FUN. Have it. Loads and loads of it.
This is one of Jürgen Klopp’s daily reminders to his players and staff. Football should be about enjoyment, and if you’re lucky enough to work in the game, the German believes F.U.N should be tattooed all over your face.
He can be deadly serious. He doesn’t really talk in team meetings, he screams. You can hear his every order to his charges on a matchday from the press box, and when he whistles to draw a player’s attention, it is piercing.
Leaving everything on the pitch, even in training, is non-negotiable. Counter-pressing is the law, not a requirement. It is Klopp’s way, or the doorway. But he encourages fun, he laps it up, he loves it.
On an icy Wednesday night at Anfield, there were times Liverpool just had some of that good, good stuff. Joao Teixeira’s filthy backheel, Jordon Ibe finally bubbling like champagne again, Nathaniel Clyne’s cool-as-fuck finish, Firmino making Matt Ritchie wish he’d have closed his legs quicker…
It was only a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth in the Capital One Cup, but there was some fun, and Liverpool need to unpack more of that. We need to see boxes and boxes of it.
“Football should be about enjoyment.” Repeat after Klopp.
“Tonight, it was really good because these young players don’t think too much, and that’s important – they think about football and not about pressure,” was the manager’s assessment post-match.
He was correct, there was definitely an absence of “Oh my god, we’re creating loads here and we’re not scoring again, and this is probably going to end 1-1, and we’re going to have to wait ages for another win and, and, and…” The lack of belief times infinity and beyond was replaced by what the 48-year-old termed “fun in the eyes”.
Given Liverpool’s recent injury history is scarier than anything you’ll see on Halloween, last night’s win – Klopp’s first and the club’s only one for October in six attempts – grows in significance.
It’s a triumph that takes away some of the pressure that has been visibly crippling the squad. It gives the side something to build on. It’s another clean sheet as the process of being more compact and hard to beat takes shape. But it’s also a lesson to be less introspective and more expressive.
Ibe was a throwback to the player who fired off question marks at Tottenham and Everton last season, both teams unsure of the answers. Klopp demanded more bravery and confidence, Adam Bodgan gave him a nice gingery dose. Firmino wanted the ball, told his teammates where he wanted it, and wanted it some more. His intelligence in transition was a wonder to witness.
The positives were there again. More than I’ve stated above. And hopefully no less in future. The result was one Liverpool have been desperate for since September 26. Klopp could finally punch the air at the final whistle as well.
And there was some enjoyment. There was some fun. Can we have more please? Loads and loads more.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo