Those who work at Liverpool say that Jürgen Klopp squared his great work when in 2017 he solved the great dilemma of every coach: how to distribute spaces and tasks between the players called to mark the differences in the last meters. To Sadio Mané, the most gifted by physical, technical and tactical sense, he assigned the bulk of the load with missions of fourth midfielder, winger and playmaker. Firmino, the most ingenious administrator of the game between the lines, was placed as a false nine. And Salah, the physically weakest, the least capable of the three, he reserved to conclude the plays by taking advantage of the work that the other two did previously attracting and overflowing defenses so that he could define with time and space. In the solution Klopp begot the future problem. Football paradoxes, the crisis that Liverpool is going through today originated on the same day that everything fell into place perfectly.
This Thursday Klopp pointed to Mo Salah replacing him in the 62nd minute of the game that Liverpool was losing to Chelsea (0-1 ). He marked with a cross the player who earns the most in the squad, the scorer, the figure who, due to his brilliance, enjoys the greatest commercial and media cache. Today the 28-year-old Egyptian is the symbol of the things that stopped working in the team that between 2019 and 2020 played better than any other in the world.
LiverpoolAlisson, A. Robertson, Fabinho, Ozan Kabak, Trent Alexander- Arnold, Thiago (Milner, min. 79), Curtis Jones (Diogo Jota, min. 61), Wijnaldum, Salah (Oxlade-Chamberlain, min. 61), Mane and Roberto FirminoChelsea Edouard Mendy, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta, A. Christensen, Kante , Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Jorginho Frello, Hakim Ziyech (Christian Pulisic, min. 65), Mason Mount (Kovacic, min. 80) and Timo Werner (Kai Havertz, min. 90) Goals0-1 min. 41: Mason Mount. RefereeMartin Atkinson
"I wanted to put in fresher legs," explained Klopp in Sky, at the foot of the field, when asked why he had removed his scorer with a 0-1 against. “It gave me the impression that Mo was suffering the most. He has played a lot of games lately. I was able to remove Sadio, or Firmino, but at that moment it seemed best to remove him. We were not compact. I wanted to avoid the 0-2 and I felt that Oxlade [Chamberlain] deserved to enter because of how well he trains. ”
The visitors took the lead with a goal from Mount before the break. The partial result would be the final one and would condemn Liverpool to their fifth successive defeat at home, something that had never happened in the club's history. The absence of the public due to the effect of the pandemic accentuates the ups and downs. Now the defending champion is in seventh position in the table, four points below Chelsea, which claims fourth place with the right to participate in the Champions League.
"It was a tremendous blow," admitted Klopp, when after the match they asked him about the consequences of the defeat on the club's aspirations to qualify for European competitions. "If you lose so many games you lose the right to get into the Champions League," he settled.
Liverpool has 12 victories after 27 games, with a balance of 47 goals in favor and 35 against. The statistics contrast with last year at this point: 26 wins in 27 games with 64 goals for and 17 against
14 wins to go, says Klopp. And the main reason, he adds, is the scoring drought. "Individual quality made the difference against Chelsea," said the manager; “Mason Mount scored his goal. We in similar situations do not mark. It was a tight match, logically. We cannot defend Chelsea for 90 minutes without them having a chance. With all the possession we had we had to generate more chances, but with the chances we created it was enough to score a goal and we didn't. Our game was really excellent until the last pass. At the decisive moments we must show our qualities. ”
The losses of Van Dijk, Matip, Joe Gómez and Henderson in the center of the rear have not been, for the coach, the main trigger for the decline. Sources from the Liverpool environment point out that a bomb was being primed in the locker room for years and that what has happened on the field of play since Christmas is the expression of the outbreak. Firmino and Mané don't get along with Salah, they say. They distrust him. They are fed up with being the ones who run the most so that Salah, whom they deem less complete, is the one who looks the most and who makes the most money according to Forbes, 12 million euros per year.
The problem manifests itself now. But you could see it coming. He did not escape the forecasts of Liverpool strategists when, according to various sources close to the club, last summer they put Salah on the market without finding a buyer because of the economic depression that is hitting the football industry. The Telegraph reported two months ago that before the pandemic Liverpool had already calculated that it could release its star by selling it to Barcelona or Madrid, "as Chelsea did with Hazard." But the covid altered everyone's plans, starting with emptying the boxes of the clubs that move the sale of the most expensive players. Salah had to continue living with Firmino and Mané, with increasingly poor results. In the last 13 Premier matches, the Egyptian has only scored four goals.
Salah: “My future is in the hands of the club”
Salah was enigmatic in an interview with the Norwegian channel TV2. "I don't know," he said in January, when asked if he would extend his Liverpool contract until 2023; "If you ask, I would say that I would like to stay here as long as I can, but my future is in the hands of the club."
Salah, according to the Telegraph, would like to leave as long as he does not continue to share tasks with Mané and Firmino. For their part, Firmino and Mané would also have signed a contract with another club, in order not to continue working for the highest paid of the three.
The sequence is old as football. Reproduces the wear of any wardrobe. Jürgen Klopp knows what's going on. Probably, when he replaced Salah this Thursday, he tried to stimulate the rest with the kind of challenge they demand. But the defeat reminded that in football the dynamics do not turn on and off like someone who turns on and off a switch.