LIVERPOOL’S defending often still feels like getting someone else’s sick on your shoes during a wild night out. Liverpool’s attack often still stumbles like they’ve downed a stream of Jägerbombs on a wild night out. Liverpool’s midfield often still feels directionless, like the hordes in search of a taxi home following a wild night out.
Yet, Liverpool are different. Liverpool feel different.
Adam Lallana — shirt off, adrenalin up — Usain Bolting toward his manager to spark an indescribable scene that will be tattooed on the memory, different. Lucas Leiva — stood in the shootout huddle — turning to the terraces and encouraging those on them to bring the roof down, different. Joe Allen — smile as wide as the Mersey Tunnel — heading for his team-mates to take in his moment, different.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of meeting two wonderful members of Mainz’s staff.
They detailed how Jürgen Klopp reconstructed the club: transforming the mentality not just of the players, but everyone connected to the German side. From the board to the supporters, everything felt possible. The focus was not on problems, but solutions. The doubt had shifted, the atmosphere had been revived.
If Klopp said something could be done, they believed and set off to do it. From the minuscule details to the major ones, he made the sort of difference you could see, but importantly, that you could also feel.
Can you feel a difference now?
Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace in November was Klopp’s first defeat as Reds boss and marked a month since he had flown in from Dortmund to take charge.
Scott Dann’s winner on 82 minutes prompted a mass exodus at Anfield, which the manager immediately highlighted and charged his players with remedying. “We are responsible that nobody can leave the stadium before the final whistle because anything can happen,” the 48-year-old said. “We have to show this and we didn’t.”
His demand was that Liverpool adopt a “we decide when it’s over attitude.”
At Norwich, Liverpool conceded in the 93rd minute and went again, getting the winner on 95 minutes. They decided when it was over.
They were headache-inducing against Stoke on Tuesday night, yet Simon Mignolet saved two penalties and Allen converted in sudden death to send Liverpool to Wembley.
Allen at the death denying Arsenal maximum points at Anfield.
Divock Origi doing the same against West Brom. The kids forcing a replay in a 2-2 FA Cup draw with Exeter, and winning the reverse fixture to progress.
Liverpool are learning to decide when it’s over. Regardless of how poor the defending, regardless of how disjointed the attack is, regardless of how laboured the midfield is. Learning to find a way, to create one. It won’t always work, but they’re working at it.
Klopp is busy with the minuscule details and the major ones. He is transforming the mentality. He is making the players believe that they can do all things, be all things. Mignolet can be a hero. Allen can be a hero. Lallana can be a hero. Insert any name here can be a hero.
Liverpool can be the best. And the worst. Go-to-town Liverpool, inglorious Liverpool. In between it all, Liverpool have a manager who is exactly what was wanted, what was needed.
Liverpool are a work in progress. Klopp’s reconstruction is slowly progressing.