So, one game in and we’re on a bandwagon. How dare we call out Klopp on our defensive inadequacies? We’re only in August, after all. Typical in the era of instant gratification that we expect to come out of the starting blocks and perform straight away, they’ll cry. Except that this isn’t a one-off occurrence. This is endemic now.
While things up front are dramatically better than in his first season in charge (from 55 goals in 30 games, an average of 1.83 a game, we’ve progressed to 78 in 38, an average of 2.05 a game), things at the back are only slightly better and are certainly not improving quickly enough to get us where we want to be.
Broken down simply, we conceded 40 goals in his first 30 games in charge, an average of 1.33 a game. In his second – full – season, with HIS men, we conceded 42 in 38 games, an average of 1.10 a game.
From 8 cleans sheets out of 30 (26%) in his first season, we’ve progressed to 12 out of 38 (30%). However, last season we conceded one goal in FIFTEEN games as opposed to one goal in NINE the previous season.
This is the core argument that his naysayers (I’m a fully paid-up member) continue to trot out: we can’t continue to put that much pressure on our front men. All the more so as we may not have as many goals to share around next season, depending on what happens with Coutinho, as well as Lallana’s injury and Sturridge’s fragility. Essentially, two-thirds of Klopp’s teamtalks have to start with the words, “We’re going to need (at least) two to win today.”
And in fairness, last season our front men didn’t disappoint. In the 15 games where we conceded one goal, we took 37 points out of 45 (11 wins and four draws)! That’s remarkable from the likes of Coutinho, Firmino, Mané and Lallana. But they can’t continuously go to the well.
Want proof of how hard it is for them? We conceded two or more goals in ELEVEN games last season. Our sum total of points in those games: 9 from 33. That’s fatal to any Title challenge. The front men in this team last year knew that they needed to score three (or more) in every fourth game to win! Chances are that nothing changes this season. If we concede more than 40 goals (only 37 to go!), we won’t win the Title. Who I am kidding? Who thinks we can win it? Nobody, that’s who.
Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, but one quick word on Gérard’s first full season (1999-2000), with HIS men, we conceded 30 goals. We only scored 51(!) but that was enough to win us 19 games as opposed to 78 to win 22 for this lot last season! And in his following season (2000-2001), with a full European and Cup programme, well, we all know what happened…
This is something that can only be solved on the training ground. Thing is, two full years into the job, I’m not sure I trust him to find the answers.