Why Liverpool’s Brad Smith Can Help Jurgen Klopp Manage Hectic Schedule


One thing that you certainly can’t accuse Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool tenure of so far is a lack of good quotes.

The German’s impact at Anfield has extended from the touchline to the team to the fans – sometimes encompassing all three, as we saw last weekend – and there is always a soundbite or two thrown in for good measure.

You’ll all have a favourite by now, but one of the most telling came after the workmanlike 1-0 win over Swansea City at Anfield last month.

It is clear that what has struck Klopp most about life in English football is the amount of matches that his team are playing, with this week acting as the first time in his two-month tenure (outside of an international break) that he’s had a full week to prepare for the next game, which comes at Watford’s Vicarage Road on Sunday.

Liverpool FC v FC Girondins de Bordeaux - UEFA Europa League : News Photo

Three weeks ago, speaking about the efforts of his players to see off the Swans less than 72 hours after a hard-fought Europa League win over Bordeaux, Klopp said:

“Alberto Moreno had, I think, 20 knocks everywhere on his body and was limping from the pitch to the dressing room. We asked, ‘Where is the pain?’, he said, ‘Everywhere!’

Yet left-back Moreno – one of Liverpool’s players of the season – was back in Klopp’s side at Southampton four days later, contributing to the 6-1 win which shot the Reds into the last four of the League Cup and into two more matches against Stoke City in the New Year.

He didn’t last the 90 minutes, though, and the identity of his replacement surprised many, not least because many forgot that he was still there.

As Jose Enrique continues to apparently be locked in a Melwood airing cupboard – his decision to retire from social media meaning he can’t appeal for help – Brad Smith has taken his opportunity to impress Klopp with that brief cameo at Southampton during which he set up the third goal of Divock Origi’s hat-trick, and then an excellent display in the miserable goalless draw in Sion when he was quite literally the only good thing about the game.

FBL-EUR-C3-SION-LIVERPOOL : News Photo

The 21-year-old Australian international – who has been at Liverpool since the age of 14 – will now feel happy and settled having resolved his contract dispute with the Reds a day after Klopp’s first game in charge at Tottenham, and he looks certain to taste more game-time between now and the clash with Manchester United in exactly a month’s time – a period during which Liverpool will play eight games.

Five of the next six are away, and whether it comes in the FA Cup at Exeter, the League Cup at Stoke or even cameo displays in the Premier League, the presence of a viable alternative to Moreno will be a Godsend to Klopp, who is about to experience the hectic Christmas English football schedule for the very first time.

Yet in Smith, the German will find a player who has gone through it before.

Then a 19-year-old, the powerful left-sided youngster was named on the bench for a 2-1 Boxing Day loss at Manchester City two years ago, and he then made his Reds debut as a substitute in a loss at Chelsea by the same scoreline three days later.

Chelsea v Liverpool - Premier League : News Photo

That was his only contribution to Brendan Rodgers’ 2013/14 wild ride, with a brief loan spell at Swindon Town and his contract issues limiting chances ever since.

There looks to be a player in Smith, though, and someone who can thrive in Klopp’s system thanks to his athleticism and ability to drive forward from left-back, becoming a key factor in attacks as he does so.

As the German seeks to implement his infamous pressing style over this gruelling run of games, he is sure to be relying on Moreno more than most, but having Smith there as another option – or perhaps even someone who could play in front of the Spaniard as they double up – could be crucial.

Klopp’s quotes will continue to stand out over this hectic period, but perhaps the newest and in many ways most surprising member of his squad will, too. 

Look out for Smith over the next few weeks. He might just keep on surprising people.

 

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