Liverpool ran out their youngest ever starting eleven against Plymouth ten days ago, and when their FA Cup third round replay kicks off tonight, it’s expected to be a similarly youthful side sent out by Jürgen Klopp. That has led to some criticism for the Liverpool manager.
“I love this competition,” was Klopp’s response to questions of whether his team selection last time out and likely team selection tonight means he doesn’t respect the FA Cup, as some commentators suggested in the wake of Liverpool’s nil-nil draw with Plymouth on the 8th.
“I usually don’t speak about things I’ve done in the past, but have a look at my cup record in the last few years. We were in 500 finals or something like this. There was no situation where you would think, oh, which team did he pick so maybe he doesn’t want to be in the cup.
“I am responsible for the team, and we have to play in a lot of tournaments. If I think a player is ready for the next game he plays. If I think he is not ready he will not play. If anybody thinks I don’t respect the cup I can’t change that, but I love playing in cup competitions.”
Last season, Liverpool made it to the Europa League and League Cup finals as well as sustaining a deep run with multiple replays in the FA Cup. To compete in multiple competitions, rotation is required. And it’s not as though Klopp is leaving senior options on the bench.
Senior depth, players like Lucas Leiva and Ragnar Klavan, have seen much of their playing time in the cups this season. At positions where the next name on the depth chart is a younger player, though, when rotation is called for it will be younger players who have to step in.
And, of course, if those young players can get a result tonight—the likes of Ovie Ejaria and Sheyi Ojo and Ben Woodburn—then all the talk about disrespecting the cup goes away. If they can’t, then all the pundits get to talk about a giant-killing upset and the magic of the FA Cup.
Rather than cause to criticise Klopp and question whether he respects the club, that seems like something of a win-win for the neutrals and pundits watching on.