WHAT would you like to throw at Jürgen Klopp? The Yokozuna-like weight of expectation at Liverpool? No clean sheets in eight games prior to his arrival? Two anterior cruciate ligament injuries in two days? Not enough training time to translate his ideas? The familiar, devitalising news of Daniel Sturridge being out? Two of the club’s most expensive recruits as well as the captain sidelined for the start of his managerial tenure?
Whatever you have, ready… aim… fire! The German will lean forward, clasping his cheeks with his palms, his eyes narrowing and the space between his lips quickly widening, before he hits you with a heavy dose of HA HA HA HA and talks solutions.
The list of Things To Love About Klopp could easily run and run, like his teams, but his ability to make problems seem so last season is certainly a characteristic to place at the top of the catalogue.
When the 48-year-old signed his initial three-year deal on the sixth floor of Hope Street Hotel, Liverpool’s treatment table was as packed as press conferences are these days. By the time he held his first pre-match briefing at Melwood last Thursday, the casualties could just about form an alternative XI.
But there was no panic, no excuses, no fatalism. When the media walked down the added-pressure-on-Sturridge avenue, Klopp took a detour down ‘have-you-heard-of-Origi?’ street.
Ordinarily, any manager that enters a new environment missing multiple key ingredients would happily roll out the welcome mat to excuses. But the man in the Liverpool dugout not a Normal One — he is more interested in motivation than mitigation.
“I’ve learned that you do not think about the players who are not available because there is no chance to get lucky if you do this all the time.”
Preach brother Jürgen, preach.
Last season, each Sturridge setback felt like a karate kick to everyone’s ribs. Yet on Saturday, even though the team were robbed of his phenomenal finishing at Tottenham — following on from the double loss of Danny Ings and Joe Gomez — the Reds were confident of leaving White Hart Lane with something.
Supporters, too, believed Liverpool could stifle a synchronised side who dismantled Manchester City so effortlessly three weeks prior. Adam Lallana has said Klopp’s conviction is like glue — it sticks to the players, and on evidence, this extends to the fans.
Because the manager is calm over an injury crisis, so is everyone else. He gets on with it, believing success is just diligence away, and so does everyone else.
Part of his power is prioritising the collective, a lesson Klopp took off the late Wolfgang Frank, his boss while still a player at Mainz. He was shown “results could be achieved independently of individual talent, to an extent, by virtue of hard work and better organisation.”
In every press conference thus far, the question marks are presented to Klopp and in return, he pierces the room with his guffaw. “I don’t have to discuss it, just think about another solution.” HA HA HA HA. He laughs in the face of danger.
Beyond the mad howls is a man possessed. There is no doubt about whose presence permeates every inch of the complex in West Derby.
Klopp is unfazed by what he cannot control, and is fierce about what he can. One of his first instructions to his new squad was: “counter-pressing is not a requirement, it is the law.”
He has banned visitors from Melwood — friends to family — because it is the “headquarters of football” and as such, there should be no unnecessary distractions. There is no half-in attitude to sessions, you go full tilt or you go home.
Kloppo celebrates goals in training as though it’s the winner in the Champions League final. He steps in to assist players if a message is not getting across or a drill is incorrectly conducted. As Emre Can has attested, he makes you feel a little taller, a little stronger, a little fitter, a little braver.
Klopp looks at the squad and sees the promise, the strengths, the possibilities. Of course, he is aware there are plenty of flaws and weaknesses, but his job is not to play them up but get his side playing like they’re not there.
He is not scared of imperfections, if anything, he encourages it. “It is the bravery we need in football, the bravery to make faults,” Klopp has explained. “It doesn’t work without faults. Never in history.”
For the man who loves heavy metal, finding the solutions en-route to success is as enjoyable as triumph itself. And that is important, because the puzzles come in piles at Liverpool.
In the meantime, perhaps we can assist with a conundrum the spectacled one has not been able to crack yet: how to stop the reporting and camera clicks of every aspect of Klopp’s life. While he’s house hunting, taking a walk or having a steak, back off a little, allow him to breathe.
It’s at Anfield where you should take his breath away.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo