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Klopp and Tuchel should stop moaning about depth – they have got the best resources in the world

Brentford boss Thomas Frank does not have the same quality in reserve as the likes of Liverpool or Chelsea. Photo: PA Wire

Brentford boss Thomas Frank does not have the same quality in reserve as the likes of Liverpool or Chelsea. Photo: PA Wire

Oliver BrownTelegraph Media Group Limited

In a touching expression of the season of goodwill, Jurgen Klopp believes Thomas Tuchel deserves sympathy for the ravages inflicted by the Omicron variant on Chelsea’s squad. But when it comes to managers of top-four clubs pleading poverty, all hardship is relative.

Yes, it is true that Tuchel could pick from only 14 outfield players for the goalless draw against Wolves, with everybody else sidelined through Covid-19.

What attracted less attention, though, was the fact that those 14 included the same back three who had won a Champions League final seven months earlier, not to mention World Cup winner N’Golo Kante in midfield, plus a strikeforce costing at least £90 million (€106m).

As skeleton sides went, this hardly qualified as being down to the bare bones.

Not that Tuchel has stopped playing the violin over his team’s plight.

“We suffer very much at the moment, so maybe it would be better to have a short break,” he said, highlighting the sense of desperation during a run of three games in eight days.

For Chelsea’s Carabao Cup quarter-final against Brentford, the concern is the number of academy players brought into the line-up.

Harvey Vale, Joe Haigh, Xavier Simons and Alfie Gilchrist have all been spotted training with the first team this week, a dramatic elevation for four 18-year-olds without a senior appearance between them.

But here, too, any stirrings of pity should be quelled.

After all, Chelsea’s academy is the finest in the world, with Conor Gallagher merely the latest breakout star, whose influence on loan at Crystal Palace has already brought an England debut against San Marino this year.

Whenever Cobham graduates have been called on to assist the seniors of late, the results have been stunning; centre-back Trevoh Chalobah even weighing in last month with a Champions League goal against Juventus.

Brentford should not believe for a moment in the idea that Chelsea’s recourse to youth tonight will leave them mortally wounded.

At a time when Covid is running rampant through football’s dressing-rooms, it is not, whatever Tuchel or Klopp might claim, the Premier League giants who suffer disproportionately.

On the contrary, it is during bleak periods such as these when their sheer strength in depth comes into its own.

Chelsea are not alone in having their selection options drastically curtailed by the virus.

Brentford find themselves equally hamstrung, with manager Thomas Frank informed of four fresh Covid cases in the middle of his press conference.

The difference between his situation and Tuchel’s is that he has nothing like the same quality of understudies from which to draw.

As such, the privileged few should be wary of protesting too much.

Klopp insists it is “not possible” for a much-diminished Liverpool to navigate a festive fixture list committing them to three matches in a week.

There are two problems with this argument: the first is that Liverpool, regardless of Klopp’s alarmism, have a roster that runs deep enough to cope with even the most extreme circumstances.

The second is that the club have also, however much the manager might complain, signed up to provide the TV audience with wall-to-wall Christmas football, come what may.

The festive programme is among the most prized pieces of broadcast real estate in the British game, with Amazon Prime paying an estimated £50 million (€59m) to screen all 10 Premier League matches on St Stephen’s Day.

This is the money that helps equip Liverpool and Chelsea with their vast power, enabling them to hoover up the finest talents across Europe and to invest lavishly in their youth systems.

Their suggestion that the fixture programme is unworkable, even that it will leave them disadvantaged, simply cannot be taken seriously.

It is nothing more than a desperate case of biting the hand that feeds.


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