Following Liverpool's 3-0 loss to Watford on Sunday, Jurgen Klopp was not a happy man. The German coach watched his side crumble at the feet of Quique Sanchez Flores' Hornets in what ultimately became his worst result as 'King of the Kop.' Frankly, he had good reason to be aggrieved at what transpired in front of him.
After going 1-0 down to a hotly controversial Nathan Ake strike in the second minute at Vicarage Road, Liverpool failed to muster up any kind of decisive response. They were weak, sluggish and bereft of ideas as Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo mercilessly bullied Klopp's back-line.
Indeed, it was Watford who proceeded to take the game by the scruff of the neck as Liverpool rolled over without much of a fuss. This, to Klopp, was unacceptable. "I would say, hopefully, this is the most disappointing moment in my whole Liverpool FC life, from now," Klopp said after the defeat. He didn't need to say it, in truth - we all know it's a nadir in his brief tenure at Anfield.
But now is when the going gets remarkably tough, especially for a manager who is still learning the various idiosyncrasies of the English game and who has not yet faced the intense Christmas period. Klopp may have had early crowning achievements in defeating Chelsea and Manchester City with unequivocal displays of quality and confidence, but that honeymoon period is over - Klopp now knows the full extent of this Liverpool challenge.
The former Borussia Dortmund boss is a wildly popular character already on Merseyside - his infectious smile and weirdly wonderful personality will do that - but recent results have not been good. With a congested sequence of games coming up in the next month, this is where Klopp needs to show why he is the ideal candidate to lead Liverpool forward.
Against Watford, it became - if it weren't already - abundantly clear that the defence is not cutting it. Mamadou Sakho has performed well at times under the German but when put against the brute strength and agility of the Deeney/Ighalo axis, he looked hopelessly inadequate. That too could be said for the man who partnered him to start with at the heart of the defence - Martin Skrtel. Despite the Slovakian's vast experience, he let Ighalo outmuscle him for the second goal, ending up as a heap on the floor as the striker wheeled away in celebration.
However, the real worry for Klopp was that, once Skrtel went off injured, he only had Kolo Toure to call upon. Not to do the Ivorian a disservice, but the former Arsenal and Manchester City centre-half is no longer operating at the peak of his powers. The need for defensive reinforcements is pressing for Klopp, and it's how he chooses to spend the money available to him in January that will determine where Liverpool finish this season. They are currently ninth, but Klopp has ambitions of finishing in the top four. Unfortunately for him, on the basis of the last four games, they have a tremendous amount of work ahead of them.
It may be the rarest of virtues in the modern game, but Liverpool fans must exercise caution when evaluating the German's work so far at the club. Although he ultimately became a messiah figure at Dortmund, he didn't win the league until his third season. There are undoubtedly huge improvements to be made with this Reds squad but there has also been positive signs during his two months. The gegenpressing has yet to come full circle but, particularly in the defeats of Chelsea, City and Southampton in the Capital One Cup, Klopp has illustrated what his philosophy can bring to the table - speed, energy and a thoroughly attack-minded team that possesses the capacity to dismantle even the most formidable opponent.
If Klopp ever needed to show his resilience, it's in Liverpool's next game against the high-flying Leicester City. The Foxes' lethal attack in Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have been blowing opponents away and will walk on to Anfield with utmost confidence, knowing that they face a Liverpool defence that has conceded seven goals in their last three league games.
It's not often that Liverpool would face Leicester as the underdogs, but this is where they currently stand. They're a mid-table side at the moment and the job facing Klopp in getting the Kop roaring to the tune of a title charge once again is greater than perhaps he would have anticipated after obliterating City 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium. But that's Premier League football.
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