How Liverpool must learn to ‘Win from the bench’

Article Featured on Empire Of The Kop

This past weekend, Liverpool came from behind against Stoke away, and won 2-1. When we look back at this scoreline in years to come, we probably won’t give much thought to it as frankly, Liverpool should nearly always beat Stoke, home or away. However, the importance of this win hasn’t been lost on our fans. It was a BIG one, for many more reasons that just the three points.

Here are some key reasons as to why:

  • We were terrible… for the first 45 minutes, anyway
  • Stoke are notoriously tough to beat at home
  • The fight for a Top-4 place is extremely tight
  • Coming from behind to win a game is always hard in the Premier League

Now here are reasons which may have slipped the mind of some fans, but need equal or greater note:

  • Coutinho was sick all week and had lost 3kgs, but still performed
  • Firmino had played 4-5 games in the space of 10-15 days (for Brazil and LFC) and was physically destroyed by the end of the Bournemouth game prior to Stoke
  • Coutinho has been criticised lately for his lack of overall form since the start of the new year
  • Firmino has been criticised heavily for his lack of goals scored. Despite the team scoring more goals than any other team in the Premier League, many fans believe that our number 1 striker should still be scoring 15-20 goals by this time of the season

And now the big one:

  • Klopp had options on his bench that he could trust. He made a bold decision and it paid off handsomely

In the past, I’m sure I’m not the only fan who has been watching the game thinking “Come on, Kloppo, these lads on the pitch aren’t going to get the win. Bring on ‘that’ bench player, try something new!” At full-time, when Klopp is asked why he didn’t bring on certain players or make changes, it’s nearly always because he didn’t believe that these individuals would make the necessary impact. It always comes down to trust. Trust that the bench players were good enough, strong enough, mentally willing enough, capable enough… Who knows, but Klopp clearly hasn’t had endless options at his disposal, especially this term.

Compare this to the two most successful clubs of the last six to seven years, Manchester City and Chelsea. What do both have? A bench of players that the manager trusts to come on and make a difference.

This past weekend, City beat Hull 3-1 at home. This was their bench:

Vincent Kompany

Pablo Zabaleta

Fernando

Nolito

Caballero

Kevin de Bruyne

Iheanacho

Chelsea beat Bournemouth 1-3 away. This was their bench:

Begovic

Fabregas

Zouma

Willian

Batshuayi

Terry

Chalobah

Our bench this weekend was:

Karius

Coutinho (goal)

Firmino (goal)

Sturridge

Grujic

Moreno

Leiva

Since Coutinho and Firmino are regular starters, without them on the bench, the difference is extremely clear. We don’t have enough game-changers to help win tight matches.

Now look back at our draws/losses this season, to the likes of Burnley, Manchester United, Southampton (PL and League Cup), Bournemouth, West Ham, Sunderland, Swansea, Hull, Leicester and Wolves (FA Cup).

It’s not hard to imagine that if Klopp had bench players of the quality that City/Chelsea have, then these results would be turned around.

If you’ve played football, especially as a defender like me, you know that awful feeling of being 70 mins into a really tough game, only to see the person you’re marking being replaced by some fast, talented player. Your heart sinks… Just when you think you’ve got the measure of the person you’re marking, you’re faced with an even tougher challenge.

So, my point here is NOT to just buy good bench players, but players who will themselves fight to push Coutinho, Mane, Wijnaldum, Matip, Firmino, Clyne, etc. onto the bench.

In the same way, those players mentioned above should always be worried that their starting spot is in danger because the depth of talent is so strong.

I don’t care if our current star players aren’t starting each week next season, providing the team is winning, because it means we’ve recruited brilliantly and therefore have amazing quality on the bench.

Imagine it’s the 2017/2018 season and we’re in a tough scrap against Chelsea.. We’re fighting for top spot; it’s 1-1 with 30 mins left to play. Klopp brings on Firmino, Coutinho and Mane.

Game. Over. Chelsea.

That’s what we should be aiming for.