Liverpool: Jürgen Klopp Has Shown Glimpses Of Greatness - But He Shouldn't Be Immune To Criticism | The Anfield Wrap

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 27, 2017: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

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.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 19, 2016: Liverpool's Sadio Mane sees his shot blocked by Southampton's Virgil Van Dijk during the FA Premier League match at St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

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.

Soccer - Bill Shankly In His Office

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.

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