Jurgen Klopp faces an ever-increasing Liverpool injury list. How would the German tactician adapt to the demands of the Premier League?
When Liverpool won the Premier League title last season, there was widespread celebration on the streets of Mersyeside, as thousands trooped outside, flouting social distancing regulations to celebrate what was a first league title in three decades.
The Reds were good value for their title triumph too and set the pace from matchday 2, not relinquishing their position at the summit until they were crowned Premier League champions for the first time.
In many ways, Liverpool’s title triumph was the perfect culmination of the work Klopp had done at Anfield since his appointment and the fact that the campaign was one of the most tumultuous in history only added to the uniqueness of their achievement.
Given how dominant Liverpool were en-route their triumph, many tipped them to be in the thick of things come this season and despite not matching the lofty standards of last year, the Reds are still in with a shout after eight matchdays.
However, their title ambition is in serious jeopardy of being thwarted not by results on the field but by what has become a mounting Liverpool injury list.
It started with defensive colossus Virgil Van DijkVirgil Van Dijk hobbling off the field after colliding with Jordan Pickford just 10 minutes into the Merseyside derby with Everton in October.
Scans showed that the Netherlands international suffered a serious knee injury that would sideline him for most of the campaign.
Considering how important the 28-year-old is to Liverpool’s defense, it came as no surprise that fans were gutted by the revelation.
However, Jurgen Klopp has built his team to be one of the most resilient in the world and despite losing their best defender, the Reds kept marching on but things have slowly unraveled since then.
In what was one huge blow to Liverpool, the rest of their first-choice defense all suffered various injury problems within the space of a week, with Trent Alexander-Arnold walking off with a calf injury in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City, while Joe Gomez also suffered knee damage while training with England three days later.
Marauding left-back Andrew Robertson suffered a hamstring injury on international duty with Scotland and the result of this could mean that Jurgen Klopp might have to make do without any of his regular defenders for the foreseeable future.
If the Liverpool injury problem was only limited to their defense, then there would have been cause for optimism; but that is not the case and the Reds’ players are currently suffering muscle injuries at an alarming rate.
Skipper and midfield dynamo Jordan Henderson was substituted at half-time of England’s Nations League clash with Belgium and manager Gareth Southgate confirmed that it was due to a muscle problem, while Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all still sidelined.
Further disaster struck when talisman Virgil Van Dijk while he was with Egypt and this will raise fresh concerns for Klopp, who had to make do without Sadio Mane earlier in the season for the same issue.
If it’s any source of consolation, the Egypt international should ostensibly be back in a fortnight but the same cannot be said about most of his teammates who could spend longer on the sidelines.
How would Jurgen Klopp cope with the Liverpool injury crisis?
Throughout his five-year stay an Anfield, Klopp has thrived in creating his side in his image, with the net result being that his players have become what he describes as ‘mentality monsters.’
The club have overcome varying degrees of adversity but they have always come back stronger and gone on to achieve greater things.
Lose two finals in your first season as manager, no problem, we keep going.
Lose the Champions League final to Real Madrid in a heartbreaking fashion, not an issue, we’ll respond by winning the title the next year.
Fall to a 3-0 defeat away to Barcelona led by an in-form Lionel Messi in the semifinal, piece of cake, we’ll trash the Catalans 4-0 at Anfield to qualify for the final.
Lead the Premier League for most of the season and engage Manchester City in one of the most thrilling title races that was decided on the final day with a one-point margin, no problem at all, bounce back stronger the next year by accruing 99 points to win a first league title in 30 years.
However, the current Liverpool injury crisis could well be the most testing period of Jurgen Klopp’s five-year reign so far.
The absence of his regular defense means that he will have to make do with untested players, with 19-year-old Neco Williams serving as the most experienced of the available defenders with six league appearances, followed by Nat Philipps with one, while Kostas Tsimikas and Rhys Williams are yet to make their Premier League debuts.
In light of the current malaise suffered by the defending champions, special efforts are being put in place to make emergency transfers, with free-agent Ezequel Garay among the names linked with a move to Anfield.
The next few weeks would be extremely crucial in Liverpool’s title bid but their cause would be aided by the fact that most of their rivals have also suffered injury casualties, with muscle injuries going up by over 40% due to the congested nature of the campaign and absence of pre-season.
This is sure to raise further questions about the sensibility of the vote against the five substitutes rule, especially as the major leagues across Europe still have them in place.
Despite their current injury crisis, Liverpool fans can take solace in the fact that they have overcome several daunting prospects in the last few years and the mentality monsters would definitely face their newest challenge head on.