Jurgen Klopp has taken up a rotational approach with his Liverpool squad so far in 2017/18, managing his squad carefully to navigate a busy schedule.
Klopp came under scrutiny after he made six changes to his starting lineup for Sunday’s Merseyside derby clash with Everton.
The German took out Loris Karius, Alberto Moreno, Emre Can, Georginio Wijnaldum, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino.
And in came Simon Mignolet, Andrew Robertson, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dominic Solanke.
After the Reds’ 1-1 draw, former captain Phil Thompson claimed Klopp “didn’t understand how big a game it was,” and suggested his rotation for the derby showed “complacency.”
This was erroneous, of course, with Klopp’s raft of changes simply in line with his approach as Liverpool work their way through their most congested period of the season.
Thompson’s criticism conveniently overlooks how the Reds had won three and drawn one in the previous four games that Klopp had made five or six changes for in a row.
But Klopp’s rotation is certainly noteworthy, as statisticians Opta revealed on Twitter on Tuesday that it is the most drastic stance taken by a Premier League manager since 2001/02:
59 – Liverpool have made 59 changes to their starting XI so far this season in the league; only one team have made more in their opening 16 games to a Premier League campaign (Man Utd; 68 in 2001-02). Tinker. pic.twitter.com/N9eGU9t6oI
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 12, 2017
This is Klopp’s first full season fighting on four fronts, having taken over two months into the 2015/16 campaign that saw the Reds compete in the league, Europa League, FA Cup and League Cup.
That season saw Liverpool reach the Europa League final, ultimately losing to Sevilla in Basel.
But focusing largely on their European endeavours saw his side finish eighth in the league.
Now battling for Champions League success along with domestic glory in the league and the FA Cup, having already been knocked out of the League Cup by Leicester City, Klopp is utilising his squad.
And so far it is paying off: Liverpool are in the last 16 of the Champions League, facing a two-legged clash with Porto next year, and are fourth in the league after 16 games.
At the same stage in 2001/02, Man United were six points and a place worse off in the league, but ultimately finished third, as well as reaching the semi-finals in Europe’s top tier.
Alex Ferguson used 28 different players in that league campaign, with 20 (71.4%) fielded in at least a quarter of United’s fixtures.
This term, Klopp has used 24 players over 16 league games so far, with 19 (79.2%) making at least four appearances.
Given the increased quality at his disposal following a productive summer that saw the Reds sign Robertson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Salah and Solanke, Klopp is wise to make the most of his options.