Liverpool came into this match with the FA Cup firmly planted as a distant third in this season’s ranking of competitions they were still presently involved in. When the line-up was announced, that presumption felt confirmed given this was decidedly - all due respect given those on the team sheet - the weakest starting eleven fielded in quite some time.
Still, even with all of that, there was a bit of buzz in the air around the number of changes from the City match to now. Most notably, the absence of Adam Lallana who was a late scratch to this match.
Turns out, according to Jurgen Klopp, an at least associated reason for the number of changes and the relative youth of the line-up came down to a lack of availability from some fringe first teamers. When questioned during the post-match presser, the gaffer offered up these words:
“It was for different reasons. After the City game we immediately had a few players who were ill, who showed a sore throat and all you can have in this period of the year. A few of them were not even in after the City game, so there was no chance. Pretty much all the players who were not here today had little problems, apart from Ali. So we had to make late changes; yesterday, Adam [Lallana] was in our plans, like Hendo was in the plans. Dejan was not in the plans, he should only have been on the bench and then what happened, happened.”
A frank and forthright, if a little frustrating, response from Jurgen. Not much can be done if players come down with a bit of illness or a little twinge right out of the most intense and compressed sequence of fixtures they’ve had all year. And, of course, if there was ever a time for the squad to be rotated or for the key players to come down with a little bug, now would be it. But fans isn’t short for fanatics for no reason and many fans will walk away disappointed with the results of this match that see the hopes of a treble - unlikely as it always was - slip away.
Folks looking for bright spots might point to the relatively good game given by young Ki-Jana Hoever, who came in for Dejan Lovren after the experienced center back went off early in the match. Klopp had nice things to say about the performances of the likes of Hoever, Rafa Camacho, and Curtis Jones, but qualified it by bemoaning the fact that, especially in the case of Hoever, it would have been preferred to use their youth in situations that might better suit them:
“The boys are around and train with us because we think they are good enough. Today the game started not so cool with the change, which immediately changed the mood. If you are out there and the coach tells you to play football, [but] the wind is blowing from different directions, you control the ball and become a bit nervous, you have no rhythm. These boys played because they are in our squad and are good enough, that’s all. “
Klopp took on a similar air of equivocation when talking about the more senior players, though you can note a tenor of disappointment. His assessment of Alberto Moreno, particularly stands out given the recent rumblings in the press about the left back’s displeasure at his lack of playing time. Still, as a good manager does, Klopp stood in front of his charges and took responsibility for the loss.
“All these things that came out are really my responsibility, so it’s about rhythm. Of course, you know they have rhythm. Div, can he have rhythm? No, not really. Daniel, maybe a bit more. Alberto, no, no rhythm. That of course doesn’t help footballers against a [tough] opponent.”
All told it was a disappointing day but one that will likely recede to the background as we resume Premier League and Champions League fixtures in the coming weeks. Hopefully, Dejan Lovren’s injury proves to be minimal, we can re-integrate Joe Gomez and Joel Matip back into the squad, and the precious opportunity and experience gained by Rafa Camacho and Curtis Jones goes on to spark them moving forward.