those who respond to instruction.
So far, and despite the clamour for a cull that followed the Europa League final defeat against Sevilla, Alberto Moreno remains in possession of the left-back shirt. A slight hamstring injury may cost the Spaniard his place against Arsenal and see James Milner switched to full-back, although Klopp, having failed to entice the 19-year-old Ben Chilwell from Leicester City, has hinted at a new addition this month.
The most striking change between Klopp’s first Premier League team and his first full season in charge is the range of options available in the final third. Liverpool did not have a major problem in front of goal last season despite Sturridge’s persistent injury problems, Christian Benteke failing to fit the new manager’s requirements and Danny Ings missing eight months with a ruptured cruciate. The champions, Leicester City, and second-placed Arsenal scored five and two goals more respectively. But the manager has bought speed to the ranks in Mané, a player suited to Liverpool’s intense pressing game, and more drive and goals from Wijnaldum and has also benefited from the promising emergence of Sheyi Ojo.
Substitutes benchAdam Lallana, Ings, Ojo and Divock Origi may be among a much stronger substitutes’ bench at Arsenal. Ibe, Teixeira and Sinclair represented Klopp’s options to change the game at White Hart Lane last October, when Origi was the only striker available. The Belgium international can regard himself unfortunate should he not start the new season.
While in some respects Klopp’s overhaul of the squad has been modest, the improvement he expects is vast. Guardian Service