Liverpool, according to pretty much everyone from supporters to rival fans to the pundits, needed to strengthen in January. They didn’t, and a packed schedule, injuries, and players off on international duty all added up to a disastrous run that sees them out of both cups and having fallen to fifth in the league.
Manager Jürgen Klopp isn’t oblivious to the talk, and he’s fully aware that shortcomings in the squad have been exposed. At the end of the day, though, he insists it wasn’t for lack of effort or lack of backing that no deals got done. That Liverpool’s market failings don’t hold a deeper meaning or point to a bigger problem.
“The players were not available,” was Klopp’s simple answer to why the club hadn’t bought anyone in January when everyone seemed to agree they had needed to buy someone. “I cannot change my answer after today. I cannot say, yes, it would have been fantastic if the club could have given me the opportunity.
“We had opportunities for doing something but we didn’t find the right players. It’s not because we were blind, it’s because the players were not available. We tried things. It was not a money issue. There were different reasons. I will not change my answers about things like this after a game I am not happy about.”
Having backed Kenny Dalglish with a £35M net spend and given Bendan Rodgers £40M net on two occasions—both totals that reflected the most the club could spend those years without risking running afoul of Financial Fair Play regulations—Klopp was reportedly backed with a £60-70M budget in the summer.
He chose to leave money on the table and keep the squad small given Liverpool were out of Europe, giving him more time to work with each player in training and avoiding the risk of having to not having enough minutes to go around. During a strong autumn run, it appeared to be a decision that had paid off.
Fixture overload in December and January, though, caught up with that small squad, and January proved too hard a market to do business in—while Klopp also reportedly walked from negotiations with Julian Draxler when the player changed his wage demands late. In retrospect, mistakes were made.
Mistakes, though, don’t make Klopp a bad manager or the wrong man for the job. And those mistakes don’t support the idea that Klopp hasn’t been backed or that FSG aren’t willing to spend within the club’s FFP means. Klopp has been backed, and mistakes have been made, and all that’s left now is to hope.
To hope that those mistakes don’t consign Liverpool to ending the season out of the top four. To hope that, out of the cups and back down to a game a week, this small squad can rediscover their autumn form and go on a late tear. To hope that, this coming summer, the mistakes of the past season are corrected.
Seeking a scapegoat in the club’s owners is to wilfully ignore the reality. Turning on Klopp would be misguided and short-sighted. Mistakes have been made, but the backing has been and will likely continue to be there. All that’s left now is to do what fans do and to hope.