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Liverpool's owners stand accused as their big gamble has backfired in alarming fashion

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. (Photo by Martin Rickett - Pool/Getty Images)

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. (Photo by Martin Rickett - Pool/Getty Images)

Kevin Palmer

When Liverpool's owners made the decision not to make a move to sign a defender in this month's transfer window, it seemed as if manager Jurgen Klopp was capable of producing a miracle.

After Roberto Firmino's late winner against Tottenham in mid-December, Liverpool were three points clear at the top of the table and eight points ahead of chief rivals Manchester City and Manchester United, even though both had games in hand.

Back then, Liverpool looked like the only team in the Premier League capable of delivering consistent results in a season that has thrown up more inexplicable conundrums than you might expect from an entire season, inspiring their owners in the Fenway Sports Group out in America to declare no money would be spent in the January transfer window.

Liverpool's financial string pullers gambled on the masterful Klopp managing a scenario that saw him plugging a central defensive void created by injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, with his ability to find a way to win while using youthful performers and midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in defence was a challenge that was attainable.

Their assessment did not stop Klopp asking and demanding defensive re-enforcements this month, yet his success in papering over the cracks in his team came back to haunt him as the notoriously frugal FSG made the call that could have ended Liverpool's hopes of a new era of dominance in English football.

Just six weeks has passed since that huge call from owner who have openly insisted they will only spend money on new players for Liverpool from funds generated by the club's income and player sales, the scale of their misjudgment is there for all to see.

Manchester City moved to the top of the Premier League with a 5-0 thrashing of relegation-threatened West Brom on Tuesday night, with the swagger that had been knocked out of them by Liverpool's all-conquering champions from last season now back in abundance.

Ilkay Gundogan registered a brace, either side of a Joao Cancelo goal, and Riyad Mahrez was also on the scores heet as City netted four times before the interval. Raheem Sterling then added a fifth for City in the 57th minute as they recorded a seventh successive league victory in emphatic fashion.

Pep Guardiola’s side are now a point clear at the summit of second-placed Manchester United – the Red Devils host rock-bottom Sheffield United on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Liverpool find themselves seven points behind City, with an inferior goal difference and all the momentum Klopp and his team had built up gone in a matter of weeks.

Their momentum had been lost. Possibly for good.

Football is a game decided by players and overseen by managers, yet what looks increasingly to be Liverpool's one-season reign has not been engineered by Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Klopp's team of champions.

No, this is a story of the greatest Liverpool manager since Bob Paisley being undermined by owners who should have given him the assistance he so blatantly needed, even at a moment when the Covid-19 pandemic has stripped tens of millions of pounds out of the Anfield coffers.

If permanent transfers were not realistic in the current financial climate, loan deals should have been sanctioned and now Klopp is left to lament the probable surrender of a position of authority in the Premier League that he had his players had worked so hard to attain.

For once, this is not the failure of a manager or even a team that has lost its way due to the cautious of owners unwilling to back their ambition, with the Champions League now appearing to be their most likely option for success this season.

Of course, this tale is nothing new as FSG have sanctioned around £400milllion less in net spend than City and United over the last five years, yet this was a moment for them to step away from their prudence and roll the financial dice in support of Klopp.

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Instead, they sat on their hands and hopes for the best, yet the nightmare scenario Klopp warned his bosses about last month has now come to pass after a shocking run of results in the Premier League was compounded by an FA Cup exit against Manchester United last Sunday.

Ironically, the biggest casualty of FSG's financial caution might well their own bank balance as Liverpool might struggle to regain their place at the top of the Premier League against rivals that now longer see them as an unstoppable machine.

The biggest concern amid Liverpool's decline must be that FSG must now be in danger of alienating their biggest asset, manager Jurgen Klopp.

Now that really would be a crisis.

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