Fans have been divided on social media as to whether going out of the FA Cup is a good thing or not. Going out of both domestic cups at the first time of asking seems bleak, but could it be a blessing in disguise?
Losing football matches is never enjoyable, but on this occasion there seem to be lots of positives to come from sharpening our focus towards the league and the Champions League.
“If we had won the FA Cup, then people would say we hadn’t won the Premier League for 125 years. That’s how it is.”Klopp, speaking BEFORE the FA Cup exit to Wolves
He knows the focus is the Premier League. Losing Lovren just minutes into the FA Cup fixture will have re-affirmed this no doubt.
Our squad relies heavily on its key members at present & avoiding injuries is more imperative for us than it is for City, clearly. Look at the number of minutes played by our league players so far this season (after 21 games):
You can see that we have a nucleus of pretty much 15 players getting significant minutes on the pitch.
It’s no surprise to me in the first half of the season that the 11 players with the most minutes are what we would consider our front 3, our first choice back 5 and “Klopp’s favoured midfield 3”
The first part of the season the games are more likely to play out as battles of attrition, more teams happy to keep it tight against top teams and take a point. The latter part of the season & your opposition are more likely to need to go win or bust, leaving more gaps for us.
His “favoured 3” also happen to be the midfield three he’s had more time on the coaching field with, obviously. They’re able to keep it tight & occupy space in the more cagey fixtures in the early parts of the season.
It’s no surprise that both Salah and Oxlade-Chamberlain played their best football in the latter parts of last season. More coaching time on the training pitch, yes. But also football matches being played out differently & their skill sets suiting more open games.
We’ve seen how Klopp eases his players in where it’s felt needed. Fabinho, Keita and Shaqiri’s numbers here suggest just that.
Whilst less domestic cup fixtures means less opportunity for fringe players & new players to bed in, I personally don’t mind watching less of the likes of Moreno, Mignolet, Origi and Lallana if he can ever get himself fit.
I also don’t think there’s a great deal we learn from seeing Keita and co play with the second string footballers. You can talk about these players needing ‘rhythm’ should they have to play, but they aren’t going to have to play all at once.
Going out of the FA Cup & League Cup means that we’ve afforded ourselves some much needed rest time but also more time on the training ground.
Look at the fixtures in the next 2 months for ourselves, Tottenham and City:
We’ve got a 10 day break between Palace (h) and Leicester (h) and then a 9 day break between Bournemouth (h) and Bayern (h) in the last 16 of the Champions League.
No travelling due to back to back home fixtures either side of these breaks means Klopp, Ljinders and co have almost two mini pre-seasons right at the crunch point in our season.
I expect we’ll see more league minutes in the second half of the season for Fabinho, Keita and Shaqiri as a result & I’d be fairly sure that the coaches think these players are more suited to playing against opponents coming at us and creating space for transitions (as above).
We all know the value Klopp places on preparation on the training ground & this time with the group could be absolutely crucial. Let’s just hope we can keep the boys fit.