There was plenty for Liverpool to question against Manchester City, but one of the biggest mysteries came in the form of two notable Jürgen Klopp omissions.
It almost seems cruel to demand explanations from Jürgen Klopp. Not for the first time this season, the Liverpool manager was forced to admit that he could not properly explain what was going wrong, instead having to offer up little more than a description of the latest disappointment to play out in front of him.
In fairness, being outclassed by Manchester City is far from Liverpool’s worst crime this season. And while nobody is able to pinpoint a single reason for the team’s dramatic downfall of late, most would agree that Klopp is not the primary cause — and that plenty of factors are beyond his control.
After all, it is not Klopp who decides the transfer budget. Likewise, the manager has done all he can to speak out against the grueling schedule, but his complaints have largely fallen on deaf ears — if his group of players have been chronically burned out, his intense style of play can only take a portion of the blame.
But naturally, plenty of things do still remain within Klopp’s control, and there are certain questions that he therefore must answer. Most squarely within his remit is team selection, and two strange decisions against Manchester City require an explanation.
In the starting line-up itself, there was not much by way of surprises. The absence of Darwin Núñez can be attributed to his recent injury struggles, and the rest of the side was more or less as expected. But a look towards the bench posed a real head-scratcher.
Klopp saw fit to leave himself the option of bringing on Arthur Melo. The Juventus loanee has made one senior appearance to date (a few minutes off the bench against Napoli), and it is now a foregone conclusion that his time at Anfield will come to an end once the campaign is over. And yet the Liverpool boss apparently foresaw a situation where he could play a useful part.
To nobody’s surprise, however, Arthur did not make it off the bench. That’s despite the Liverpool midfield getting ripped apart in the second half — if that situation did not call for Klopp’s best available approximation of Thiago, it’s hard to know exactly what circumstances would have led to the Brazilian being summoned. Managing to avoid a reaction to Pep Guardiola’s uncouth celebrations is likely to go down as the dubious highlight of his time at the club.
Arthur Melo was on the bench for Liverpool against Man City. Aside from a run-in with Pep Guardiola, he saw no action. (Image: Photo by James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images)
But players who seem unlikely to make the pitch are named on the bench all the time. What’s the big deal? Well, with more and more players back from injury, Arthur was taking up an increasingly valuable slot. His presence in the matchday squad to face Manchester City — and the inclusion of the soon-to-be-departed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who did at least enter the pitch — led to two major absences.
Not for the first time this season, Fábio Carvalho was unable to make the cut. Having scored in the last iteration of this fixture, he could hardly have made a better case, but the 20-year-old was once again overlooked. His frustration must surely be growing by the week, with Klopp admitting way back in February that he was ‘not in a happy place’ in terms of game time.