Liverpool FC’s dressing room has been completely ravaged by COVID-19 in the last two weeks. The Reds were without several key players and their manager when they faced Chelsea last weekend, and it only got worse from there.
By this past Tuesday, the number of cases had exploded to a point where the club felt they had no choice but to shut down the training ground and request that the first leg of a League Cup semi-final against Arsenal on Thursday be postponed.
The postponement was granted because the powers that be understood the severity of the situation. However, many media figures and supporters of other clubs were furious that Liverpool would have the nerve to request a rescheduling. If it were up to them, Liverpool would have been forced to trot out the under-9s to face Arsenal because manager Jürgen Klopp (like many other managers) has had the audacity to play inexperienced teams in the competition in the past.
Given the absurd, irrational backlash over the request, Klopp addressed why he felt Liverpool had no choice but to ask to have the match rescheduled in his column in the matchday programme for today’s FA Cup third-round tie with Shrewsbury Town.
It is not something we sought lightly and anyone who thinks otherwise clearly ignores how we have conducted ourselves as a club during this period. We have always looked to play, if feasible to do so.
For the game that would have been Thursday this week just gone, it was impossible. We asked for the game to be moved because we had no choice. It is the first time we have made such an appeal and we did so because we could not field a team.
On Tuesday the situation escalated from difficult to untenable. Another large number of positive test results were recorded within the group, added to the ones we already had, plus injuries and illness. We had to cancel training and eventually even shut the training ground itself.
We spoke to the local medical experts and this was their advice. Remember our group is fully vaccinated and still we had this.
So moving the game was the right decision and means from this weekend onwards we should now be in a position to put enough names on a teamsheet to fulfil fixtures again, because we have players returning from their isolation, including Academy players who have been impacted.
So there you have it from the manager himself. “We could not field a team.”
So many senior AND academy players were in isolation because of positive tests that the manager truly believed they couldn’t field a team. This from a manager who has made no other requests to have matches postponed and has always expressed a mentality that no matter how thin the squad is due to COVID and injuries, he will make do with the players available.
This from a manager who did not request to have today’s match postponed despite many players and staff (likely even himself!) still being unavailable to face Shrewsbury.
So, while the request to have the Arsenal match postponed created quite a bit of anger from media and fans, it was 100% the right thing to do.
Klopp’s words aren’t likely to change the minds of most of those who couldn’t see the very obvious reasons why Liverpool shouldn’t be forced to play Arsenal with a hodgepodge of academy and youth players. However, they do show that the decision was only made when the club truly believed they wouldn’t be able to field a team, and that really should be enough to accept that a postponement was the only logical conclusion.