EIGHT days, three draws and fans are heading for the Anfield exits early again, doubting rather than believing.
The excitement around the appointment of Jurgen Klopp – the man dubbed ‘the most wanted manager in world football’ has now been tempered for many by the trio of single points gleaned versus Spurs, Rubin Kazan and now Southampton.
With the much-heralded “bounce effect” of appointing a new manager still to rear its head, inside and outside the Liverpool bubble there is now retrospective griping about the reaction to Klopp’s appointment.
But, despite the growing narrative, it’s possible to separate the results from the appointment, especially a mere 18 days into the new manager’s tenure.
Klopp remains the best man for the job and an exciting appointment. An appointment that has made other clubs, and their fans, sit up and take notice. It’s the work of a big club, a club that means business. Or it should be. Because it’s just the start of a process, not the end.
The ‘we are Liverpool’ line sewn into so many conversations has not been an ethic or a swagger the club itself has adopted for some time. Would Roy Hodgson have been appointed at any of the clubs whose position we now covet? That Kenny Dalglish felt it necessary to offer his own services at the time the now England manager was leading a list of candidates for the Anfield job said it all. That Kenny’s offer was belatedly taken up when it predictably went pear-shaped for the man appointed to “steady the ship” was yet more evidence of the muddled thinking from so-called leaders that has plagued Anfield.
Then there’s Brendan Rodgers. The title challenge that came afterwards went some way to justifying the appointment with hindsight, but use the same criteria as above: would Rodgers have landed the Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea or Arsenal jobs with his Swansea CV?
Now ask the same question about Klopp.
So forget this notion of delusion. Bat away this “embarrassing” talk. Klopp’s track record is why fans have been excited. That’s why there’s been the mania. A man with two titles in the Bundesliga under his belt, plus a Champions League final appearance, as opposed to a Championship Play-Off winner or a man revered in Malmo. A man with a big personality and a big reputation, but a man who warned against immediate miracles.
At Liverpool we’re desperate for our managers to be the man. To be cool, to say boss things, to walk the walk, talk the talk and conquer the bloody world.
LISTEN: CITYTALK – KLOPPTOMANIA
Klopp’s cool, he bossed the press conferences. But charisma, personality and a puffed out chest from the manager means nothing when your team is like a meek mouse cowering in the corner. The hangover from Rodgers is all too evident in the play. Safety-first football, players scared to take a risk, or responsibility. Extra passes, no cutting edge. Bodies wracked with fear.
It needs freshening. The new manager needs the chance to recruit his own players long term – and surely he wouldn’t have been shy to highlight that this week given the presence of the FSG heavyweights – but short term he also needs a squad at full strength and a bunch of players that starts to believe in itself.
As Neil alluded to in his match review, yesterday was a performance you’ve seen all too often in recent times. It doesn’t mean Klopp is all of a sudden a bad manager. It means he’s got work to do.
That work will take time and that work will be aided by a fit Daniel Sturridge, a fit Jordan Henderson, a fully fit Christian Benteke and fully fit Roberto Firmino. Jon Flanagan, Jordan Rossiter, they too would help matters right now.
Then there’s the January transfer window, 67 days and nine Premier League games away, when we can gauge whether FSG’s new ambition in recruiting managers is matched by new ambition in recruiting players.
In the meantime, can Klopp make a rookie striker in Divock Origi a world-class one in a fortnight? Can he improve Simon Mignolet’s distribution? Can he put an end to Philippe Coutinho’s wastefulness or Adam Lallana’s lack of end product?
Klopp hasn’t had a great deal of options to work with so far. There have been calls for two up front but who are the two? And are we in a position to trust the midfield behind the two, given the personnel available?
Look at the unused outfield subs yesterday: Joe Allen, Kolo Toure and Connor Randall, a 20-year-old defender who was on loan at Shrewsbury earlier this year.
Against Tottenham, Jerome Sinclair was on the bench, a 19-year-old with 25 minutes of Premier League experience, alongside Joao Teixeira, who has clocked up only eight in the top flight.
Think Bournemouth on Wednesday. How does the manager change it? Who comes in? Sinclair, Jose Enrique, Pedro Chirivella? Go out of the League Cup and imagine the mood and the reaction then.
Liverpool on and off the pitch feels like it’s stuck in a mental rut. We kidded ourselves we could raise the roof to St Etienne levels for our new manager when the truth was that while it’s been better at times, it’s still dropped off a cliff at others. A bit like the team’s performance.
We also kidded ourselves that the manager could change it overnight. Klopp – despite the smiles, the soundbites and the charm – has repeatedly appealed for calm and for time. He knows; it’s why he’s stressing he hasn’t got magic dust (it’s 60s dust you want Jurgen, ask Lee Mavers).
Yet still we did it. The hope, the romance, the winning the league talk — it’s why football is football. Because there’s always a chance. Always the unknown. Without it, stadiums wouldn’t be full, bookies’ tills wouldn’t be ringing and Liverpool wouldn’t be preparing for games to a backdrop of songs that suggested miracle turnarounds.
Speaker stalwart George Sephton this week shared his Anfield playlist for Klopp on Twitter. I’m a Believer, Gonna Be Good Times, intertwined with a bit of heavy metal referencing the description of the new boss’s favoured type of football.
First half of the playlist for Thursday/Sunday !!!! Hot off the press ! pic.twitter.com/BXXM3TwPLM
— George Sephton (@VoiceOfAnfield) October 18, 2015
The stage diving is clearly for another time. First Liverpool need their finest talents playing the Klopp tune on a regular basis. Then, especially if the Reds can stay in touch in a strange league that despite everything sees Liverpool ninth but only six points off third, the band needs some better frontmen. It needs a better backing crew as well. And whatever the band equivalent of a goalkeeper is.
Even then, it’s a chart loaded in other acts’ favour. When was the last time Liverpool splashed big on a Grade A belter in the transfer market? Even Luis Suarez was regarded as a gamble. Yet the teams we’re up against, they just go and pluck ready-made, well-established superstars from the stages of successful groups with less money.
To torture the metaphor one last time, Liverpool can’t recruit a super-group and churn out an album sure to sell because of the musicians involved. Instead, it’s going to take a bit of jamming. The bum notes have to be ironed out through practice. The poetry in motion is a way off and may well need a different bevy of bards.
Liverpool have a world-class manager, but world-class results require more world-class ambition. Until then, maybe Klopp should channel some Soul II Soul when he next speaks to his paymasters, or indeed the press:
Back to life, back to the present time
Back from a fantasy, yes
Tell me, now, take the initiative
I’ll leave it in your hands until you’re ready.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo