Liverpool - Liverpool - Jurgen Klopp arrived at Liverpool in October armed
with his megawatt smile and a renowned playing style: The so-called
"Gegenpressen" approach that was the key to his success in Germany
with Borussia Dortmund.
It involved attempting to win the ball back by defending
vigorously from the front, closing down opponents regardless of where they are
on the field, and playing at "full throttle" for the full 90 minutes.
The result? Two Bundesliga titles and a place in the Champions League final in
Klopp has transferred the physically demanding approach to Anfield
and the gruelling English soccer calendar, but there's a growing worry that he
is running Liverpool's players into the ground amid the team's hectic schedule
of Premier League, Europa League and League Cup matches.
Liverpool currently has 11 players injured, six with hamstring
problems. The team's injury woes intensified Thursday when playmaker Philippe
Coutinho was ruled out until February by Klopp, who is without a senior centre
back for the third round of the FA Cup against Exeter on Friday — Liverpool's
31st game this season.
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce said Klopp has underestimated the
ferocity of English soccer, adding the effects of a "high-tempo pressing
game from the top end . has kicked in now."
Even former Liverpool manager Roy Evans has had his say,
questioning the intensity of Klopp's training sessions.
Klopp sees it differently.
"We know about our situation, we know in most of the cases
about the reasons," Klopp said Thursday, "and so it's often the
situation where one injury at the wrong moment is a problem for the whole
squad, because other players have to play too much.
"But that's all. You have to react to this. I knew about the
intensity of the football here."
Dortmund had plenty of injuries in Klopp's seven-year reign, many
toward the end of it but it is arguable whether that had anything to do with
his playing style. There was little criticism of the approach at the time and
Dortmund hasn't changed their style much this season under Thomas Tuchel.
So maybe it is just down to bad luck.
"Sometimes you are just unlucky with injuries,"
Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana said, "and we've had a lot of bad luck
Klopp, who has already grumbled about the lack of a winter break
in England, has often said there are misconceptions about his methods.
"The problem is now people speak about the intensity of my
style — I didn't create a style, how could I? I am not a genius," he said
Thursday. "We play only football and a team like Liverpool, with the
ambitions the club have, we have to find a way to be successful.
"For this you need players, a little bit of luck with
injuries but we haven't had too much of this ... It is completely normal, average
running. Football is not all about more, it is more about thinking quicker and
being quicker in the right position."
To combat the injury problems, Klopp has recalled 18-year-old
forward Sheyi Ojo from his loan spell with second-tier club Wolverhampton
Wanderers and is set to bring back Portugal under-21 defender Tiago Ilori from
his loan stint at Aston Villa.