While some circles of the internet might have you believe that Liverpool’s squad can’t stack up with the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, or Chelsea, manager Jürgen Klopp is already showcasing his team’s incredible depth.
The Liverpool side that beat Crystal Palace 3-0 yesterday saw six changes from the starting XI from the 3-2 victory over AC Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday, and that XI had four changes from the one that started the 3-0 victory over Leeds United on the previous Sunday.
Speaking about the rotation in his post-match press conference yesterday, Klopp pointed to the fact that, while he’s rotated when possible in the past, he’s now able to do so more frequently thanks to the depth currently at his disposal, especially in defense.
“We will rotate, we always rotated, but in the last years we couldn’t rotate really in the last line as there weren’t enough players fit,” Klopp admitted.
“In midfield hopefully we have numbers to do it because it is the engine room of the team and we need to make changes there, and upfront we have opportunities.”
Overall, 17 different players have seen starts for the ten outfield positions over the last three matches. While some of that has been forced due to injury and illness, there is still a focus on rotation for the sake of keeping players fresh.
“You want to line up the best possible team and that has different factors, today it was rhythm or freshness and we decided for freshness,” said Klopp.
“After breakfast this morning, Trent (Alexander-Arnold) didn’t feel right. We planned to start him. But Milly (James Milner) did an incredible job, I am pretty sure he enjoyed that game today!
“Joël (Matip) is not injured or anything, we just left him out the squad so there was no danger of bringing him on.
“A whole new last line all of a sudden, who had never played together, and the midfield I think only played once together before.”
It’s an impressive bit of managing and preparation to rotate so much over three games, especially at the back, and still manage to score nine while conceding just two. While there’s little doubt about the quality of the players involved over the past three games, chemistry plays a vital role in a team’s ability to earn results.
Klopp’s last three sides have shown that, aside from a few shaky moments, they’re able to play with new combinations from front to back without losing too much of their attacking verve or defensive stability. Even the shaky moments were fewer than one would expect given the amount of rotation.
That’s not to say it’s been easy to keep earning the results as the squad has changed each match. The margin of difference between Liverpool and Crystal Palace yesterday was not as large as the scoreline indicates.
“You saw the intensity of the game, and we had to pay for that in the second half. We were not that clear anymore, yes we scored the goals but we weren’t that clear anymore (in our play),” Klopp said.
“Crystal Palace really put an extra shift in and brought on more offensive players, chipped the balls in behind our full-backs and we had to run a lot. We had to defend with skill or luck or Ali (Alisson), but we did it.”
That last line is really the key takeaway from all of this. While there are certainly things to point to as issues with the rotated squads of the past eight days, and improvements to be made, results are king in football. At the end of the day, fielding a squad that can earn three points is all that really matters.
Jürgen Klopp’s men have proven that they are capable of doing that despite significant changes to the lineup on a game-by-game basis. Even if the performances aren’t as comprehensive and dominant as some might like, they’ve been enough to earn the three points each time.
Any manager in football would kill to have a squad that can do that. It’s a quality that will allow this Liverpool side to compete on multiple fronts and have a real shot at winning multiple titles this year.
So, get used to seeing Klopp take full advantage of the embarrassment of riches he has at his disposal because rotation is going to be vital for Liverpool’s success.
“How often we do it, I didn’t make a plan already for the season but as often as necessary and possible.”