Jürgen Klopp alluded to Liverpool making “little steps” after their draw with Chelsea, but how do his expectations translate to that of fans?
MILESTONES don’t carry much weight in the grand scheme of things, but they are a chance to stop and reflect on the best of times.
With Jürgen Klopp managing his 1000th game of football at the weekend – 411 of those for Liverpool – I took the opportunity to do just that.
There are the obvious highlights: Barcelona 4-0, winning a sixth Champions League in Madrid, ending the 30-year wait for a Premier League title. However, it’s many of the small things that continue to stick in my mind with this manager.
His ability to give a measured opinion on difficult political issues, his assurances that he would turn this fanbase from doubters to believers, his tendency to get lost in a moment and celebrate with the players on the pitch before later apologising. He constantly reminds us how he is the best of us.
And while I’m sure he’d have hoped to be celebrating 1,000 games in management under more positive circumstances, he joked following the Chelsea game that he has “enough energy for another 10 years if you want.”
The irony probably wasn’t lost on the manager that he made these comments in the aftermath of a game that lacked any real sustained bursts of energy or clinical edge for either team.
A game that you would usually look forward to for weeks beforehand, it became increasingly clear throughout the duration of the 90 minutes that we were watching ninth plays 10th in the Premier League. It was scrappy, sloppy and at times just a bit lacklustre.
And yet, in his post-match press conference Klopp was keen to change the narrative on how the media, and maybe even we as fans, perceived the game.
He acknowledged that while it might not feel significant, the performance marked a step in the right direction. He spoke of better periods at the start of both the first and second half, playing in a more compact way and showing some passion in key moments. His message was if we can extend the duration of these moments, then we’ll get there eventually.
“For me it’s clear in this situation that you have to be ready for little steps and today was a little step. I expect progress, and I think from the last league game it was definitely progress and that’s important.”
Of course, certain elements were much better than the 3-0 defeat to Brighton. We managed to keep a clean sheet, for starters. Positional awareness improved, individual errors were more scarce, and with legs in midfield it was more difficult to play through.
Yes it lacked any real moments of quality, but do we need to be more like the manager in reframing how we view success this season?
When speaking in the aftermath of the Brighton game, many questioned why they didn’t try to be more compact in the second half. In the second half against Chelsea, it was clear the number one priority was not to get beat. Incremental improvements over a perfect performance was the aim.
I understand it’s a tough one to take off the back of a season where we were enjoying the journey to winning absolutely everything – and that this very fact is a contributing factor to why things have taken a downturn.
“It’s not just about the physical stuff,” said Thiago. “It’s also something psychological. We were so close to winning everything. We just touched it but it went away.”
You can understand how this has played a part without negating the need for reinvestment in the squad.
The reality of where Liverpool are is even tougher to comprehend if you watched Arsenal versus Manchester United the next day and were reminded of the standard of football expected of teams going for the title.
This was us just a matter of months ago, and now we have to accept that for the time being things are a little different. I’m definitely not in the camp of believing things aren’t going to get better. Players will come back from injury, freshness will eventually return and we’ll hopefully welcome some new faces through the door.
In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy it and probably be laughed at for being an eternal optimist as I look for signs of improvement.
After all, though, it is a leisure activity.