The no-score draw against Plymoutth was the second game in a row where some fans were left pondering Klopp’s rotation strategy. It’s fair to say more than a few supporters were less than satisfied with a fourth tier team coming to Anfield and earning a replay. Are they right to be unhappy?
Against Sunderland Klopp was accused of rotating too few players after the team had played just 48 hours earlier, and against Plymouth he was accused of rotating too many players with all but one player from the previous team being replaced. However, this description of events is unfair. Klopp had legitimate reasons for not choosing and then choosing to rotate his players. He believed he was maintaining the ‘rhythm’ of his team by not making significant changes against Sunderland, and the ten changes he made against Plymouth were meant to give the young squad players game time and the injured players further time to recover.
Such explanations are perfectly reasonable but do they excuse Liverpool drawing against teams they really should be beating? In the not too distant past Brendan Rodgers was making similar choices at Liverpool’s helm and he too suffered poor results after extensively rotating his squad. Understandably, he was rather savagely pilloried by the fans on those occasions. Klopp is fortunate in that he’s currently heavily in credit with regard to goodwill so he’ll easily live to fight another day.
When it comes down to it, though, squad rotation is basically just luck and judgement. None of us can really predict how well a squad player will do when he’s given a chance in the first team, for example, there are so many variables to be taken into account, many of which are beyond the manager’s control. I must admit when I saw the team sheets for the last two games I was a little surprised by how few changes were made against Sunderland and how many were made against Plymouth, I personally would’ve tweaked the ratio of first team players to squad players in both games. However, that was just my gut reaction based on the basic information I had access to, Klopp was having to take into account a whole myriad of data unseen by the rest of us. That’s why, ultimately, it’s difficult to criticise managers regarding squad rotation – they’re making educated guesses using much more information than we, the fans, will ever see.