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Even Lampard agrees with Klopp as ‘moaning’ Liverpool claim makes no sense

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Frank Lampard and Jürgen Klopp have not always seen eye-to-eye, to put it mildly. Having a tantrum at the Liverpool manager ranks highly among the former midfielder’s highlights as Chelsea boss; his appointment at Everton will have done nothing to turn down the animosity. But on one issue, they have formed an unlikely alliance; one which busts a long-standing myth.

Klopp, not particularly viewed as such until Liverpool started winning things, has now turned into something of a pantomime villain. His most reasonable request or remark is met with a barrage of scrutiny and half-a-dozen think pieces. This reached its peak last season, when a clearly tongue-in-cheek reference to the Africa Cup of Nations was taken completely out of context, sparking outrage across an entire continent.

Among the more common bones of contention has been Klopp’s repeated concerns about the footballing calendar. Had they been voiced by someone else, the manager in question would no doubt get vaunted as a champion of player welfare, but the Liverpool boss seems to have a knack for riling people with the most basic of comments.

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Andros Townsend is the latest to have been whipped up into a frenzy. The Everton player appeared on talkSPORT to have his say on the permanent introduction of five substitutions to the Premier League, issuing exactly the kind of nuanced and reasonable take that Liverpool fans would have been expecting:

“I love how Jürgen Klopp has found a way to get his way. He’s been moaning for years. They have been pushing back, and finally, they have given him his five subs.

“He will probably still use two or three in the biggest games. But who are we to argue with him? In the biggest games, Liverpool and Manchester City, they use one or two subs. They don’t use the four. It’s the games against Crystal Palace or Brentford, (when) they can’t break teams down, (when it’s) 11 behind the ball. Then it’s, ‘right, can we bring on five world-class internationals who are fresher and can change the game?’ That’s where it becomes unfair.”

This narrative that five substitutions inherently benefits the biggest teams is bizarre. No doubt it stems from the fact that Klopp has been its main champion, thus leading people to the conclusion that he must have some sort of ulterior motive to benefit Liverpool. It could not be that he is simply worried about the long-term effects of a gruelling schedule on the players.

Townsend must realise that Everton, too, could make five substitutions. The players being introduced would be significantly worse than those at Liverpool’s disposal, but that is true of the starting XI, too. For his point to have any validity, it would have to be the case that ‘lesser’ teams inherently have a greater drop-off between their best 11 players and the rest of the squad.

There is simply nothing to support this. Everyone gets an equal chance to freshen up their teams under the new rules, with the quality of those changes proportional to the overall quality of the squad in question.

That goes some way to explaining why even Lampard backs the new changes. While giving a nod to the concerns about unduly favouring the big sides, as he had to do in order to avoid incurring the wrath of Everton fans, he reasoned that the player welfare benefits outweighed the negatives.

“I agree with the change. Whether there’s a slight disproportionate advantage at the top end of the table because of the strength of squads, possibly.

“But in the bigger picture of player welfare and the level of the Premier League and the level of entertainment and the amount of people that watch it round the world… It is a very good thing.”

Ronald Koeman was practically hounded out for using red decorations on his Christmas tree, so agreeing with Klopp was certainly a bold stance from Lampard. But the change is simply a matter of common sense. The football schedule is getting completely out of hand, not least with the havoc wrought by the winter World Cup this season. Anything to lighten the burden on players must be welcomed.

As Lampard mentioned, this also improves the quality of the product, much as viewing football as entertainment sometimes causes some uncomfortable mutterings. Teams that aren’t completely wiped out produce more engaging contests. That improves the value of the Premier League television deals, from which only 25 per cent of the money is tied up in merit-based payments. In other words, everybody wins.

Player welfare needs a new champion. Klopp will never be given a fair hearing in many quarters. Lampard remains a favourite for the masses, so Liverpool will welcome him as an unlikely ally — but it seems the Everton manager still has some explaining to do to those within his own squad.



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