Liverpool: Klopp’s kids, player's health and peak football
Jürgen Klopp came in for some criticism for his handling of Liverpool’s FA Cup Fourth Round tie against Shrewsbury but the kids proved him right.
Jürgen Klopp came in for quite a bit of flak for leaving last night’s FA Cup Fourth Round tie against Shrewsbury Town in the hands of Under-23s coach Neil Critchley and a team whose average age didn’t even reach 20 - the youngest Liverpool side to ever take to the pitch in a competitive game.
But Klopp didn't have a great deal of choice. He has been dealt a crazy fixtures calendar – one which has felt almost never-ending for his side this season. By coincidence, the replay fell just in a week which had been set aside for a mid-season break - the first of its kind in the Premier League. The Liverpool manager had already promised his first team squad time off to rest and recover, and he wasn't go to go back on that promise.
Some argued that he was once again disrespecting the domestic Cups by fielding a side largely made up untested young players instead of more experienced campaigners. That partly stems from last season when Liverpool were eliminated from both Cup competitions at the first hurdle – to Hazard’s Chelsea in the EFL Carabao Cup and Wolves in the FA Cup - unlucky to be picked against two of the top English teams. But a year ago, Klopp had yet to lift his first trophy with the club. Since June’s Champions League triumph, everything has changed.
A busy season for Liverpool
So far, Liverpool have already played 40 official games. That leaves them with a minimum of 16 - or a maximum of 25 left to play (as long as they can avoid another replay in the next two rounds of the FA Cup…).
With the prospect of a 65-game season (and Euro 2020 after that for his internationals), Klopp might have a point in thinking we have reached ‘peak football’ – players needs to rest, fans cannot financially afford to attend so many matches... For others, it’s football overload - too many games are too time-consuming to follow or people just get bored. And it could get even worse for Liverpool who are among the clubs in the new 24-team Club World Cup set to be introduced in 2021…
The most official games Liverpool have played in one season
Even if they do reach that total of 65 games this season, it won’t quite match the club record. Liverpool's busiest season on record was in 1983-4, Joe Fagan’s first in charge. Fagan’s team played a total of 67 games over the course of the campaign – starting with the Charity Shield, 42 in the league, 2 in the FA Cup, 13 in the League Cup (which they won) and nine in the European Cup, which they also won. Added to that were 10 friendlies… Comparing that to the two dominant teams in Spain during the past two decades, Barcelona had a 66-game season to get through in 2017/18 – as did Real Madrid in 2001/02 and 2017/18. The English record though, goes to Chelsea – an eye-watering 69 games in 2012-13, and 68 in 2018/19.
As it stands Liverpool require six more wins to sew up the Premier League. They remain alive in the FA Cup and Champions League. The Fifth Round tie away at Chelsea on 3 March seems a long way off but even if Klopp does decide to stick with the kids for that, he’s got a point in that too much of anything isn’t a good thing – and he has to put his players’ welfare first.