WE all needed that, Reds, didn’t we?
It’s typical Liverpool to go from having no one on the end of gilt-edged chances for weeks on end to having players literally running into each other to put the ball in the net and not being able to decide which of them actually scored the goal.
That one moment feels like it sums up a lifetime of watching different variations of this football team.
A side going from the epitome of frustration to the sublime levels of a record-equalling away victory in European football within the space of a few days. From players looking bereft of confidence in front of goal to playing the type of football that the highlights packages shown around Europe last night will have supporters of other teams looking out for our results in the coming weeks. It would be interesting to get a few snapshots of the reactions around the continent to that result. No doubt it raised a few eyebrows at the very least.
And, at the heart of it all, is our beloved and recently under pressure manager, Jürgen Klopp. Watching his post-match interviews made me wonder what it must be like for an elite-level manager of a club like Liverpool, with the scrutiny of hundreds of millions of supporters worldwide analysing every word you say and every move you make, despite not knowing what’s happening behind the scenes or what you’re actually trying to achieve.
I often reference a story from a few years ago when Rafa Benitez was apparently asked to be a pundit for an international tournament during the summer and said that he would do it provided that he was permitted to speak to every player before each game and ask them what their instructions for the match were. After all, how could he possibly comment on the job they had done if he didn’t know what they’d been asked to do? Not surprisingly, he wasn’t given that access and didn’t do the punditry. But those little details don’t stop the rest of us tearing apart every little thing without a clue what is actually meant to be happening.
In recent weeks it’s been discussed and written about at length how it’s become apparent that Klopp has changed his style of play to suit the long English season and the tough winter without a break, diminishing his side’s counter-pressing in favour of a more subdued style, the stats clearly, we thought, supporting that theory. Then in one sentence uttered after the final whistle yesterday he put into doubt everything we’ve been discussing when he said that he loved the counter-pressing more than anything else in the performance and it was what he’s been waiting for.
So, all of a sudden, our reading of the start of the season is thrown into doubt and we start to look at things from a different perspective. Maybe the loss of Adam Lallana has had a bigger impact on what we want to do as a team than even his most ardent of fans would have thought. Maybe, for whatever reason, the lads on the pitch have just not clicked into what the coaching staff have been asking of them.
But, then again, are we to believe everything that a manager says to the public before or after a match? We recorded another brilliant show with Damian Hughes this week that is now out on TAW Player, in which we discussed a wide variety of points surrounding the team’s recent struggles and the possible reasons for them. If you haven’t listened to the previous shows with Damian I’d recommend strongly that you do, they give a fascinating insight into the psychological aspects of sport which are still, amazingly, so often overlooked by the mainstream media and many fans.
Something we discussed in the latest show which is interesting in the context of last night’s demolition, were Jürgen’s comments after the United game at the weekend in which he said that as manager of Liverpool he could never play in the same way that Jose Mourinho did at Anfield on Saturday.
I think, romantically, many of us would have immediately agreed with that. Discussing that point with Damian, though, brought an entirely different immediate reaction. His very first point was that from afar, his impression of Liverpool historically was of a team that would get a result in whatever style most suited the relevant circumstances, and a strong defensive performance (especially away from home) was something he had always associated with The Reds.
It brought to my mind comments made to me years ago by my father-in-law. One of his favourite lines was to tell me that Liverpool didn’t so much rampage around Europe destroying all that went before them in the olden days, more that they bored teams to death to get a 0-0 draw or sneak a goal then take a 1-0 victory home. He always reminded me that defenders could give the ball back to their goalkeeper back then, and the goalie could pick it up and hold onto it for as long as he wanted.
My favourite part of those history lessons though, was that there wasn’t the media coverage back then that there is now, so Bill Shankly would just have one Liverpool Echo reporter on the plane with the team and, if they wanted to come on the next trip, they’d be “encouraged” to give a favourable writeup of the performance, hence the “Marauding Reds” story beginning, with the Echo’s coverage, after all, being the way in which most Liverpool fans would hear about the game.
Now, I’m sure that there are many holes in those anecdotes from my father-in-law as there are in all old stories told by scousers which contain at least a pinch of artistic licence, but it’s all interesting in the context of Jürgen saying that he couldn’t put in a wholly defensive performance as Liverpool manager. Even as he said it, images of Juventus away in 2005 sprung to my mind, with a Benitez masterclass frustrating the life out of the Italians to protect our 2-1 lead from the first leg, a 0-0 draw securing our place in the two-legged semi final which saw another two clean sheets. The rest, as they say, is history.
In my adult life as a football supporter, I’m more used to watching Liverpool be pragmatic to win trophies than I am to seeing flamboyant attacking football week after week which, in truth, I’ve only really seen fleetingly under Brendan Rodgers and Klopp, with my memories not stretching back far enough to remember the late 1980s team which, in itself, was apparently a more dynamic version of Liverpool than had gone before.
In all fairness, Klopp might simply have made those comments to put some pressure on Mourinho within the walls of Old Trafford. The fact of the matter is we’ll probably never know. What would be more interesting to know would be whether Jürgen truly believes that the manager of Liverpool isn’t permitted to play in such a defensive manner.
I saw a poll of United fans after the match in which 31 per cent said that they were happy with Mourinho’s approach because the result justified the means. That’s 31 per cent of respondents who are more used to winning trophies in recent years than us, with a team this season already challenging at the very top of the league. I wonder what a poll of Liverpool supporters would say in similar circumstances.
Perhaps Klopp is right. In this modern era of social media kneejerkery, demands for instant gratification and millions of people feeling entitled to being entertained, maybe the manager of Liverpool FC couldn’t put in such a performance.
It’s certain that most of us prefer a 7-0, stress-free walloping of our opponents than the usual performances that push our collective blood pressure to dangerous levels. But I have to say that the odd backs-to-the-wall, smash-and-grab win feels like it’s in the DNA of this club and, certainly, in the muscle memory of most Liverpool supporters I know of my age and above. It’s probably why many of us struggle so much with the concept of a team not having an out-and-out defensive midfielder to help out the centre backs.
Klopp has demonstrated previously that he’s able to overcome superior teams using his aggressive counter-pressing tactics, so perhaps he doesn’t see the need for a backs-to-the-wall performance at any stage. Hopefully, though, after last night we’ll see this season how we match up against the very best in Europe again by getting through to the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time in a long time.
If Jürgen is able to mastermind the types of counter-pressing masterclasses that we saw against our domestic rivals last season then I’m sure none of us will be complaining but, just in case, I might call round to his house before then and drop in videos of the best of Gerard Houllier and Benitez to let him know that lots of us would be OK with beating Real Madrid 1-0 in the Bernabeu with one shot on target.
In fact, I think there’s even a part of me that would prefer it.
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I totally disagree with this perspective. Having watched Liverpool since 1962 and seen EVERY manager since pragmatically park the bus and try to pinch a win away, I accept it is part of the DNA of football and this club……..but overall since the first days of the ‘dynasty’ under Shankly it was the fluid, fast attacking football that we all wanted and more often than not…we got it. What I admire about Klopp and Guardiola is that they always want to WIN. To do so requires the players to play good football as and when they can. Mourinho doesn’t think like this which is his big flaw. Those fans who believe that Liverpool exist to win trophies amaze me. When you have seen all the great football I have since 1962…….you want to WIN…..and that means outplay the opposition……..your manager has the resources he has and knows the opposition and how they will play. But the ambition to play well and Win is what Liverpool exist for. That is what I love about Klopp……and about how the squad fight all the way. I’ll only be happy with a manager and a team that don’t betray our need and their ambition. Mourinho’s fear of losing is greater than his will to win.
@Ken Charmer I disagree with you. I think it’s your opinion about Mourinho, rather than some known fact, when you say he doesn’t want his players to play good football. BTW, who said that is a requirement in competitive professional football in the first place?
Good or bad football is matter of opinion. To Mourinho it’s great football, and that’s what matters as he gets the job done and wins trophies. Do I like it, no, my that’s my preference, but he still wins the trophies that we only can moan about not winning and use excuses as to why, etc.
United, before Mourinho, found ways to win with Ferguson, and often times they nicked it. They had the will to win too and won ugly. Did they have Tiki-Taka or Gegenpress, not really, though they played their own version of attacking football, which I again didn’t think was great, but they won trophies which we didn’t.
“Mourinho’s fear of losing is greater than his will to win” – had a look at his trophy haul then? The more this guy is ridiculed or picked out, the better he starts to sound. Mourinho’s record from just 2004-2014 was a trophy per season, never mind the other winning seasons.
Guardiola and Klopp like attacking football and that’s just lovely when it results in a win, even better when there is a trophy at the end of it. However their style and philosophy is different to Mourinho’s park the bus, or negative tactics as it’s known these days.
I think in the end, they all are in the business to win trophies too, out which only Guardiola and Mourinho have amassed a significant amount over their course of their respective careers with different clubs. I for sure don’t see any signs of not having the will to win.
As for pretty football, the Dutch national team offer that, except they don’t have the same will to win as Brazil have had when you compare the trophy haul in those tournaments.
LFC’s ambition, IMO, should be to play to the levels they wish to aspire to, which from what I gather from fans, manager, owners is to win trophies and add to that ambition and history.
I think this article would have been more complete if you had included Mourinho’s comments about Liverpool on Saturday (and again last night) – about how ‘defensive’ Liverpool were, and how “Klopp didn’t open the door”. Mel – who often calls the game as it is and not as per the narrative – called Klopp pragmatic on Sunday’s pod, and you Paul (I think) on the review pod also called out the hypocrite pundits who had criticised Klopp for playing high-risk football in the past and yet criticised him again for being too cautious against United (has Carragher even said anything about the 7-0 win yet? always there to criticise though). So which one is it, too cautious or too risky?
My point is that there is more than one way to play defensively (which I suspect might have been Klopp’s point), and not every way includes putting 10 men behind the ball. If Pulis or Dyche had the money to pay £500,000 per week salary for an Ibrahimovic last season they might have won a trophy too.
“If Pulis or Dyche had the money to pay £500,000 per week salary for an Ibrahimovic last season they might have won a trophy too.”
Bit of stretch here Amy. I think Pulis and Dyche do not get hired by Barca, City, Bayern, insert_elite_club_name because they are both managers who are not able to handle the type of pressure at those levels, and most likely do not think outside of the box when it comes to football on and off the pitch.
Top managers get top dollars because they deliver the above and more.
I hope Klopp delivers too.
You can frame Mourinho’s success as you like (you seem to defend him in the comments more than United fans have after Saturday), and I’ll frame his success as I like. As in, I think Pulis and Dyche do not get hired by Barca, City, Bayern, insert_rich_club_name. Mourinho’s results are better because he has access to half-a-million per week players. And yet, all he can manage is to play like Pulis and Dyche.
So I’m not sure what “thinking outside the box” you’re referring to. Waiting for an 18-year-old keeper to make a mistake as your “tactic” for winning 1-0 against Benfica isn’t “thinking outside the box”. And putting 10 men behind the ball and waiting for Klopp to “open the door” isn’t “thinking outside the box” either, and would have lost him the match, had it not been for De Gea’s world class save, Mo Salah missing his chance, Emre missing his chance, and the ref bottling the penalty decision. That’s not thinking outside the box for me, that’s Pulis and Dyche with a massive transfer budget. I just don’t think he’s as clever these days as everyone assumes he is and I do not understand the veneration.
(you seem to defend him in the comments more than United fans have after Saturday)
Amy, you see this as defending, due to the article written by Andy Heaton, as others on there rightly also pointed out, where it felt like he was biased and used Mourinho as an excuse for Klopp not being able to beat him and United. That’s always the easy way out like supporters blaming FSG or whatever else when LFC doesn’t win.
Never mind that Klopp still couldn’t find a way to beat Mourinho and United, again, since he played pretty much the same way he did last season when he last visited Anfield. That was the problem I was hoping for Andy to be writing, instead it became all about Mourinho and is still the case based on your comment and the chap above. Mine was in response to both your comments, and not just going on about Mourinho for the sake of it.
Also I was referring to your comment about Pullis and Dyche which I will say is still a bit of a stretch of your imagination. These managers just don’t have what it takes hence why they manage the teams they have been managing, unlike Pep, Mourinho, Klopp, etc.
You can spin it whatever you want Amy, fact is Mourinho and Pep have won, thought outside of the box with their respective strategies and are world class managers like Klopp is considered to be but isn’t close to them yet, which is why I think they are all allowed big budgets at big clubs, unlike Pullis and Dyche.
If you think that Klopp couldn’t find a way to beat Mourinho again, that Saturday’s game was the same as last year’s, then you watched a different match from the rest of us Sash. I’m not even saying anything revelatory, almost everyone who’s watched the match and not the narrative has said the same thing. The statistics from the match also back this view.
It’s not inconceivable that Klopp got his tactics right and Jose didn’t you know. We were solid defensively, preventing their counter-attacks, and also created quite a few of chances to score — a pragmatic plan some might say — whereas Jose’s plan very nearly failed spectacularly about three or four times as I said before. Which brings me back to my original point, that this article doesn’t tell the whole story about playing ten men behind the ball versus other defensive tactics, especially in the context of Saturday’s match.
I’m with Amy on this Sash. In fact I find it incredulous that you’d think Klopp’s not at the same level as Pep and Jose!! They’ve Never been in the bargain basement that he has – yet he dominated German Football ‘11-‘13, including kicking Mourinho’s ass out of the CL Semi with a team costing 15 times less than him (30 times less when you take Reus £15m re-purchase into account).
Pep and Jose could never achieve what Klopp did in his position. That for me makes him the superior manager of the 3, Peter
Mourinho’s ways are well established. They’ve brought him success, at least in parts, wherever he’s been but have never allowed him to leave what we might call a legacy.
His methods are geared towards instant success with no future planning. It’s about self-aggrandisement and success for the sake of his own ego. This is why he tends to leave clubs in chaos after he resigns or is sacked.
He doesn’t bother me a great deal. I genuinely – and I do mean this – would not like to see us play in the way his teams do. I must concede it would be nice to know we COULD pull out a disciplined away performance when we really needed to, but not in every single away game against dangerous opposition.
I do feel that in recent years his ‘genius’ has been overstated by lazy pundits. They weren’t great against us at all. The plan didn’t work. It was our gilt-edged finishing that prevented us winning.
@ Amy No I watched the same match, Mourinho had Zlatan last time and he nearly won it for them, and we also went close and did not concede then.
This time Lukaku went close, the rest of the stuff was the bus parking he does and Klopp had enough time to find a way to beat him, but couldn’t in the end.
In hindsight yes our finishing let us down, ref’s decision, etc didn’t make matters better.
Like you stated not everyone saw it as you and others may have, Thierry Henry in particular, he said it best, Jose and United came for a draw and 3 points would be icing for them but they got what he came for, while Klopp and LFC came to win, but went away losing 2 points as it felt that way.
I was left frustrated that we still dropped two points and did not beat them. I hope it is a different result for us by the time we match up at OT.
Fair enough, but I think Thierry Henry was wrong – and I say this after listening to Mourinho’s comments after the match and since, and the way they’ve played throughout the season. Mourinho came for the win, using a plan that is stale and that ruined the spectacle, but more importantly was closer to losing the match than winning it. I don’t believe for a second he came for a draw. And as he himself more-or-less said, Klopp outwitted him by controlling the midfield and not allowing Jose’s plan of scoring on the break o succeed. Henry is repeating the narrative about Klopp’s side not breaking teams down, but the eye-test and the statistics of the match show something entirely different.