Jurgen Klopp may well have engaged in a war of words with a number of Liverpool players before Sunday’s humiliating defeat at the hands of Fulham, according to club legend Graeme Souness. Mario Lemina’s goal proved to be the difference between the two sides, condemning the Reds to a sixth successive defeat at Anfield for the first time in the club’s history.
Klopp is overseeing a crisis on Merseyside with Liverpool’s top-four hopes quickly fading along with their ability to win matches.
In a desperate attempt to bring about a much-needed change in fortunes for the visit of Fulham, the German boss decided to make seven changes to the side.
Sadio Mane and Trent Alexander-Arnold were dropped to the substitutes’ bench, with the likes of Diogo Jota, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri handed starts.
The Reds also fielded a hugely inexperienced back four consisting of Neco Williams, Nathaniel Phillips, Rhys Williams and Andrew Robertson.
Souness, who played 247 times for Liverpool during a six-year spell at the club, suggested that the wholesale changes may have been the result of a rift between Klopp and some of his senior players behind closed doors.
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“I think certainly one or two, maybe three things. That he’s certainly had words with some of them, he’s not happy with some of them,” Souness told Sky Sports.
“Three games in six days, is he thinking he should be resting some? To make seven changes, that’s a hell of a lot.”
Souness continued, claiming that Klopp may have been keeping Wednesday’s Champions League tie with RB Leipzig in the back of his mind.
Liverpool can still qualify for next season’s tournament by lifting the trophy, with Sunday’s changes suggesting that the 53-year-old has conceded his side’s chances of a top-four finish.
Souness added: “Are you starting to prioritise? Are you thinking we’re going to struggle to get in the top four the way it’s going?
“It’s a difficult call, only the players and the manager himself will know if they’ve had words.
“I would imagine that Jurgen has, if he’s not reached there, is pretty close to going down the road where he’s got to fall out with some players.
“I’d imagine seven changes is more than he’d like to make, but I’d imagine he’s maybe had some harsh words with some players.”
His comments were echoed by fellow pundit Roy Keane, who claimed that Klopp’s side are lacking team spirit and desire as a result of their recent woes.
“I don’t think they’re a happy group,” said Keane. “I look at players who were taken off, and I obviously don’t expect a player to be happy to be taken off, but shaking their head, sitting in the stand, not great body language.
“We saw it again with Salah during the week, we saw it with Mane down at Palace, with Milner at West Ham.
“I don’t think they’re a happy group and I think to make that many changes, OK there are a couple of changes and there are games coming up, but I think he’s thought, ‘enough is enough’.”
Sunday’s result leaves Liverpool seventh in the Premier League table, four points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with 10 games to go.
Klopp’s men could well be seven points adrift by Monday night if the Blues manage to see off the challenge of Everton at Stamford Bridge.
Their hopes of European qualification appear to be hanging by a thread with tough tests against Wolves, Arsenal and Manchester United on the horizon before the end of the season.