Squad rotation is one of those topics that — as so much else in football — quickly becomes divisive. Fans and pundits look for a quick fix reason as to why results are particularly good or bad, and in lieu of obvious player related explanations, will turn to the far more intangible and less knowable manager decisions, including substitions, both in and between matches. Rafa Benítez was famously derided for his continental rotation policy, while the fact that Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson both made the same number of changes in personnel between games was quickly forgotten. Narrative and fire emoji takes, you see, trumps all.
Thus, when it was revealed that Jürgen Klopp hasn't named an unchanged side in 40 consecutive matches, ears perked up. Could this be the secret ingredient to the Reds' current success? By what sorcery did Klopp come up with his rotation policy? Would the upcoming Sunderland game mark his first unchanged side in nearly ten months?
“No idea!", was the manager's swift reply. "It’s Thursday and two days until Saturday. 40 matches? I didn’t know. I thought we didn’t change too much, actually.
“There were different tournaments, 40 matches, with a few last season too. It’s not that we say we cannot start with the same line-up again."
“We have not the biggest injury issues until now. We had a few, of course, but sometimes the next game came too quick, so we needed to make a change or we wanted to make a change."
Injuries and fixture congestion, then. What other factors could possibly be behind this streak of uniformity?
“Maybe what it shows is that we only think about the next game and not about the last too much", Klopp continued. "When the analysis is done, the last game is over and it’s not important anymore.
“Then you need to have a look in training, have a look at different things and especially have a look at the style and strength of the next opponent. You think about who will help you most in the next game. That’s all we think about.
“Probably, we always decided we needed somebody else, but not with a big plan behind it, to always change a winning team to make a new law. That’s surprised me a little bit, honestly, that it’s so often in a row – if it’s right!”
So less magic than sensible decisions based on schedule, player availability and opposition attributes, culminating in a random statistic to extrapolate from a string of games? Terrible for Twitter opinions, but pretty good news for the Reds, as it turns out.
Whether the streak of unchanged sides continues on Saturday is of no importance in the end. Whether Klopp can continue to build on the momentum his team has accrued in the past few months to take them past a potential banana peel in a resurgent Sunderland side is the opposite of that.