AT some point between the advent of the Premier League and today, it was decided that footballers in England’s top division weren’t human. Obviously they’re human in the sense that they’re made of flesh and blood, yet somehow they’ve ceased to be seen and judged in the same way as you or I.
As with most things, a lot of that has been influenced by the mainstream media. The tabloids use words, phrases and headlines that desensitise us from the more outrageous claims and remarks that are out there and over the years the unacceptable has slowly become the norm. You can see it in the way certain people use the word ‘cockroaches’ to talk about others, or how big-gobs for hire tell us that we need to ‘man up’ instead of talking about our feelings.
Some of you may be wondering what the hell any of this has got to do with Liverpool Football Club and it would be an entirely fair question. The truth is that I couldn’t help thinking about the way we judge footballers when I saw a piece from the BBC comparing Brendan Rodgers and Jürgen Klopp’s record. Basically whoever wrote the piece had noted that, after 65 games, Rodgers and Klopp had both gained 117 points thanks to 33 wins, 18 draws and 14 losses. They went on to say that Rodgers won his 66th game while Klopp drew his against Southampton at the weekend.
The suggestion is clear: Klopp isn’t an improvement on the Northern Irishman, but is it a fair comparison? Are the numbers enough to suggest that not much has changed between the two managers? Most importantly, is it a stick to beat the German with, as some seem to be suggesting?
Rodgers arrived at Liverpool in June of 2012, becoming manager in time for the 2012-13 campaign. That means that the figure of 66 games (if you include his win and Klopp’s draw at the weekend) took in the 38 games of that season as well as the first 28 games of the 2013-2014 campaign. For a brief second I’m not even going to mention the players that the two managers had available to them, instead concentrating simply on the numbers.
In 2012-13 Rodgers helped Liverpool rack up 61 points, finishing seventh. We got knocked out of the FA Cup and League Cup in the fourth round of each, as well as departing the Europa League at the last 32 stage. In Klopp’s first partial season we finished in eighth on 60 points in the league, got knocked out in round four of the FA Cup but made the final of both the League Cup and the Europa League. For my money, one point difference in the league combined with a same stage exit in the FA Cup and two cup finals means that Klopp had a better first season than Rodgers. Even more impressive when you consider he only had two-thirds of a campaign to do it in and no pre-season to get to know his players and bring in some of his own recruits.
The second 28 games that we’re counting the points from for Rodgers’ first 66 came during the 2013-14 season. That is the year that we amassed our second-best points total of the Premier League era. It is the season, I’m sure you don’t need reminding, that we nearly won the league. It’s the year we scored over 100 goals and played some of the best football that Anfield had seen since the 1980s. This piece is not knocking Rodgers at all precisely because of just how good we were under him in 2013-14, for which the manager deserves an enormous amount of credit.
A big part of the reason why we were as good as we were that year was a man named Luis Suarez. Having been an OK but hardly lethal player the season before, the Uruguayan developed under Rodgers’ training and became one of the best players in the world. That he was playing alongside a fit, firing and lethal Daniel Sturridge certainly didn’t harm our chances of success. Nor did the re-invention of Steven Gerrard as a deep-lying playmaker, breaking up opposition attacks and putting us on the front-foot immediately. Even the least observant will have noticed that Klopp hasn’t been able to turn to Suarez, Gerrard or even Sturridge during his second season in charge.
I like Rodgers a lot and agree with every word of Ben Johnson’s recent piece about him on The Anfield Wrap. I take nothing away from his management at all when I say this, but would a manager in his second season at a club prefer to work with Suarez, a fit Sturridge and a re-invigorated Gerrard, or Divock Origi who’s still learning the ropes, Sturridge who’s lost his pace and a chronically injured Jordan Henderson? That Klopp managed the same number of points as Rodgers after 65 games isn’t a stick to beat him with, it should be used to sing his praises.
What’s all that got to do with us not seeing footballers as humans? Well, I think we forget how long it takes managers to turn the ship around when they arrive at a club. Some believe that change should be instant, that a manager can come in, have a quick word with the players and they’ll go out and batter everyone just because they’ve been told to. It’s the Big Brother/X-Factor generation as a football fan, wanting everything right now and not understanding that success based on talent takes a while to come by.
Rodgers arrived to take over a team that had reached two cup finals, winning one and narrowly missing out on the other. The league form wasn’t great, but a winning mentality had been established and players like Suarez had had time to settle at the club and get a taste of what it was like to lift some silverware. Klopp came in at a time when the previous season had ended with a disappointing loss to Aston Villa in the FA Cup and a disgraceful capitulation away to Stoke. He arrived to find a dressing room that was disillusioned and fractured, failing to get any kind of rhythm together and struggling to beat Carlisle at Anfield in the cup.
Robots could be reprogrammed, turned off and on again and asked to recalibrate to their current situation. Human beings don’t work quite like that, as anyone who’s been in a difficult work environment will tell you. We might have been persuaded by the less reputable tabloids that the money they earn means that they don’t suffer in the same way as the rest of us, but that’s simply not true. Rodgers took a team that was playing well at some points and not at others and nurtured it, managed it well and turned it into a winning machine. Klopp took over a side that had forgotten what it was to win and have fun on a football pitch and did his best to pick it back up.
The idea of comparing any two managers’ record after a certain number of games is faintly ridiculous, with important factors such as players in the squad and their relative fitness ignored for convenience.
To suggest that Klopp deserves criticism for managing us to two points less than Rodgers did, when the latter was working with the best attacking side Liverpool had seen for 30 years, is preposterous to say the least.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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In reality there are simply too many variables in football to make these kind of comparisons anything more than, at best, a mildly interesting, but more likely irritating footnote to any conversation held with a “bloke down the pub”. You know the sort – watch Sky Sports, read the tabloids and twitter and heh presto, recites it word for word as statement of fact with no rationale, no logic to the argument or point.
Its like the “haven’t won at Anfield since 1963” or whatever that Sky like to roll out…completely missing the fact the last time X played there was 1964!!
Strange logic. Where were Sturridge, Sterling and Hendo before his arrival? Would another manager have trusted Sterling as much as he did? Suarez was already a very good striker but surely not a world class one. Just read his biography. He also deserves the credit for Stevie’s reinvention. I mean, he nearly won the league with a Flafu-Skrtel-Kolo-Cissokho back four. Cissokho, ffs…
Of course it’s ridiculous, I mean, when did Klopp ever win the SPL title eh, or the Scottish league cup? Brendan’s a winner, and he gives good envelope…. :)
Rodgers wasn’t sacked because of his first 66 games in charge. He had a better second half of his first season and his second season was fantastic. He did pretty well in that period, all told, so Klopp’s doing pretty well to match him.
I like Brendan, he’s a bit daft sometimes but I always found him a lot more bearable than many Premier league managers, I’m thinking Mourinho, Allardyce, Pulis, Hughes, AvB (Aliens vs Bredator) and many others. He did very well for us I think, for eighteen months or so. However, the revisionism can work both ways. Many seek to downplay his influence on the 13/14′ season, I don’t, I believe he implemented an utterly brilliant attacking style during that time, albeit a little unbalanced and hamstrung by defensive neglect. However, in acknowledging this it is also important to remember just how truly AWFUL 14/15′ was. We were so dull to watch and had so little going on up front it was soul destroying. Brendan supporters can point to mitigating circumstances such as the transfer committee’s ineffective policies, or the beginning of Daniel Sturridge’s injury problems at LFC, and fair play, it was a tough time to be manage with the hangover of the season before. We did rally and go on a decent run at one stage but even then the football was effective rather than scintillating. The one thing that I will always remember though is the run-in that year. The losses to United and then a shocking Villa at Wembley, the shameful capitulation at home to Palace and then the absolute nadir, 6-1 at Stoke, SIX-ONE, not at City, or Chelsea, or away to Madrid, to Stoke. Five nil….at HALF TIME!! As I said, I like Brendan and I believe he will have a very good career but that Stoke game just exposed his limitations for me, not just in footballing terms, but in leadership ones. Klopp makes mistakes but there is a charisma and quality about him that makes players want to do better for him. That is a rare thing I think, and the reason why I believe he is the perfect manager for us at this time.
Comparing them is pointless, the Liverpool FC manager today is Jurgen Klopp, get behind him and up the Red Men!!!!
So many elements of this discussion are not reflected in the numbers… Look at LFC’s record against the top six under Klopp versus under BR. In big games I trust Klopp and the team now. Under Brendan it was more about hope. Of the two I like trust much better than hope.
You trust Klopp when it comes to the top 6. What about the other 13?
top 6 stats? if they are better under Klopp but overall Rodgers and Klopp are level – then surely Brendan is yer man for the bottom half of the table?
You trust Klopp when it comes to the top 6. Tell us how you feel when we play against the other 13.
we’re still on pretty much 2 PPG agst the bottom 13…
‘Liverpool: Why Comparing Jürgen Klopp And Brendan Rodgers’ Records Is Ridiculous’
1,200 words comparing their records follow.
It’s alright saying we shouldn’t judge Klopp against Rogers. BUT Liverpool have been waiting for over 18 years for a league title, how much longer must they wait? Only asking