Jurgen Klopp has created quite the stir by saying he will play the kids in Liverpool’s FA Cup fourth round replay against Shrewsbury Town and he will not be managing the team either.
Is this decision correct from the German coach?
Klopp spoke after a young, much-changed Liverpool side blew a 2-0 lead at Shrewsbury on Sunday to draw 2-2 and set up a replay during what was supposed to be their mid-season player break.
The Premier League, for the first time in its history, split the schedule in early February so that teams would have an extra week off to rest players. Liverpool, along with Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton and Newcastle will no longer have a break due to FA Cup fourth round replays being scheduled to take part during the proposed period off.
“We got a letter from the authorities in April last year asking us not to organize anything during the week of the break and we haven’t,” Klopp said. “We have given the players the time off, and some are going away. They will still be keeping fit, but they do not have to play football that week and they do not have to come in to Melwood.”
Klopp’s reasoning for not coaching the side and his first team squad not playing in the replay is that they need to rest mentally and physically and he says he is following Premier League orders after the mid-season break was confirmed. His players have booked vacations with families and because the English FA and Premier League couldn’t totally guarantee there wouldn’t be an FA Cup replay during this break, this situation was always likely to crop up.
There has been uproar from some that Klopp is disrespecting the FA Cup but it is the lack of foresight from those above him in terms of scheduling which is the bigger problem. People within the FA would have been keeping their fingers crossed that there would be no replays involving PL clubs in the fourth round but inevitably there are.
Klopp allowed U23 coach Neil Critchley to take the young Liverpool side which lost 5-0 at Aston Villa in their League Cup quarterfinal earlier this season as he took the first team to Qatar to play in the FIFA Club World Cup, which they won, but this situation is totally different.
The Liverpool boss has a choice here and even though his team are 16 points clear atop the Premier League, with a game in hand, he is prioritizing the Premier League title over the FA Cup and other competitions. Can you blame him?
Everyone connected with Liverpool has craved winning the league title for over 30 years and it finally seems like it will happen. Klopp, his staff and his players are focused totally on winning the Premier League. That has to be his priority. Not the FA Cup, League Cup or even the Champions League after they won it last season.
Plus, Klopp and his players deserve a break just like every other Premier League team in this new mid-season rest period and even though the title already seems wrapped up, it is down to the manager to manage the situation as best he sees it. Klopp has long been an advocate of playing less games and has campaigned for competitions and seasons to be cut shorter. He is just sticking to what he believes in.
Managers who play weakened teams in cup competitions on purpose have been fined in the past but it is likely the FA will be lenient with Klopp for fielding his youth team given the unusual circumstances.
Liverpool’s boss will be criticized by many for this decision but those closest to the club will totally understand it.