Liverpool legend John Barnes insists manager Jurgen Klopp won’t leave, isn’t “stressed” and that injuries have ruined their title defence. The club are suffering their worst form since 1923 with four straight home league defeats.
Barnes won two league championships with the Reds in 1988 and 1990, but second league title is highly unlikely for Klopp’s current crop of champions this season, whose demoralising 2-0 defeat in the Merseyside derby to rivals Everton meant they cemented a fourth straight loss at Anfield and ensured their worst home run since 1923.
The German himself has already surrendered the Premier League to leaders Manchester City, which compounds a dismal defence of a first title in 30 years, and questions have been raised as to his handling of the pressure due to his agitated nature in interviews which have in turn lead to rumors he may quit the club at the end of the season.
Nevertheless Barnes, who also won two FA Cups with Liverpool, believes Klopp isn’t showing signs of stress while clearly under the cosh in the hot seat, and lays the blame for the disastrous form on the impact of injuries to key players such as centre-back pairing Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.
“Not at all, hasn’t shown any signs at all. And he’s not, I think he’s been fine. Obviously, when you’re not winning, you’re not going to be happy. But I don’t think he’s showing signs of stress at all,” Barnes told RT Sport, before Liverpool’s game with Everton on Saturday.
“Obviously, his mother passed away. So obviously, you are going to be stressed, but I don’t think he’s showing signs of leaving signs of mental stress. The problem with Liverpool is the injuries. No other reason. And missing key players, they’re missing four key players.
“People think you’re missing two at the back, they’re not, they’re missing four because once van Dyke and Gomez don’t play, you then put Fabinho and Henderson at the back, two of your midfield players, you lose those two midfield players as well.
“And they’re a big part of the way we play, I’ve always said Liverpool need their best 12-13 players to be able to compete playing every single week physically, in terms of not just their physicality, and not being injured, but also their consistency.”
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, with whom Liverpool have contested one of the Premier League’s most entertaining and high-quality rivalries in recent years, have emerged as runaway league leaders as early as February, amassing a double-figure points gap between them and Liverpool at the top of the table.
Barnes, who won 79 caps as an England international, believes the difference lies in City having enjoyed the luxury of choosing a regular starting XI from a fully fit squad, which is also rated as one of the finest assembled in world football, whereas perhaps the Reds’ most influential defender, van Dijk, has been unavailable for most of their season, something which they hadn’t experienced in their league-winning run last year.
“Manchester City have got a squad of 20 they can chop and change and still maintain that consistency. We can’t. We’re also changing the way we play by having new types of midfield players who probably on the face of it may say they’re more technical than the ones in the past,” the 57-year-old said.
“However, you have to get used to playing a new way. So, allied with the fact that we’re now missing our two most influential midfield players and our two most influential centre backs, there’s no team in the country that could have continued that.
“So for us to still be where we are, and playing the way we are, we are playing well apart from the two mistakes Alisson made which meant we dropped points, means that I’m not going to get carried away. I expect us to be in the top four. I still expect us to be in the top two to be honest, I think we will be the second behind Manchester City, Manchester City at the moment are unstoppable.”
One of Liverpool’s harshest critics has been popular player-turned-pundit Roy Keane, a seven-time Premier League champion who not only managed to retain the league title but won three in a row as captain of Manchester United, who went as far as to label Liverpool “bad champions” in the wake of an embarrassing 4-1 home loss to City.
But Barnes has rubbished that turn of phrase that has come to sum up the side, and believes Klopp will still steer the Liverpool ship to second place behind City in what would be the only salvageable success this season and a minor triumph given their current form.
“It’s not because we’ve been bad champions, if you are the champions, and for example, you’re missing 10 players, you’re not bad champions, you just got the players to maintain that consistency, that’s obvious,” Barnes said.
“And it’s not a blip, because we’re going to go through the whole season without van Dijk, without Gomez, so therefore we may have these problems. So we’re not going to be as consistent as we’ve been in the last two years.
“So I’m not gonna say it’s a blip and all of a sudden, we’re gonna go on a run of winning games all the time and playing the way we have in the last two years. Because our personnel means that we’re not going to be able to do that. But we still will be able to be competitive in Europe and also in the league and to be pushing to be finishing second, third or fourth.”