“TODAY, I know nobody wants to hear it but I’m brave enough to say it, the pitch was really dry.
“We gave it all the water we had but after 15 minutes it was really dry, the (drying) wind, it was difficult.
“You could see it, a lot of passes where you’re thinking ‘why are they playing this?’ But it was difficult. In a possession game you need to have the best you can get if possible. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just a description.” Jürgen Klopp, May 7, 2017.
We didn’t win that game because the pitch was too dry.
The pitch that we watered loads before the game and continued to water at half-time was too dry because it was windy, you see, so it couldn’t possibly be wet enough for us to play football on and beat Southampton.
The pitch was too dry. Because it was windy. In Liverpool.
Read that quote back through in your head, put a Roy Hodgson voice on it and see how it makes you feel. Some of you could put a Brendan Rodgers or Rafa Benitez voice on it and it would have the same effect. It would make you absolutely livid because it’s a ridiculous excuse not to win a football match at Premier League level, isn’t it? Especially a game in which you missed a penalty (unless the dry pitch was to blame for that as well).
So, why does Jürgen get away with saying something like that without many fans even batting an eyelid, when many of his predecessors would be lambasted for making similar excuses?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about likeability. My conclusion over the weekend was that a pretty good formula for calculating likeability is that it’s a combination of charisma plus humility. This isn’t definitive of course, seeing as I came up with it after drinking my body weight in vodka but, in 2017, it’s fairly close to being a fact because someone on the internet said it.
For those who want to see the workings out of my mathematical theory, I’ve seen charismatic managers over the years who lots of people just don’t like (Rodgers being a good case in point), and the main criticism from people I’ve met who don’t like him was that he was too cocky. His cockiness prevented him from being given the benefit of the doubt during difficult moments, then those difficult moments added up to his departure from the club.
Klopp, on the other hand, oozes charisma and has demonstrated since he first walked into the club a level of humility that is commendable. He talks about defeats being his fault and victories being to the credit of his players. It takes a huge amount of courage and self-assuredness to be able to do that.
But isn’t it amazing that a combination of those factors mean that when judging a football manager, the vast majority of people will give more leeway to Klopp than they will to someone like Rodgers? Rodgers very nearly won the league and is labelled a fraud by people less than 12 months later. Klopp has come nowhere near winning a league and still has people using his name and photo as their Twitter handle and image.
Just think about that for a second. Rodgers wasn’t just called cocky, he was labelled “a fraud”. I still don’t know what people meant by it. If he was fraudulently pretending to be a football manager he’s done a pretty good job of it to be fair to him.
Yet the very same people who will say that about the manager who came closer than anyone else to winning the league for Liverpool since the last league win all those years ago, will give Klopp as much benefit of the doubt as they can muster even when he’s using excuses like he did on Sunday for us not winning a game of football that we very much should have won.
The intriguing thing about all of that isn’t whether Rodgers is actually a fraud or whether Klopp should be given more leeway than many of the managers who have gone before him. What’s actually interesting is how we all judge other people, football managers or otherwise.
Most of us think we’re more intelligent than the average human, and most of us have a vision of ourselves that is nowhere near as bad as the perception others have of us, which means that we think we are objective observers of everything around us when we are simply not. We should be looking at Klopp and judging him on how good he actually is as a football manager for our club, but what we do in reality is form an opinion of him based on a myriad of other things then, after we’ve formed that opinion, we go on to judge him as a football manager.
Humans are just not very good at being objective, independent judges of practically anything. You see Klopp crack a joke about Phil Coutinho running like John Achterberg during his press conference and it makes you like him. You see him playing down his own ability and it makes you like him more (but only because you know he won the league in Germany before he arrived here).
Jürgen is tall and has an aura about him, which makes many men and women sexually attracted to him on some subconscious level, and adds to his ‘benefit of the doubt’ quotient which will soon be stolen from these pages and used by Sky as another Football Manager-style statistic.
Sometimes, our leader chastises us as fans in the ground and chastises the media in front of him in press conferences, and it makes us like him even more! Why is that? Why is it that two men can say pretty much the same things about a crowd and one is absolutely hated while the other is loved? It’s because it’s not just what we say that counts, but how we say it. It’s because most of us can’t help ourselves because we’re not even aware of what’s happening at a subconscious level and we think we’re in control fully of what we’re thinking at any given moment, when the truth is that we’re not.
I love the fact that Klopp started his excuse by saying “I’m brave enough to say this”. Even the way he delivers an excuse that most Liverpool fans would have hung, drawn and quartered Hodgson for saying, sums up why on a subconscious level he isn’t criticised anywhere near as much. He’s already telling you before you hear the excuse that he can only say it because he’s brave, so you’re already, subconsciously, giving him some benefit of the doubt before he utters the words.
What does all this mean? Not a great deal in my eyes. Over time he will either start winning things or he won’t. If he doesn’t even Jürgen will lose the benefit of the doubt that he is being afforded now. I remember saying when he was first appointed I wondered how long it would take for the crowd to turn on him. Regardless of how he was universally loved when he arrived, it is an inevitable fact of football that sooner or later the crowd will turn unless you win enough games, cups and leagues to keep them off your back (and sometimes even that’s not enough if you lose the likeability factor, just ask Jose Mourinho). It will start with a few grumblings from the people who always turn on everyone at the drop of a hat, and will slowly build to a reasonable percentage of fans who no longer like you, possibly for a non-football reason. If victories still don’t come at the frequency and quality as that desired by unreasonable and unrealistic fans, the percentage who dislike you will grow and grow until you’re forced to leave and start the process all over again somewhere else, hopefully picking yourself up from the crushing way in which our club discards people.
Regardless of anything else, it’s fascinating to watch. I’m intrigued by people like Klopp and I think if there were more people like him leading countries the world would be a much better place to live than it is. As for the rest of us, it will be interesting to see how long this journey continues before the tide starts to turn on him. In my opinion we should all work harder to remove our biases and preconceived ideas from any judgment we make of other humans (football managers or otherwise), whether that means giving someone we don’t like the benefit of the doubt or criticising someone we do like for doing something unreasonable. The problem is that it’s difficult to remove our biases when we don’t know we have them in the first place.
As for Jürgen, I know that I, for one, will keep giving him the benefit of the doubt for a good while longer even if he’s using terrible excuses for home draws and criticising the crowd.
But that’s mainly because I’m sexually attracted to him.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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I always think back to Klopp’s first presser and a comment along the lines of “if I cannot win titles (assume he means trophies generally) in England I may as well go and manage in Switzerland or somewhere”.
Its stuck with me as I always have had the feeling that it would come back to become a stick to beat him with…but as yet, no sign of that. I think that, apart from our perception of Klopp, there is an underlying feeling that we are getting better, that we can see progress, see that Klopp is still learning the very unsubtle nuances of English football and we’ll get there.
But, how long that lasts for is anyone’s guess.
Copey I am usually a massive fan of your writing and although I don’t necessarily disagree with what you say here, I have to agree with Klopp on the state of the pitch being some factor? I turned to my mate before half time and said the same thing. It was really slowing us down. I have played at a good level and by the sound of it so has Ben Jonno, and he agrees how difficult it is playing on a slow, dry pitch.
Loads of contributors lambasted the state of the pitch at Hull and agreed that it paid a part in losing, so why can’t this?
But I do agree with you in that if Hodgson or Rogers had said it, then they would have been lynched.
Maybe I’m ill-informed, but wouldn’t a dry pitch speed up play rather than slow it? Similar to a dry putting green in golf?
No, mate. The golf greens are cut so short that they run firm. Football pitches aren’t the same. There is a huge difference in a watered pitch and a dry one. There’s nothing worse than playing amateur football in the middle of summer on dry, hard pitches.
One thing that is certain – we desperately need our pitch replaced. Yes, it’s scheduled to be done this summer but we’ve heard that before. Who knows, maybe if it had been in perfect condition for the 13/14 season (when it was already overdue for replacement), Gerrard may have kept his footing.
My thoughts are that it really wasn’t a valid excuse for what happened. But, even if it was, why did he feel the need to say it at all? Was it a case of trying to turn away the attention from himself and/or the players? If so, then it was a pretty silly thing to say given how it would be interpreted (but maybe that was his intention!).
Either way, it doesn’t disguise the fact that he got his team selection wrong (in my view) and in the process lost a little bit of that “benefit of the doubt” factor.
It’s all about perception. If we find the slightest hint that the club is progressing then the manager will be fine. As soon as you start going backwards the knives come out. You’re right about charisma but remember, it’s charisma if you’re winning, bullshit when you’re not. We live in Neoliberal times and it’s survival of the fittest. It’s the same for the players. Imagine how good Aspas was growing up. Yet, because he took a wank corner at an important time he’s ridiculed as a joke and a failure. He was shit but the corner is now our perception of him. When Rodgers team went downhill everything he said thereafter grated on us. When we were top of the league and he said the same things we smiled at his gibberish. Later it made us angry. P.s I’ve always felt ‘fraud’ related to what he said. He was very polished and a little manufactured. Like he’d read 100 motivational speeches that centred on how to deliver the speech, words to use, the way to move the hands to accentuate the point etc. I think he probably did back it up with some substance but if someone doesn’t believe he did then talking a good game aint gonna cut it. Anyway, that’s what I feel is meant by fraud. That he blagged/bamboozled the owners with words and charm. Going back to perception, if Klopp rode around Liverpool in full leathers on a Harley people would say we’ve got the coolest manager in the world. Ayre doing it was the final nail in his coffin. That’s because we perceive them differently. I mean, let’s face it, he has a hobby. It’s actually quite a good hobby having a bike. Why was he ridiculed? It’s because perception is made up of many things but I think success and charisma are the main factors. The Harley incident could be seem as flamboyant or dour depending who the rider is.
The fact we’re more than in the conversation for top 4 in May means we’ve progressed come what may. We’ve got the added hope that we know we’ll have a better squad next year. Probably the Champions League too. Everything feels like we’re progressing to me and so I didn’t bat an eyelid at the pitch claim. I didn’t even process it.
Nice article Paul, but not so sure that the pitch really caused the issues (as Jurgen points out) that would have kept us from winning.
Since you brought up Brendan Rodgers to prove your point, then I suggest that you think about the days after that nearly-won season.
Rodgers undid himself and his good work by all the tabloid rubbish stuff he was part of (personal life), big photo of himself in his living room, names in envelopes, transfer nonsense, and other issues that did not work for him, especially after Suarez was sold and there was no replacement.
Not saying that nobody fucks up, but he didn’t think about the caliber of individuals who were there before him who had achieved significantly, like Rafa, Shanks, Paisley, the King, GH, Sounness. They were all leaders on and off the pitch; they weren’t perfect either, but they led and earned the respect first.
Brendan needed to understand that off the pitch stuff too. This I think what really caused him to lose credibility, and opened him up to the fans to turn on him as we lost games, and in the manner we lost them. All that stuff about his teeth, fraud, etc, was going to come up as he lost respect.
I think Klopp has had better PR tactics than Brendan, and that at the end of the day has helped him so far. He also has charisma and seems like a likable guy. I thought Brendan was likable guy, I didn’t hate him, but I lost respect for him after he started throwing players under the bus. It’s his defensive reaction due to his inexperience.
As for Klopp’s excuses about the pitch, or yelling at the fourth official that brings no consequence, etc, I am still wondering about:
– Why Klopp hasn’t taken chances like playing Moreno in an attacking role who offers pace (though without a brain) and unpredictability than Milner’s predictable, slow game?
– Not slagging Milner, but what if he was in Mane’s position since he is one of the most industrious players and would change things?
– Why not move Coutinho to the middle, and Origi to the left?
– And why not change the game with subs when needed, versus waiting for the 75th minute mark or whatever rigid approach he has?
Klopp talking about the pitch, etc does bother me as we’ve all seen LFC players in the club’s playing history to graft out a win on shit conditioned pitches – they had no excuses.
I hope Klopp wins the league and/or Champions League in his time at the club, otherwise I fear no matter how good or dry the pitch is next time, it will not save him from being seen as another failure in the hot seat at LFC.
I agree with Sash’s analysis of the Brendan Rodgers end , and I would add that his obvious ignorance of how to play in Europe , particularly when you’re Liverpool was the absolute last straw. As for Klopp , if he can figure out how to get the cathedral at Anfield and the team on the pitch all singing in tune and in time , he will join our illustrious past managers as legend . The cups will come
Most people are giving Klopp the benefit of the doubt not because he is really likeable but because this unbelievably ordinary bunch of players have probably overachieved last season by getting to two cup finals and this season by still being in the champions league places. We probably would be overachieving even a little bit more if he wasn’t so stubborn as not making substitutions or criminally not adding to a short on quality and numbers squad in January. Believe me the knives will rightly be out next season if he doesn’t secure one of the big trophies. No more facile excuses!
None other than the great Bob Paisley once moaned about the state of the Anfield pitch in 1982 when a goal bound Ian Rush effort stuck in the mud inches from the line during a 1-0 defeat to Brighton. At that time the surface was very waterlogged for a good few months of that season and he had complained about it a number of times. I guess the difference is we won the league that season and you can make excuses galore.
A bit like when Ferguson moaned about the colour of Utd’s away kit during a hammering at coincidentally Southampton.
As long as you go on and do the business and if we qualify for the Champions league this will be all be forgotten but if we don’t……
Managers have used the state of the pitch as a get-out since football began.
It really isn’t important.
Enjoyable & interesting article, but:
Klopp was spot on about the pitch on Sunday. In the midfield third it looked like passes were being made on Velcro.
Klopp HAS come in for some pretty vitriolic criticism in the last few months (due to ignorance over the fact that he hugely over-achieved in the first half of the season with an average squad – victim of his own success to an extent). His undoubted charisma, honesty and humility which the article claims have protected him from criticism have actually made him more vulnerable to it; he makes himself the target because of his loyalty to his players; there are also those out there who love ripping into a ‘nice guy’.
Rodgers ultimately cared more about himself than his team or the club. Klopp’s history at Mainz and Dortmund was exactly the opposite. He stayed for as long as he felt he was the best option for the club; as soon as he realised he wasn’t, he stepped aside. Let’s hope it’s several years before he feels that way about LFC.