LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, March 4, 2021: Liverpool's substitutes Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Diogo Jota prepare to come on during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. Chelsea won 1-0 condemning Liverpool to their fifth consecutive home defeat for the first time in the club’s history. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp admits Keita sub would have ‘made sense’ but Ox and Milner “train really well”

Jurgen Klopp opened himself up to criticism for his choice of substitutions in the defeat to Chelsea and accepted Naby Keita would have made sense from a “football point of view.”

Liverpool were once again off-kilter in the forward third against Chelsea, but when chasing the game Klopp opted for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner with 30 and 10 minutes remaining respectively.

The move to withdraw Mohamed Salah was already met by bemusement with his fellow forwards having shown little to warrant their stay, with the boss citing tired legs for the move.

It was then compounded as safety was opted for over risk with the choice of Milner as the final substitution, ensuring Keita was left on the bench despite the Reds needing at least one goal.

The boss looked to explain his intentions post-match as he cited the training performances of Oxlade-Chamberlain and the 35-year-old, but then weirdly pointed out Keita would have made more sense “from a football point of view.”

“Oxlade trains really well so you have to respect that and show that you see it,” Klopp explained to Sky Sports.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 22, 2020: Liverpool’s Naby Keita during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“And Milly trains really good. We lost a little bit of grip in that moment, we should not accept a second goal and we were not compact enough anymore and that’s why we bring Milly on and wake them all up again.

“From a football point of view of course we could have brought Naby on, that’s clear. But it was a little bit about keeping them in the game because we needed one situation.

“But if we let them run through one or two more times then we are 2-0 down and we don’t have to think anymore about it.”

There’s a time and place for rewarding effort but against Chelsea was not one of them, especially when it sacrificed the chance to get back into the game in favour of denying a second goal.

Klopp’s comments show he was conflicted but are bemusing in the same breath as he acknowledged Keita was the right “football” option but went for an alternative anyway.

The manager’s substitutions have always raised eyebrows, but these ones may top the list and are seemingly synonymous with a tumultuous season where nothing seems to be going right.