LIVERPOOL, October 24 – Jurgen Klopp’s arrival as Liverpool manager has created a frenzy of interest among fans and media alike, but has not as yet succeeded in shedding his club’s growing reputation as draw specialists.
Six of their last eight matches have ended in stalemate, a total that rises to seven with the inclusion of last month’s unimpressive penalty shoot-out victory over League Two side Carlisle, which had ended 1-1 after 120 minutes.
The concern for Klopp ahead of his third match in charge, at home to Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday, is a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal.
While a 0-0 draw at Tottenham last Saturday marked a solid start to the former Borussia Dortmund manager’s reign, Thursday’s 1-1 Europa League draw at home to a 10-man Rubin Kazan side was more of a disappointment.
As Klopp put it: “Some of the players were so stiff in their mind. They think: ‘We shoot now?’
“We have to make better decisions in the box. But I have only been here for a short time and I think, at this stage, it’s pretty normal.”
Liverpool’s performance against their Russian opponents lacked the pace they showed against Tottenham – and the energy for which Klopp’s teams have become famed.
Klopp has not been helped in his early matches, though, by a lack of attacking options.
Christian Benteke has been absent with a hamstring strain for a month, Roberto Firmino for around the same length of time with a back injury, while Daniel Sturridge has missed the last two matches with a knee injury sustained in training.
– Big history –
The news on Benteke and Firmino is good; both returned as substitutes against Rubin Kazan, and ought to be available to play at least some part on Sunday.
For Sturridge, the diagnosis is more of a concern.
Klopp had hoped to bring him back against Southampton, but the striker now requires another scan on his knee.
“It’s not much better at the moment,” Klopp said. “With Daniel’s injury, we have to see day by day.
“If he can train completely normally on Saturday, then it’s no problem and he’s an option. But I have to wait for this.
“He needs treatment and a scan because there’s a little fluid in the knee. We have to see.”
Benteke is likely to start if he is anywhere near fit enough to do so; if not, then Divock Origi – yet to score in five appearances for Liverpool – may be asked to lead the attack for a third successive game.
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman is concerned the attention surrounding Klopp could prove a distraction as his side try to recover from squandering a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw against Leicester City last weekend.
“I think you have to be focused in your job as a manager to prepare your team for the game and the players to prepare to play on the level what we expect of the players,” he said.
“We know Liverpool’s a big team, a big history and they will get always more attention than Southampton. That’s normal.
“Managers don’t win and managers don’t lose, it’s the players between the white lines who make decisions and put the quality in.
“I think it’s too much talking about managers. Talk about the teams, because they are more important.”