A top four finish is out of the question for Liverpool. The team can’t defend and can’t score goals. If the players are going to make the schoolboy errors, it’s time to live up to the schoolboy performances and play the kids.
Of course they aren’t kids, they are grown men that just lack that vital experience. With top four out of the picture though, Jurgen Klopp must seriously be considering giving his youngsters a chance in the league.
They have proven they are worthy of an opportunity after beating a spirited Exeter side and drawing against a well-oiled West Ham in the FA Cup. They have nothing to lose by coming in when you consider how poorly the first team are playing of late.
It’s getting beyond a joke now just how far the current starters are from living up to their ludicrous salaries and their places at the club. It wouldn’t be a problem if everyone was pulling their weight and doing everything possible on the pitch to help their team win, but they aren’t.
The basic defensive errors are becoming a habit, Mignolet’s passing putting his team in danger is becoming a habit, the team trying to walk the ball in rather than shooting is becoming a habit, as is the way the team continue to waste good chances. It is a worry for Reds fans that there doesn’t appear to be a specific game plan in place at the moment.
For a goalkeeper known for his ‘shot stopping’, Simon Mignolet isn’t stopping much, Alberto Moreno might as well not be a defender, Christian Benteke might as well not be a striker and Roberto Firmino might as well only play every five games as that seems to be how often he puts in a decent performance.
As important as it is to try and finish as high as possible in the league, why not go all out to win the Capital One Cup, the FA Cup or the Europa League? Impose greater balance throughout the side in terms of a mix of youth and experience in cup and league games. Turn the tables and use more of the experienced players to try and win a trophy.
Give the youngsters a chance to impress in England’s top flight, allow them to push the bigger 1st team names for a place in the starting eleven and force the manager to think about what they can offer next season.
What should be done?
Jordan Ibe, despite having already broken into the first team, is still considered to be a ‘young one’. He has to play every week though. Klopp’s side are seriously lacking pace and width and he is the best chance of bringing that at the moment.
The only things stopping him from being a menace to any team and becoming a key figure at the club is the fact there aren’t enough options for him to pick out in the box, the idea that he doesn’t yet have the experience to take responsibility and carry his team and the way he is forced to track back far too often to help out the frail defence.
He will only get better with game time. Similarly, Sheji Ojo is another who deserves a chance to prove himself in the league before Klopp looks into the market for new signings in the summer. He too can offer lots of width and creativity and can work with Ibe to stretch the opposition which will help the team’s pressing come into play.
Both are worthy of a place in the team in a league match and something fresh in the form of wingers on both sides could prove to lift the energy and mood with regards to a different game plan.
Why not put them in the old fashioned but famously effective 4-4-2 formation? That’s a story for another day, though.
Elsewhere on the pitch, Alberto Moreno’s dreadful form is crying out for Brad Smith to come in at left back. The Australian can already match the Spaniard for pace and will be more attentive to his defensive responsibilities than Moreno given his inevitable desire to impress.
Nobody can defend as badly as Moreno at the moment anyway. Smith has also shown he is more effective in the final third than his teammate, which means he could help Christian Benteke get into the game more.
Cameron Brannagan would also be an interesting choice in midfield and certainly one that fans would receive well. He looks steady and composed on the ball and has shown he is capable of joining in with attacks as well as breaking them up. Liverpool’s position in the league at the moment means it is a great time for him to step into the frame and play with freedom alongside some experienced players that can help him.
João Teixeira and Kevin Stewart join Brannagan, Ojo and Smith on the list of the youngsters who must be given the chance to play in the same team as a fully fit Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. Only then will Klopp really know where they are at.
The Portuguese Teixeira has shown enough quality to suggest he can create chances and would learn a lot from playing beside Coutinho. Stewart has also seized his opportunity after returning from a loan spell, displaying great intelligence and reading of the game as well as strength and hard work against West Ham recently.
Ultimately, none of the current young prospects have looked uncomfortable playing for the first team nor have they looked out of place. With the remainder of the Premier League campaign marking perhaps the start of a transition period as Klopp prepares to make summer signings, it is an ideal moment for these players to be given a run in the team.