Football

Was Roy Keane Actually Proven Right With Harsh Liverpool Criticism In Mid-Season?

Was Roy Keane Actually Proven Right With Harsh Liverpool Criticism In Mid-Season?

Liverpool managed to salvage their 2020/21 Premier League campaign on the final day, winning their last five fixtures in-a-row to earn what once looked like a very unlikely top four finish. They even managed to sneak up into third after Chelsea's loss at Aston Villa.

It was a good achievement for Jurgen Klopp's side when you consider the situation they found themselves in after a horrific mid-season slump.

Liverpool would lose a remarkable six home league games on the trot at one point, an unthinkable run for a team who had previously looked on course to smash records for going unbeaten at Anfield.

They faced plenty of criticism in the midst of this ugly stretch, most notably from Roy Keane.

Speaking on Sky Sports in February after their 4-1 loss to Manchester City, he labelled Liverpool as 'bad champions' for the manner they had capitulated in the previous weeks.

Advertisement

We spoke before the game, they are making a lot of excuses. To me they've been bad champions.

I don't just mean today, you can lose a game of football. I can't figure this group out. I keep looking at them, and even in the game in midweek against Brighton, Brighton were comfortable during the game. You can get beaten in a game but there's a way to get beaten.

I think maybe they all believed the hype over the last year or two. They're playing for a big team in Liverpool. It's as if they won the league last year and all got a bit carried away and all believed their own hype that they were going to beat teams.

In my mindset, when you won a league title your next challenge was 'can you do it again'. I never got the impression from this group with their interviews last year and even the manager when they won it, it wasn't 'what's the next step for Liverpool', it was let's enjoy this and that it's a long way from 30 years.

I never heard any of the players come out and say we want to do it again. That's the key. They're now talking about trying to get in the top four from winning the league last year, all of a sudden they're talking about top four is where their targets are.

Of course, there were plenty of mitigating circumstances surrounding Liverpool's struggles.

Their squad had been ravaged with injuries, most notably in defence. Virgin van Dijk, Joe Gomez, and Joel Matip had all been ruled out for the season at this stage. Fabinho was also struggling with injury issues. This had a major effect on Liverpool's form, with their entire team thrown out of kilter.

Unsurprisingly, these comments have been used a stick to beat Keane with over the last 24 hours. The way in which Liverpool rallied at the end of the season showed they did still have plenty left in the tank and hadn't given up in the manner the Irishman had suggested.

Advertisement

Then again, in a roundabout way, did they actually prove him right?

It's clear Liverpool's injury issues were the main source of their problems, with Keane indeed choosing to ignore this fact. However, those injuries hardly halted towards the end of the campaign.

The three centre backs were still absent, while Jordan Henderson also failed to play during the final couple of months of the season. They even lost January signing Ozan Kabak for the last few games of the league, being forced to play two players (Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams) that Klopp had already decided were not good enough earlier in the campaign.

They deserve every credit for finding their form in the closing weeks of the season, but why could they not do it earlier?

In this sense, Keane was right to criticise them. Their last season revival does not discredit his claims and may well actually do the opposite.

With arguably even worse personnel, Liverpool managed to play some excellent football to move back into the top four. The title was always going to be out of reach after their injury troubles, but there should be no real excuse for just how dire Klopp's side were at one point.

'Bad champions' took things a step too far, but Keane wasn't way off the mark with everything he said back in February.

SEE ALSO: Harry Maguire Outlines Reasons For Choosing Manchester United Over Manchester City

Gary Connaughton

You may also like