Why Jurgen Klopp selection headaches should be celebrated – not feared

Recent performances from those required to step up have given the manager some big decisions to make in the coming weeks, but here’s why you shouldn’t be worried.

Liverpool have navigated a tricky January and come out more than unscathed. In fact, they have excelled in trying circumstances.

Last season, the squad found countless excuses to feel sorry for themselves, setbacks were viewed as convenient mitigation rather than obstacles to climb.

We could have let this unexpectedly brilliant situation slip away from us in recent weeks and many would have willingly deemed it acceptable given the challenges.

The Reds were having none of it. The kids were having none of it.


Steely resilience

Jurgen Klopp has been without Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dominik Szoboszlai and Andy Robertson – to name a few – for the majority of January and it has practically gone unnoticed.

Such has been the brilliance of those who have stepped up, players who have established themselves as genuine club greats can’t be certain of a spot on Sunday – despite being declared fully fit.

Fans walked out of Anfield after the quite brilliant 4-1 victory over Chelsea pondering how on earth we get one of the best passers the league has ever seen back into the side to face Arsenal.

Imagine someone telling you three weeks ago that that would be the case.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 31, 2024: Liverpool's Conor Bradley (L) celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Conor Bradley hadn’t put a foot wrong in deputising for his injured colleague prior to the visit of Mauricio Pochettino’s side, but on Wednesday night he fully announced himself with a statement of intent.

The Northern Irishman played like his life depended on it and it culminated in a performance that plenty would describe as undroppable.

He’s not been the only one, either. Robertson looked more than ready to return to the side with a sprightly cameo at home to Norwich, but he too was forced to watch the first 68 minutes from the dugout.

That is because Joe Gomez has enjoyed a renaissance that his 2019/20 campaign had always warranted – and not even in his favoured position.

Klopp has always deployed a loyal management style, players who do what he asks of them are typically rewarded accordingly.

Now he finds himself at a rather extreme crossroads of that description, he can only choose 11 players at a time but he has at least 16 who fit the bill.


Unchartered territory

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 28, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (R) and first-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders during the FA Cup 4th Round match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We as fans are not used to having such a genuine embarrassment of riches across the park, it can leave us feeling quite unnerved.

Hefty benches are usually Pep Guardiola’s business, we are more than content and comfortable with knowing which players will start week-on-week if everybody is fit and healthy.

You get the sense now that the supporters would start four full-backs at the Emirates if they could, but that wouldn’t leave room for all the other players who have excelled further up the field.

Liverpool haven’t always had a squad built to tackle the demands of fighting on multiple fronts and, in the past, it has told at the first sign of adversity.

This season, the Reds have been hit with that same level of adversity on multiple occasions, but have continued to weather the storm to get where they are.

Football currently looks markedly different to how it looked only four years ago.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 19, 2023: Liverpool's substitute Joe Gomez replaces Trent Alexander-Arnold during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and AFC Bournemouth at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The changes have been subtle but the way clubs manage their squads now has an even greater impact on how successful they are over the course of a nine-month season.

It feels as though Klopp saw all of that coming and adapted accordingly.

He had always preferred to operate with a slim squad and used to pride himself on keeping everybody happy while still achieving the things he needed to on the pitch.

Teams now have the luxury (or otherwise if your name is Sean Dyche) of making five substitutes in each game, and those games are now longer due to the increased strictness of stoppage time rules.

Not many could envisage how that would change things for the league or their team, but Klopp could see it a mile off and made the necessary adjustments.


Liverpool’s unbreakable bond

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, October 26, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp gives a hug to substitute James McConnell during the UEFA Europa League Group E match-day 3 game between Liverpool FC and Toulouse FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 5-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“The boys LOVE it here,” were the boss’ words when faced with questions about the future of his captain earlier this week.

“I know that for a fact.”

Even with having eight senior midfielders for three slots – without mentioning James McConnell and Bobby Clark – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to say with relative certainty that he’s not lying.

From the outside, the morale and sense of togetherness look as strong as ever. The willingness to run through brick walls for each other and the manager is palpable.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 31, 2024: Liverpool's Diogo Jota celebrates with team-mates after scoring the opening goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It is that bond that makes the manager’s life easier, in a situation which would give other coaches sleepless nights worrying about letting certain players down.

Telling Gomez or Bradley that they aren’t starting against Arsenal could cause friction in any normal dressing room and both players would have a right to feel aggrieved.

Liverpool’s culture and unwavering commitment to the cause will ensure that does not become the case, not least because they are all going to be needed between now and May.