IN the Boxing Day edition of The Independent, looking ahead to that day’s fixture against top-of-the-table Leicester City, Danny Higginbotham wrote an article asking why “the Klopp bubble had burst”.
I disagreed with much of it. Firstly, was the idea that clever opposition managers were going long to counter the press, rather than the more obvious fact that the teams we were coming up against were long ball teams already. I mean, I didn’t see West Brom reverting back to tiki-taka against Newcastle on Match of the Day last night…
But the thing that grated the most was the conclusion that Jürgen Klopp and his tactics had been “found out” after just two months in the Premier League.
That’s right, he might have been able to win league championships and get to European finals in the primitive football surroundings of World Champions Germany but you’ve been found out pretty quickly over here, son.
I’m not sure what Danny thinks was going on in Germany. That simpleton managers were completely befuddled by Klopp getting lads to press high up the pitch leading to trophy after trophy? That only if they had the tactical genius of Tony Pulis and Alan Pardew over there he wouldn’t have lasted a minute?
Since then Liverpool have triumphed over Leicester City, the “biggest English test yet for the man”, according to Higginbotham.
So have Leicester — previously unbeaten on the road in the Premier League this season — now been “found out”?
Did Manchester United and Chelsea find each other out when they drew 0-0 at Old Trafford? Or did they fail to find the other one out? Or, alternatively, did a bunch of results just happen depending on how well the teams played on the day?
We always seem to want to do this in England. Tactics we associate as traditional will work depending on the quality or performance of the players. Anything new either has to be revolutionary or gets “found out”.
You can see it in the discussion around zonal vs man marking at corners. If a team playing zonal concedes a goal the system has been “found out”. If a team marking man to man concedes a goal it’s an individual error. The system is never questioned.
It also happened last season to Liverpool with three at the back.
Liverpool went on a long unbeaten run with the system — a purple patch of 13 games in the league, by far our best period of the season.
But as soon as we lost at home to Manchester United, the day in March when Steven Gerrard was sent off after 38 seconds, it was said the system had been “found out” rather than the more logical explanation that the opposition had just played better on the day.
Liverpool will win and lose games under Klopp and results will be decided by a variety of things, not just how well Liverpool are able to press.
It will depend on performance, fitness, luck, availability of players, opposition but also a variety of different tactics. Because, of course, to limit Jürgen Klopp to just one trick is wrong.
The man who in fairly recent times was described as the world’s most wanted manager wouldn’t have got as far as he has in the game on just gegenpressing alone.
And I’m sure he came up against plenty of ‘agricultural’ teams when playing and managing in the German second tier. I’m sure he had to find solutions to teams defending deep when managing Dortmund.
He found them through working with footballers for longer than two months. By developing some and buying others. By giving footballers confidence to perform under pressure. By pulling fans behind him.
There are unique factors to English football, of course, and challenges that the manager will have to overcome. But considering his record, I’m still backing the Premier League to get “found out” before Jürgen Klopp does.
Pics: Propaganda-Photo–David Rawcliffe