LAST Thursday the transfer window closed, or “slammed shut” if you prefer to use Sky’s exaggerated term (I’m not sure that a deadline can “slam” as such), with Liverpool making some pretty decent purchases in the allotted time.
The signing of Mo Salah from Roma is undoubtedly the best piece of business and though many considered £34million to be a tad high at the time, the market inflated over the subsequent weeks to such an extent that he now looks a steal. The Egyptian has already scored two league goals and this is encouraging in itself as it usually takes a player time to settle. He certainly doesn’t want for confidence, as Hector Bellerin will attest.
Dom Solanke, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Andy Robertson and the eventual arrival of Naby Keita are all strong additions but, once again the defence – Robertson aside – has been overlooked.
We all know what happened here. We seemingly had the only man in the world good enough to play centre back for Liverpool in our pocket, but managed to fuck it up. Though it was clear that Southampton were as solid in their resolve as we were with Coutinho, Jürgen Klopp decided that it was Virgil or no one and took the gamble of no injuries to the main centre backs till January. There’s the possibility of Emre Can returning to the back four should Ragnar Klavan or Joe Gomez join Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren in the medical centre. Given our injury record and luck, this is not outside the realms of possibility.
Remember that Simpsons episode where Mr Burns creates a baseball team made up of ringers for a bet with a fellow energy magnate? He tells his ‘lickspittle’:
“Smithers, there’s no way I can lose this bet unless, of course, my nine all stars fall victim to nine separate misfortunes and are unable to play tomorrow. But that will never happen. Three misfortunes, that’s possible. Seven misfortunes, there’s an outside chance, but nine misfortunes – I’d like to see that.”
We’re three sprained ankles away from Emre at centre half.
It’s a risky strategy and although our defence isn’t anywhere near as bad as some think, it’s certainly susceptible to the odd breakdown as was demonstrated last month at Vicarage Road. True, we’ve got enough firepower to sort things out at the other end of the pitch, but that’s not a sustainable strategy to securing a very winnable league title. It would be less frustrating if we were miles behind our rivals, but this isn’t the case. Liverpool have a very real chance of winning it this season. So why take the risk?
Jürgen speaks of buying only “Plan A” players and won’t make do with short termism. Again, this is a gamble.
But it’s not that which I want to discuss. It’s the reaction to any perceived criticism of the manager such as the above. It both confuses and concerns me.
During the hours following Jim White’s favourite day of the year, many Reds took to social media to announce their disappointment/disgust at the lack of van Dijk or alternatives. This went on for a day or so before the path led us to a familiar “stop moaning and get behind the team” and “trust Klopp” road. The same thing tends to happen following a defeat or poor performance. Anger ultimately leads to acceptance which in turn becomes “stop moaning” and, almost inevitably, to the worst words in fandom, “these so-called fans”.
The very idea that you’re not a true fan if you hold a certain view or stray away from a commonly held belief is infuriating. They might as well shout “HERETIC!” and “NON BELIEVER!” and call for some Spanish Inquisition-like torture equipment or a trip to George Orwell’s “Ministry of Love” to keep the red mind pure.
An extension of this is the tedious “you think you know more than the manager” retort. No one is saying that. Klopp knows more than me about football. There’s no argument there, but that suggests that he knows everything about the game and is incapable of errors. All managers, even the greatest ever, make them and it’s alright to point that out. I believe that Jürgen has made one here by not bolstering the centre of defence with one or two signings.
Football fans are always going to argue and Liverpool are always closer to fan civil war than most. Even when we’re doing well, we like a fight. As Anfield Wrap columnist Mike Nevin once said, no one wants to admit it, but Liverpool fans hate each other. They just do. We love a faction. The whole wool/out of towners/scousers argument, those who think we’re moving away from what the club means to us (usually made by dinosaurs like me) and the whole commercialism debate are all major bones of contention among the masses. This is what makes the idea of a “LFC family” so laughable. Unless it refers to the amount of time most families hold grudges and bicker among each other, then they might be onto something.
But this “Jürgen can do no wrong” feeling has gone even further of late.
Yesterday a member of the The Anfield Wrap’s subscriber-only Facebook group posed this question.
“Something for the older fellas who were there at the time. Say we manage to win the league while we’ve got Klopp. Do you reckon he’ll be as worshipped as Shanks was?”
It’s a fair question and though I’m not old enough to have seen his side play, the club were still reaping the rewards of Bill Shankly’s years of service when I first started going to the match. He died two months before my first game and you could still feel his presence about the place. Taking the club from its dilapidated pitch and stadium through to the kit change to cups, titles and European finals in seven years is the single greatest achievement made by one man in the history of this club. It may annoy people at times, but without him we’d be – and I’ve no idea why they leap to mind – no bigger than, say, Bolton Wanderers or Sheffield United.
While it’s hardly Klopp’s fault, there’s no one who can match up – other than possibly the lads who helped him (I’d add Ronnie Moran, personally) – so I was surprised that many said that, yes, they would consider him to be as equally worshipped if he brought in a title. One even acknowledged that he would still be behind Bill in the pecking order but suggested a statue. Each to their own, of course.
It just made me think about how we worship managers to the point of zealotry despite a lack of trophies. This is not to say that we should not get behind them and we all have our own version of support, but ours is a fan base which goes way above that level. This isn’t restricted solely to the charismatic German. At Brendan Rodgers’ first press conference one fan stated that it could have been Shankly talking with a Northern Irish accent. Never mind not winning a trophy, the poor man hadn’t even seen his team kick a ball in anger at that point and yet he was the new Shankly.
When we commit, we commit early and heavily. Too heavily.
What’s wrong with that exactly? We love our managers (excluding the obvious one) and that’s how it should be. Well, firstly, it’s unfair on the manager himself. How the hell do you live up to that sort of billing? Klopp may have reached two finals, but that’s not the same as winning them so let’s just hold off on this “Shanklification” for a while and accept that criticism is occasionally fair and that it doesn’t make anyone a lesser fan should they choose to air it.
For the record, I’m a big fan of Jürgen and he’s one of the few managers around with whom I’d like a pint. He’s an interesting man and it would be time well spent (though certainly for me rather than him). He’s going to do good things here, but he’s not infallible. It reminds me of this exchange from Life of Brian:
“I am NOT the Messiah!”
“I say you are Lord, and I should know. I’ve followed a few.”
And that’s just it. “Shanklification” makes valid criticism redundant. Instead, any barbs are aimed at the owners which, in turn, creates factions of an Fenway Sports Group in/out nature rather than head scratching on the wisdom of going into the next three months with Klavan and Gomez as backup. I have a foot in both camps of the FSG discussion. I think they’d spend if given the opportunity, but are pretty amateurish at the best of times.
Anyway, supporting the manager is great and laudable. Suggesting that we build him a statue before he’s really done anything is not.
For more reaction to Liverpool’s summer transfer business, SUBSCRIBE to TAW Player for just a fiver a month. A subscription also gives you access to our podcast archive – here are some of the highlights so far…
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
Like The Anfield Wrap on Facebook
You’ve touched on something here and it’s the wider point about our fanbase. Lets face it, some of our fans are cringey and weird. Have you seen the poetry on RAWK? I have and I can’t unsee it.
I think Klopp is the best appointment we’ve made since Kenny. It’s almost like if you had to genetically engineer a perfect Liverpool manager, he’d be what you ended up with. But he’s not earned some of the odd adulation he’s received yet. When he wins a league and maybe a European Cup then it’s fully earned. Until then we should get behind him, sing his name but maybe ease up on the pressure and weirdness.
One of the many reasons why (I think) we haven’t won the league is the total desperation to win the league. If we were a little bit more relaxed as a fan base, I reckon we could’ve won another one by now. We’re a fickle and mental bunch. Imagine being 18 years old on the pitch and you make a mistake? We’ve seen good players broken by the pressure at Anfield and one of the good things about Klopp is he’s acknowledged that and he’s gradually remedying it. It took Fergie a few years to build a side after “they” went years without a league trophy and we need a similar approach. Without a City/Chelsea cash injection it’s probably the only way you can do it.
In short; things are good at the moment but we’re all a bit weird and need to relax.
I totally agree with your assessment. I had to leave the subscribers Facebook group because of abuse when I asked a question about a transfer rumour. The voice given today by social media makes it possible to see the ‘extreme’ view as populist.And the extremists abuse the rest.
Great writing and fully agree we must be able to discuss openly . One difference of opinion you state We love our manager excluding the obvious one ? You mean two: Souness for just dismantling all that was good about the club and Woy for wasting 7 months of our clubs time !! The rest I would go into battle for …
Interesting as ever Karl.
The Fsg out mob, argument falls down when you realise they brought in Klopp in the first place and have added to the capacity of the ground. (trying to move the club forward)
The Fsg in mob, argument falls down when you realise we havent won much with them at the helm and certainly no big trophies…. making profit and making errors in transfer windows etc.
Both Fsg and Klopp are on trial in the next 18 months.
For both, this is the critical time. IMO.
The club looks set for a promising future…
For me it feels like stage one is complete for Klopp and FSG….. CL footy, attacking footy with real style, transfer window not as bad as it was at the start of FSG’s reign and players turning down big clubs to want to come here again.
Recruitment and our young stars look good.
If stage three is winning major trophies on a regular basis then all that’s left is stage 2.
That’s normally when it all falls apart!!
I don’t get that feeling this time though.
Stage 2 is where we are at
Beat Man city on Saturday and stage 2 becomes easier with every game
Still think our defence will cost us winning anything this season
Why did we sell Sakho when we didn’t get Van Dyke
This will be the big mistake made
Hope we can get vvd in January
If we are pushing for the title come January
VVDS acquisition will be the one that finally brings the title back to Anfield after such a long time
No manager should ever be exempt from criticism and Klopp himself has been honest from day one. Remember his first week or so, reminding everybody he’s “not a genius” and needs others to help him succeed. He’s as honest as they come. As for the point on adulation, I think that’s another point the man himself would agree with. He doesn’t even like his name being chanted.
I totally understand Klopp’s long-termism with regards to centre-backs. After all, you don’t want to plan a defense around van Dijk and end up with Craig Dawson. Equally, however, one centre-back signing, someone like de Vrij perhaps, would have made things look a lot healthier back there.
If we get to January with the current lads holding the line and can get van Dijk, it’ll look like a phenomenal game of brinksmanship, but if not, as the article suggests, the risk will have backfired.
Firstly. Roger Simpson, like so many others you are wrong. That squad needed updating. It wa the speed he did it which was wrong. He could have been the one that kept the boot room going given time. – controversial I know!
What I didn’t get about Klopp’s assurances that he only wanted plan A, was that he basically said any one in the reserves/ U23’s was better than ANYONE else out here – as he might have to play thme at some point
In my opinion, this was a bit mad!
I agree that of course Klopp can be criticized. But he obviously has a philosophy that he is implementing, and he feels he doesn’t need a “plan B” center back at this stage. VVD is definitely back in play in January, and if there is a “three sprained ankles” type scenario then we can limp along with Can as make-shift CB (personally I think he’d be good – much better than Lucas), and then if we can’t get VVD, implement plan B. Don’t expect any CB to seamlessly fit into Team-Klopp’s system, they will have to adapt to being exposed with an extremely high line, marauding full backs up field and goal-keepers with dodgy distribution – hence VVD. The system is a work in progress and is improving – 6/7 clean sheets in the league.
Most of the criticism is premature – maybe not according to the impatient English standard.
Of course criticise him. But give the people an honest chance. Many of you were so happy when Klopp arrived, but didn’t know f’all about him: Defence? Was never his strong side; go for Rafa. Splashing out cash? Not his style. – Actually he took the gamble even a step further at Dortmund and paired two completely inexperienced kids as CB’s. Their names: Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic. Combine that with an unknown Polish striker who totally flopped in his first season – you know whom I talking about.
My point is: Patience. It is not that LFC were collecting trophies season in and out before Klopp arrived. It just takes a while for victory and glory to return.
Sour_Krout, best response and totally agree.
I totally support his “player I want and no other” stance. Easy to forget how problematic and costly the wrong player can be. Many signing are most definitely not better than nothing – they clog up the squad and stop us getting the players we really need.
Of course signing no centre back is a gamble. So is signing one you’re not sure about and so probably missing out on the one you really want later. Klopp had to choose between gambles (that’s what football management is all about) and, for my money, he took the right option.
I’m surprised that older fans promote the ‘Shanklyism’ concept[what a terrible term which he would have hated]. I was a fan at 14 in 1961 and all managers since have had strengths and weaknesses. Shankly created a model for change and success….but was not perfect. Just review the match reports and articles on lfchistory.net. He kept stars too long and eventually had to let them go and rebuild a young side around new talent like Heighway and Keegan. I’ve been reviewing the actual history of these times recently and today there is too much mythology around him. There should be no myths about managers. Klopp is a talented and aware modern manager and reflecting/comparing him with a Shankly model is not valid. Shankly’s actions are a model that was a valid route to success. It involved coaching and developing attitudes like commitment to the fans. Klopp is doing the same but the BIG difference is the fan base. Unrealistic expectations? Definitely. And the extremism today gets too big a voice. BTW just read an article in which Shankly criticised fans slow handicapping the players for not ‘attacking’ all-the -time. He said it was probably ‘Evertonians’ sneaking in at half-time as real fans wouldn’t do that. Reading Ian Salmons book….They Say Our Days Our Numbered’ puts Klopps attempts [step-by-step] into place. As for VVD…….Remember Bill Shankly only wanted one centre half and one centre forward to build his Champions and he would not have gone for second best. It is the manager role to get the players he believes will succeed, and we will judge them and him at the end of the Season.Not now.
Good article, Karl.
Here’ a quick correction for those who misunderstood Klopp’s Plan A comments last month. What he meant was: anyone who comes in is plan A. They won’t be signing plan B players, because who the hell wants to be considered as a “plan B signing”. That was the simple gist of what he said. Not that he doesn’t want or have plans B, C or D. And, to give more reason to stop talking about bleeding plans, he also alluded that the whole idea of having separate plans is way too simplistic a view of how to approach managing a team and a game of football.
So for starters, if we want to have our critisism taken seriously, let’s quit the lazy narratives and have some depth to them. Not a critisism of this article, just a general observation on the matter of exchanging views and wanting opposing ones to be taken into consideration also.
Agree about the desire for us to break everything into two or more factions. I stopped following the posts from the Facebook subscribers group after I realised it was actually causing me to feel depressed whenever I got a notification. Lots of bickering, and nobody willing to allow that the other point may be valid and also not what they believe. Internet arguments eh?
I will say I adore Klopp, but that’s because he’s the first genuinely charismatic manager that I’ve got to see. Watching him celebrate goals is almost the next best thing after watching the lads on pitch score them. He has a powerful charisma. It was the same effect as watching Suarez, I used to see him do some things on the pitch and just laugh at the sheer audacity and brilliance.
Klopp will merit ‘Shanklification’ if he succeeds in generating an era of success at the club. Nothing else will confer that status on him. I think we need to realise as fans that he’s building, and while it’s 27/28 years for us, it’s only his second full season. Rome wasn’t built in a day, etc.
Dalglish once said “football is about opinions”…but what would he know about footy or the club.
These comments are full of superfan whoppers.