Are Liverpool guilty of being bad champions?

Roy Keane put Liverpool in the dock after their thrashing by Manchester City on Sunday… there is evidence of wrongdoing, but not all the charges stack up. So, are Jurgen Klopp’s men guilty of being ‘bad champions’?

  • Roy Keane gave some damning accusations after Liverpool’s defeat by Man City 
  • Keane says they were ‘bad champions’ and that they believe in their own hype
  • Sportsmail plays judge and jury and considers Keane’s ‘bad champions’ charge

Liverpool’s title defence ended when they were blitzed by Manchester City and the 4-1 defeat led Roy Keane to unleash some coruscating accusations.

The seven-time Premier League winner with Manchester United hissed that Liverpool were ‘bad champions’ and accused Jurgen Klopp’s side of believing their own hype. 

Here Sportsmail plays judge and jury and considers the Irishman’s ‘bad champions’ charge.

Roy Keane unleashed some coruscating accusations after Liverpool’s defeat by Man City

He said Liverpool were ‘bad champions’ and accused them of believing their own hype

Keane is right to be perplexed by some of Liverpool’s results. Their title defence has featured new entries into the history books, such as shipping seven goals for the first time since April 1963 and losing three home games on the trot for the first time since September 1963.

The collapse at Villa Park in October, when they lost 7-2, was staggering — but their recent form has been really alarming.

Liverpool should never have squandered points against West Bromwich and Newcastle, nor should they have been so insipid against Burnley and Brighton.

In seven fixtures against the bottom six, they have taken seven points from a possible 21, with their only victory against Sheffield United. Champions don’t get such results. 

The collapse at Villa Park in October was staggering, but it is recent form that has alarmed

Charge 2: ‘If you’re a huge club, you have to deal with setbacks.’  

Yes, Liverpool have not dealt with setbacks as they could have done. The landscape changed on October 17 when Virgil van Dijk suffered a season-ending injury at Goodison Park.

Klopp’s team negotiated the next eight weeks and went top on December 16, but since Christmas a cloud of negativity has hung over the club.

Every bad fitness bulletin has been greeted with dismay and each bad result has had an impact on confidence. The most worrying aspect of the defeats by City and Brighton was that you knew there would be no comeback once they went behind.

Liverpool became the best team in the world partly because they became, as Klopp described them, mentality monsters. Now they look mentally brittle.

One of the big challenges Klopp faced in a meeting at the club’s training base on Monday was to restore fractured confidence. 

Liverpool have not dealt with the setback of losing Virgil van Dijk (above) as they could have 

Jurgen Klopp has faced the difficult task of restoring fractured confidence to Liverpool 

Charge 3: ‘Liverpool still had their best attacking players on the pitch, internationals in midfield.’ 

True, the focus on the injuries at the back is masking some other big issues. While Mohamed Salah ticks along smoothly, it will worry Klopp that Sadio Mane has scored only three Premier League goals since October 17. Roberto Firmino has six in the same period.

Both men look out of sorts —would they be thriving if Diogo Jota was fit and applying pressure? — but the biggest issue surrounds Thiago Alcantara. The fanfare that greeted his signing in the summer was remarkable and he was a legend in the eyes of some supporters before he had kicked a ball.

Thiago is a wonderful midfielder but it is fair to say that, so far, things haven’t worked out for him. He is struggling to adjust to the pace and, other than a cameo at Chelsea, hasn’t influenced a game yet. Champions need their star men to fire. 

Sadio Mane (above) has only scored three Premier League goals for Liverpool since October 17


Charge 4: ‘After winning the League last season, I never heard any of the players saying, “Let’s do it again”.’  

Keane has perhaps forgotten that he said on November 8 —after a 1-1 draw at Manchester City — that he enjoyed Liverpool’s ‘mind-set, body language and desire’. He also couldn’t have been listening on June 29, when Klopp said: ‘We’ll go for it again, we will not stop.’

It is nonsense to suggest that a lack of desire has contributed to Liverpool’s fall. Their squad is full of big characters who can accept criticism when they are underperforming. To question their attitude, however, would be taken as an affront. 

Jurgen Klopp (above) previously said Liverpool would ‘go for the title again’ and ‘will not stop’

Charge 5: ‘If you’re a huge club, you have to deal with setbacks.’  

Critics of the club may be sick of hearing how much Van Dijk’s absence has hurt Liverpool. In that case, let’s look through history and see what happened when the defending champions lost their most important player for a prolonged period.

In September 1997, United lost Roy Keane, their captain and talisman, with a cruciate ligament injury. He did not play again that season. Arsenal did the Double. In January 1995, Eric Cantona was banned for eight months by the FA. Manchester United lost the title by a point.

When such a big figure is taken out of a successful team, the ramifications are huge. More recently, would City have finished 18 points behind Liverpool last season with a fit Aymeric Laporte? It is doubtful.

Losing your best player can be hard to cope with – like when United captain Roy Keane was ruled out for the season in 1997

Charge 6: ‘We spoke about them making a lot of excuses… to me they’ve been bad champions.’ 

Have Liverpool been as bad as Leicester in 2016-17? Have they downed tools in the way Chelsea did with Jose Mourinho in 2015? Did they collapse like Blackburn in 1995, or Manchester United post-Sir Alex Ferguson in 2014? The answer, firmly, is no. 


There is no escaping the fact that Liverpool have problems and Klopp is faced with the biggest challenge of his reign. He looks tired and could do with a break from the scrutiny, but his hunger to take Liverpool forward again should not be doubted.

This spell has been calamitous. Finishing the season in the top four would mean the season had not been a crisis.

So yes, some of Keane accusations have merit — but not all of them. Are Liverpool guilty beyond reasonable doubt? No.

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