The festive football calendar is over and unfortunately, 2019 starts in disappointment after Liverpool’s unbeaten league record came to an end in Manchester.
The Reds have no real time to lick their wounds as the next game is on Monday, an FA Cup 3rdround tie at Molineux against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Given the amount of games we’ve played in the last five weeks, I think there’s a real risk that we could see wholesale changes for this game. And to be honest, that’s something at this point in our season that I would support.
Let’s not beat about the bush here – we’re coming up to 7 years since we have won a trophy and that is a long barren streak.
The unfortunate mechanics are that Jürgen Klopp has lost 3 cup finals in his time here and this trophyless run is being used as a stick to beat the manager with.
Not necessarily by most of our own fans, but it is an argument that constantly crops up.
I’ll lay my cards on the table – I love the FA Cup. I always have, but increasingly we are seeing a pattern of all teams rotating come FA Cup weekend and I believe we will do so, heavily. Whilst our squad is much improved, we do not have the depth in the forwards that we do in other positions and we can’t rotate our central defence at the moment on account of the injuries we have.
Mo Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino need to be rested. After that marathon December, we simply need to rotate and rest. They have barely missed a minute since the 3-1 win at Burnley, when we made several changes. I will be very surprised if they aren’t benched at best and would not be surprised at all if they are not in the squad at all on Monday.
It’s a tough spot for Klopp – does he sacrifice a chance to win a trophy in order to pursue two bigger prizes? Setback at the Etihad or not, we are still very much in control of the title race. We have a glamorous but winnable two legged tie with Bayern Munich to come at the tail end of next month.
The season is very much alive.
And this is why I think we may be willing to sacrifice an interest in the FA Cup. If we rest players who then turn up and do the business at Brighton a week on Saturday, is that three points more important than an FA Cup run? Arguably so, as we need to get straight back into form for our league dreams to come true.
The unfortunate thing about the FA Cup is that simply put, the 3rdround could not come at a worse time. Not just for us, but for all clubs. The game’s purists love to complain about the decline of the most famous knock out competition in the world – a lot of teams use their tie as an opportunity to rotate. They should be taking a look at the governing body as much as the clubs.
The FA should take a look at the timing of the 3rdround being changed – it comes just after that manic December where games are played every 3 or 4 days. I am of the opinion that we play too many games over Christmas as it is and trip to Wolves is just three days on from what was our biggest game of the season to date.
Our performance at the Etihad wasn’t bad but it was certainly a little bit leggy and given the Christmas run of games, something had to give. Unfortunately for us, it was in that game of huge importance.
Klopp has made good use of the squad available to him on numerous occasions over the course of this season so far and I wouldn’t expect a weak midfield. We have Keita still finding his feet in the English game and James Milner regaining fitness for instance.
However, further up the field we do need to rest the likes of Salah. The trick for Klopp is making changes and still getting a result. Wolves will likely make changes too – a sign of the busy Christmas period for all teams. But at this point, I think they need and desire an FA Cup run more than Liverpool.
I’d love to win the FA Cup.
I am desperate for a day out at Wembley and I am desperate to win a trophy. Unfortunately, we may need to let the FA Cup go for another year as we simply have bigger priorities elsewhere and we don’t have the requisite quality in the squad to not notice a huge drop off from our forwards.
The likes of Divock Origi will benefit from the time on the pitch but the difference is notable. In an ideal world, we’d have got the Dog and Duck or the Pig and Whistle at Anfield and we could have raided our Under 23 team but sadly, that’s not the case. It’s a tough draw and we need to make a tough decision about the strength of our team.
Klopp may take a completely different view but I would expect wholesale changes – which I support given our opportunities further down the line.
*Odds are subject to change
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