Sir Alex Ferguson’s advice has not been taken on board – but are Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp about to take action?
Liverpool has suffered their fair share of ‘new lows’ so far this season as their disappointing campaign goes from bad to worst.
The 4-1 loss to Napoli back in September, a 1-0 defeat away to struggling Nottingham Forest in October followed up by Leeds clinching a last-minute win at Anfield to inflict a first home league defeat on the Reds in front of fans since April 2017, and the 3-1 loss away at Brentford in Liverpool’s first outing of 2023 were all shambolic occasions. Yet last weekend’s dismal 3-0 defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion was by far the worst.
“I can’t remember a worse game,” Jurgen Klopp told reporters after the final whistle on the South Coast. “I honestly can’t and I mean all (my career) not only Liverpool and that’s my responsibility.
“So that makes it a really low point. There might be games but this isn’t one where you say ‘it’s a one-off’. The moment is not great.”
It’s hard to argue with the German, during his Reds reign at least. While some crushing defeats in previous seasons might have stung worse at the time, they at least came in isolation as opposed to Liverpool’s current efforts as they sink lower and lower with each passing week.
In his final season at Mainz, Klopp’s side missed out on promotion back to the Bundesliga having been relegated the year before as a three-year stint in the top flight came to an end. Meanwhile, while he would lead Dortmund to back-to-back titles in 2010/11 and 2011/12 before the Champions League final in 2012/13, BVB would flirt with relegation in 2014/15 before recovering to finish seventh.
While the German might have won every major honor going with Liverpool, and nearly delivered an unprecedented quadruple last season, this year the Reds have badly fallen short. As a result, Klopp now faces conducting a complete rebuild of his side for the first time in his career.
“I believe that the cycle of a successful team lasts maybe four years and then some change is needed,” Manchester United’s legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson claimed in a series of interviews with a Harvard Business School professor back in 2013.
Yet the spine of Klopp’s side is now into their sixth season together as their decline becomes abundantly clear, with the German suffering a similar fate at both Mainz and Dortmund. He has hinted he knows his squad needs an overhaul, at least, while he has also reiterated his desire to remain at the club to conduct such surgery himself.
But it seems such plans won’t be initiated in January. With Liverpool’s Champions League hopes to hang by a thread as they continue to take one big step backward in hope of two future steps forward, you have to wonder how much worse can it get.
If it’s any consolation, the Reds haven’t yet sunk to the depths of Klopp’s Dortmund in his final season with the club. Runners-up in 2013/14, they found themselves in the Bundesliga relegation zone heading into Germany’s winter break in December 2014 after they fell to their tenth defeat of the campaign when losing 2-1 to Werder Bremen.
“That we stand here like complete idiots serve us right,” the German said at the time. “We now have three weeks of preparations ahead of us which we will use intensively to come back a different team and hit back.
“Any criticism that will be unloaded on us now is completely justified. It was a reflection of our season so far. We did not do it well in the first half. The good news is that the year is over.”
However, Dortmund’s fortunes would ultimately improve in 2015. While they would draw with Bayer Leverkusen and then lose to FC Augsburg in their first two matches following the Bundesliga return, they then went on a seven-game unbeaten run and would lose just three more league games all season as they recovered to finish seventh and still qualify for Europe.
Yet Liverpool have had a winter break of sorts. With a mid-season World Cup, they flew out to Dubai to re-group. In truth, since the restart they have been even worse, while just qualifying for Europe would be no consolation.
“At Dortmund it was clear when I left. I said: ‘Something has to change here,” Klopp told reporters on Monday when asked about the similarities to Liverpool’s current situation. “It was a different situation but if you want it’s similar.
“Either I go, the manager position changes or a lot of other things change. As far as I know, from what I hear, if nobody tells me, I will not go. So that means maybe there’s a point where we have to change other stuff. And we will see that.
“But again, it’s something for the future, like the future in the summer, but not now. So we cannot even think about it right now.”
Klopp might have labelled last weekend’s loss to Brighton as the worst of his career, but is this rock bottom? On the succession of recent performances, you would be forgiven for suspecting otherwise.
And with plans for a Reds rebuild on hold until the summer, Liverpool’s season could well get even worse before standing any chance of getting better.