The biggest obstacle between Liverpool and the title is Klopp

Date published: Friday 4th January 2019 2:34

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The biggest obstacle to Liverpool winning the league? Jurgen Klopp
And so the gap was just four points, and will likely be nothing come next month. This is the first wheel coming off, make no mistake.

Jurgen Klopp once again showed why he simply isnt the man for the job. So poor tactically, so pathetic with his starting selection. Remember, this is the man who just last week was saying he would love to be a journalist but “still get paid what he gets paid now”. Thats his priority right there Liverpool fans.

Klopp has been handed the world on a silver platter, the keys to success, and still he cant deliver. Hey Jurgen, need a new defender? Heres the most expensive defender in the world. Need a new keeper? Heres the most expensive keeper in the world (at the time). Need an attacker? Heres Mo Salah. Need some midfielders? Heres £100m for Keita and Fabinho.

Like it or not, but Liverpool are only top of the league due to extraordinary circumstances. Man City missing a penalty at Anfield, Daniel Sturridge with a last gasp worldie at Chelsea, Jordan Pickfords inexplicable mistake with seconds to go in the derby, not one but two deflected goals to scrape past the worst United side in recent memory etc. All of this, coupled with an unprecedented wobble by Man City, meant Liverpool have temporarily ended up top, but the reality is that Klopp has actually underachived. With the money they have spent and the luck they have had Liverpool should be further ahead than just four points. Its the managers fault that they aren’t.

I’ve written before about Klopps arrogance (including his ridiculous notion that players need time to settle into his system, as though he is reinventing the wheel) but watch his press conference post-PSG away when he bristled at the idea of journalists even daring the question him for playing Henderson, Milner and Wijnaldum as a midfield three. Since then he has been on a mission to prove people wrong. He played the same midfield against Napoli and scraped the win (yet another hugely lucky result, just like when Liverpool got a last gasp winner at Anfield against PSG) and the local press went into overdrive, talking of him answering his critics etc. Strange that those same people (Klopp included) didnt want to discuss the midfield last night isnt it? A lot used to be made of Liverpools transfer committee, but I genuinely believe that Liverpool fans should thank their lucky stars for it. If Klopp had his way he would be playing Henderson and Milner every single game. Thank goodness that Michael Edwards could see how good Fabinho et al are, getting them signed and creating some pressure on Klopp to actually change his dull, pedestrian idea of a midfield. It means that once the next manager comes in (hopefully asap) he will have a great, underutilized squad to work with.

The final nail in Klopps coffin should be the realisation that the idea he “improves” players is a complete myth. Roberto Firmino was a great player long before Klopp arrived. The year before Firmino joined Liverpool he hit 16 goals in 33 games for Hoffenheim. More importantly, in his last two seasons in the Bundesliga he made more tackles than any non-defender in the league. So thats a centre forward making more tackles than any midfielder, whilst still scoring every other week. Incredible, but that’s what he does. Klopp didn’t “make” Firmino the player he is, hes always been that way. Mo Salah averaged 1 in 2 for two seasons at Roma before joining Liverpool. 1 in 2 for an unfancied team in a defensive league is brilliant. But that’s who he is. Sadio Manes goalscoring record for Salzburg and Southampton is nearly identical to his record at Liverpool. And so on. Its actually offensive to these players to suggest that their success and ability is down to Klopp. And to prove the point: why does nobody ever talk about the likes of Dejan Lovren when talking about how Klopp “improves” players? Exactly.

Klopp has now created a situation whereby players have no reason to perform. If you’re Fabinho or Shaqiri and you put in a MOTM performance will you keep your starting place? Nope, because the manager will just drop you for Jordan Henderson next week. And if you’re Jordan Henderson, does it matter if you play sh*t? Nope, because the manager will just put you back in for a “big” game in a couple of weeks time regardless. Do you think Pep Guardiola got home last night and thought “wow, that was some performance by Fernandinho tonight, I must remember to drop him for the next league game!”? Exactly.

The stars aligned for Liverpool this season. They have had incredible luck in a number of games, and last night that luck ran out. A decent manager would have already capitilised on it and had Liverpool out of sight by now, or would be able to manage it through to the end of the season. Klopp can do neither. But hey, come May when Liverpool finish 3rd no doubt he’ll go out drinking with some fans somewhere and singing songs and all will be forgotten, and they’ll talk of the time he wore a Beatles t-shirt and how he just “gets” it. And if by “it” you mean decades of underachieving and no league title then yes, I guess you’re right.
Smiddy

 

Klopp trap
Hi there,

Can’t help but scoff at Klopp complaining about Kompany’s tackle last night when, after Mane kicked Ederson in the head, he had this to say, ‘I don’t think that’s a red card. Mane didn’t see him. I saw the goalie already and obviously it’s not that bad. To get a red card in a game like this is really unlucky’.
Because it’s a wonderful excuse for last nights defeat his tune suddenly changes, ‘When we were here last year we got a red card and no-one thought about it. It was probably a red, yes’.
Seriously, what is it with Liverpool (players, fans, managers) and constantly thinking that they’ve been hard done by?!
I always thought Jose was the biggest deflector but Klopp and this Liverpool side are certainly up there when it comes to pity parties.
And yet the media just lap it all up.
It’s sickening and I cannot wait until their bubble bursts and it’s 2014 all over again.
Dave

 

Agreeing with a Liverpool fan
It’s not often (especially recently) that I can agree with a Liverpool fan on anything football related but Bobby absolutely has it right. Anthony Taylor absolutely bottled the biggest call of the night.

That Sterling wasn’t awarded a penalty for being rugby tackled by Robertson in the box is criminal. This would have put the game beyond doubt and I wouldn’t have to go out and buy a bottle of Just For Men this morning.
Alex, Zurich

 

Man City v Liverpool
-Bad result but not a disaster for Liverpool providing they respond accordingly.

– What a game in which the level of technical and tactical play on show was other worldly. City’s midfield made the difference. Fabinho should have come in for Henderson or Milner much earlier as Liverpool’s play into the final third was mostly rubbish.

– Sort of understand Klopp picking the midfield he did. He wanted lots of energy and running. But Henderson just seemed lost.

– I can see both sides of the argument around Kompany’s tackle. He initially left the ground but his trailing is on the grass just before impact. Fine margins etc.

– Agüero must love seeing Lovren’s name on the team sheet. Kun consistently exploits the space between him and the fullback whether he’s on the left or right side.

– What a strike from the Argentine though! As a commentator said in a game of hurling I was watching yesterday, he almost took net off its hinges.

-Lovren is not good enough to start for a team chasing the league and CL. He’d do a job for someone like, I don’t know, United. Get well soon Joe Gomez

– Leroy Sane is very, very fast.

– Firmino’s play sometimes makes me feel funny in ways I….you get the idea.

– Having not watched a lot of City it was interesting to see just how essential Fernandinho was last night. Superb break up play.

– Is it just me or have the last few weeks contained some of the most absolutely mental goal mouth scrambles? Can’t remember specific games now, maybe the Mailbox can help me out.

– Football is good craic.
Alan, Córdoba.

 

So much for bl00dy dynasties, I actually thought the quality of last nights game was pretty poor.

The managers in the build-up were at pains to point out how good their opposition were, both calling the other ‘the best team in the world’ the result being both teams played with far too much respect. Yes, Liverpool and City have a fantastic press but they also have some of the most skilled and technically capable players in the world. Ask either manger in isolation how you counter a teams press and they will say you create options for a pass and play around it, then use the space behind. Arguably, this is preferable to the more frequently adopted deep lying defence with 10 men behind the ball, exactly because the space is available should you have the competence to exploit it. What is imperative is to play with the confidence. You need to take the press on, draw a player, lay it off and move passed him, or beat him with the dribble, or simply create the pathway for a pass to circumvent the press. Both teams looked too scared to attack the other, subsequently the ball was played backwards repeatedly until eventually it reached the GK and then he humped it downfield.

What should have been a high octane game of chances, instead became a stale, safety-first war of attrition. Both teams desperate to keep their shape and try and capitalize on an opposition mistake. Dare I say it, it was Mourinho-like.

The moment the Liverpool team was announced I felt we were going to have another re-run of the away game at PSG. That day Klopp adopted the safety first approach of Gini, Hendo and Milner and we looked devoid of invention or ideas. It’s a team to run around and be difficult to break down but lacks the intent to attack through the middle and provide the service for the 3 forwards. Its a statement about how we are going to play. You can get away with it against middling premier league opposition who sacrifice territory and possession for defensive rigidity. But this game required the best players, with the best technique, playing at the top of their game to out attack a great defensive system.

We came in to the game with great form and top of the league. City meanwhile were hanging by a thread in the title race and in the worst form of Guardiola’s reign. This was the moment to back the team.

I think Klopp was swayed by the success of his more safety-first approach this season. We still need to get that balance between chaotic attack and mature defence right.

At least that’s what I think…
Ed Ern

 

Long time ghost reader here. I think the scousers should feel upbeat about the game last night if not the result. I should first point out that I’m a Man Utd fan. But unlike many other reds who can’t decide who they’d rather see win the title (e.g. Gary Neville once said “it’s like choosing between two blokes to nick your wife”) I know for sure I’d rather see anyone but Liverpool win it and even cheered City on last night.

That being said I thought Liverpool managed the game well and everything went City’s way. Think about it. Mane shot bounces of the post and doesn’t go in while Sane’s shot, which was arguably more difficult, does. Liverpool should have been playing against 10 men after a typical Stones concentration lapse and Kompany’s out of control tackle. Then Aguero scores a goal out of nothing from a ridiculous angle on his weaker side. Liverpool also had two chances cleared off the line in the second half. And still, they were barely beaten by City. Klopp has built a really good side. Only question is if they can handle the pressure now.
Victor (only 16 points off the top now. Anything is possible) Manchester

 

You don’t mess around with blows to the head
Not much to argue about with Mark’s 9 points except the one about Robertson. The man is 5’10 of Scottish steel and I’m not sure I’ve actually seen him stay down after a challenge ever.

I’m just wondering if Mark would be absolutely fine if the wiry Fernandinho bundled him over and punched him in the back of the head at full speed.

Even without intent Robertson clearly felt a head injury. He’s absolutely entitled and correct to stay down and so it should be as you don’t mess around with blows to the head.

Disgraceful comment.
Theo, LFC, Liverpool

 

The dark arts
At the Etihad last night we saw a brilliant exhibition of the subtlest and most underrated of the dark arts.

Vincent Kompany is played (not for the first time this season) a dreadful pass by a teammate and has to make a split second decision – try to tackle Salah or let him run free on goal. It’s not the worst or certainly most malicious tackle and you can argue for both yellow and red but the rules are the rules. The referee has a decision to make. Kompany is the Sheriff of Beswick though – we all know that – and he stares down both Salah and Anthony Taylor, daring the poor sap of a referee to make the call – in of course the politest way possible. He knows Lovren has already been carded for something not as borderline but a deep yellow. A yellow duly comes out. He then patrols his penalty area like it’s his manor and gives his team-mates real leadership in the crucial five minutes after Firmino’s goal. He is in the autumn of his career, but Vinny showed that there are a few huge matches left him. He made a difference last night and if he ever did leave City, the queue for the services of a slower than he was, ageing, very injury-prone centre back would break all records.

At the other end, Andrew Robertson takes the choirboy approach. The way he hauls over Sterling in the penalty box is brazen – but no-one seems to even notice. The obvious penalty (far less arguable than the Kompany red card) is immediately expunged from our collective memories. Just as he did in the Champions League semi final at Anfield, he has got away with the clearest of fouls inside the penalty area without anyone even noticing. While Kompany does it by imposing his will and laughing about it in the post-match interview, Robertson’s tactic is stealth. He just gets up, carries on playing and smiles sweetly. It’s also very effective, and gets him out of jail continually.

What connects these players is exceptional – and very contrasting – post-foul body language. Both players also use their backstories and off-pitch popularity (particularly with Kompany) that spreads across fanbases.  It’s one hell of a trick to have in a defender’s skillset.
Mark Meadowcroft

 

Next season Ole can smash them both!
Am I the only MUFC fan in the world who would rather Liverpool won the league than City?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not delighted about either possibility but despite the old rivalry, a part of me has some respect for Liverpool as a ‘proper’ old club built on sustained success and a loyal fan base, much like United.

City are just the gaudy nouveau-riche neighbours who have lots of money but no class. They are the white Audi 4×4 to Liverpool’s classic racing green Jaguar. They have great performance etc, but they’re nothing that couldn’t just be bought by someone else with plenty of money. They lack the stature of the older, more refined model that’s come back into fashion because of its enduring class.

City’s success is predicated upon nothing more than the (admittedly highly efficient/effective) pouring-in of dirty oil money. They are little more than an elaborate money laundering operation for one of the world’s more questionable regimes. I, for one, would rather see a real football club (albeit our oldest rival) succeed this season.

Next season Ole can smash them both!
RQT (MUFC)

 

Bottling it
Social media and the internet has transformed the way we read and discuss football. It has its positives (the mailbox) and its negatives (twitter) but what these both have in common is the way that expressions and terms become fashionable and become used to a far wider extent than they would have been perviously. “Fraud” is one such example, used by many in a totally meaningless way, whenever a manager is going through a bad patch. However, the one that has been used extensively in the past few weeks is “bottling it”.

Spurs bottled it by losing to Wolves. Liverpool bottled it when they didn’t win the league in 2014. Spurs also bottled it when Leicester won the league and Liverpool will bottle it if they don’t win the title this season.

All of this is rubbish and entirely framed as a result of two things. 1) Going on a brilliant run prior to an eventual loss. b) Where results fall in the footballing calendar.

As an example, Spurs recently went on an excellent run, winning 8 out of 9 games and seriously turning on the style in the last couple of games. The media then frame this as Spurs being on a title charge. Then, when a tired squad loses a game against a very decent Wolves team, rather than being put down as an expected eventual loss, the teams are deemed to be bottlers. However, this only happens because of where the fixtures have fallen. Had Spurs Won 4 lost 2 then won 4, the term bottler would never be applied.

The classic of the genre is that Liverpool bottled the 13/14 title chase. It’s easy to see why. The slip, being tantalisingly close, destiny being in their hands. But any Liverpool fan will tell you this is simply not the case. In the second half of that season, Liverpool’s record was:

P19 W15 D3 L1

They picked up 48 out of a possible 57 points and STILL needed 3 more points to be champions. In other words to be champions, they needed 51 out of 57 points, a run which would have been one of the finest in the history of the club. You can say they bottled it because destiny was in their hands, but the reality is that they lost to the team that would be Premier League champions the next season. Again, timing is everything. Had that game happened in January, the narrative would have been a Liverpool team on a glorious charge who just ran out of time to win the league. Because it came in April, they are bottlers.

It’s very easy to say that when you’re in a strong position and you don’t deliver success that you have bottled it, but that just isn’t fair. In football you sometimes lose. You get bad results. You drop points. Where that happens in the season shouldn’t determine if you have bottled it or not.

Liverpool’s first half of the season has been phenomenal. They have had one of the finest starts in the history of top flight football. It’s not reasonable to expect that to be matched in the second half.

They might win the title, they might not but if they don’t they won’t have bottled it, they just won’t have matched their stellar earlier performance.
Mike, LFC, London

 

Another mailbox, another wave of asinine accusations of “bottling”. The phrase has lost all meaning. It used to apply to a Devon Loch-style implosion, but now seems to apply to any situation where people want to gloat or don’t like a decision.

Taylor didn’t “bottle” the card. In real time, he saw a player come away with the ball and make minimal contact. His decision was understandable, even if you disagree with his necessarily subjective interpretation of the law. Did he “bottle” the penalty call against Roberts when he wrestled Sterling to the ground? Perhaps it wasn’t as clear cut for him in real time as it was for us watching telly…

Liverpool haven’t, as yet, “bottled” anything. They’re sill four points clear. They’ve still lost only once, having played away to each of the top 5. Against current champs City, they could have grabbed a point or three on any other day. If I were Klopp I would be encouraged by the performance, if not the result, as Liverpool showed up. It’s the first time in 93 games a Pep team has enjoyed less than 50% possession. Against any other team they will win playing like that. Hardly “bottling” it or a reflection of a team suffering stage fright. They were 1.25cm from taking a well deserved lead.

I’ve seen this same accusation leveled at Spurs. We are “bottlers” because we lost our third game in six days over Xmas. We played four games in 9 days and were the only top 6 team to play such a punishing schedule, but only one team took more points than us over the xmas period. A couple of weeks ago we were accused of “Bottling” the league against Chelsea because a 12 match winning run was halted by a 1-0 defeat away to West Ham. What we bottled i’m not sure. We were 10 points behind Conte’s title-winning side at Christmas – 7 behind when the league wrapped up.

This “bottled it” talk is just tedious. For the love of god, please let it stop.
Dan James – Happy New Year. Bah Humbug.

 

You never walk alone, unless you are Lovren or Moreno
After reading the earlier mailbox and also comments from match report in Guardian (sorted with most recommendations so presumably most agreed comments), got pretty depressed about one thing:

– Lovren really doesn’t seem to be popular among Liverpool fans. You never walk alone, unless you are Lovren or Moreno eh? I have nothing against Liverpool, on the contrary, I really like Klopp, I like the way Liverpool play and hopefully they will win some silverware this season. But the vitriol aimed at their few own players is just despicable. Clearly even with amatory psychology, Lovren’s world class comments and unbeaten season are his way to trying to build up confidence and being optimistic and positive. What’s wrong with that? I can understand if it’s opposition fans taking the piss, but own fans… I bet players follow internet aswell. Ever thought that maybe one reason they seem to do mistakes is because after a blunder or two, they get massive abuse from own fans which affects their confidence? Lovren has been very good for his country after all. It’s also blatant double standards. Booing Sterling because he wasn’t loyal to your team and wanted to leave and the next breath wishing Lovren and Karius never playing for team with vitriol and abuse. Before Liverpool fans have a go at me, I know other teams do it aswell, but I have just happened to notice it more within your team during the last year, maybe because of high media exposure. And because you pride yourself as being behind the team, being loyal to your club and players.

Anyway, great rest of the season ahead. Really glad gentlemen like Klopp, Guardiola and Pochettino are fighting at the top of the game. Rarely any of them offer excuses after losing, blame officials or throw own players under the bus. Hopefully Spurs keep their performance levels up so it would be three horse race, even though I suspect they will finish comfortably third.
Matti Katara, Helsinki

 

Small margins, big conclusions
Dear Editor,

Long time etc first time etc, compelled to write in due to a growing fascination with something that’s become almost unavoidable regardless of where you get your football kicks: the whole concept of football and narrative and, more specifically, the drawing of profound conclusions from matters where tiny margins are at play.

The latest example was, of course, last night’s clash of the titans, with City’s win described by commentators and pundits alike both as a masterclass (on a side note, has this phrase ever been used to describe another team much as it is with City?) and as a decisive tactical victory for Guardiola against Klopp. While I freely admit that Klopp got it slightly wrong with the overly conservative midfield three, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more obvious example of the result colouring (large swathes of) the analysis. Even more than usual, it was a game where both teams were so evenly matched, and the margins so incredibly fine, that it really could have gone either way, begging the question as to whether a slightly different result would have led to a completely different reading of the game. Indeed, would a last-minute equaliser for Liverpool have led to profoundly different set of conclusions being drawn on the match as a whole? I think the answer is probably yes.

This isn’t a complaint as such, more just an observation. Obviously, goals is the currency that matters when all is said and done, and so the narrative will naturally swing towards to victor. Yet, is the knee jerkism of it all, and the tendency for such marginal events to drive such definitive conclusions, not a bit ridiculous? Is there a way of analysing football without it, or is it an inevitable result of our obsession with hyperbole, finding meaning in everything, as well as the undeniable pull of a good story? After all, football is a form of entertainment above everything else.

Yours,
David (pray for Joe Gomez) London

 

On kneejerk reactions
I find it hilarious how some people seem to change their entire viewpoint and construct a narrative around a team based solely on the most recent result, seemingly ignoring all context. Liverpool narrowly lost away to the best team in England (possibly Europe) and all of a sudden, you have people writing in to the mailbox claiming that there is no more need for the ‘comfort blanket’ of Milner, Gini and Henderson who apparently have “offered little in either direction and left the team too stretched in their last few matches.” Their last few matches? You mean the 5-1 vs Arsenal, 4-0 vs Newcastle, 2-0 vs Wolves, 3-1 vs Man Utd, 1-0 vs Napoli and 4-0 vs B’mouth (could keep going) in which they have scored 19 and conceded 2? Didn’t seem too stretched to me, except maybe at times in the Arsenal match but that was an open match which suits Liverpool. The three lads in midfield have been crucial to providing a solid platform and contributing both in defence and attack, particularly Milner who has been incredible over the past couple of years and is up there with the best all rounders in the game at the minute, and Wijnaldum who has been immense this season in the middle of the pitch. Against Arsenal, one of their last few matches, Wijnaldum could have easily been given MOTM over Firmino, even with his hat-trick, such was his domination in midfield. I can understand the argument for replacing Hendo with Keita or Lallana (if he gets back to form) to offer a more progressive route in midfield but that’s not to say Henderson isn’t doing an effective job.

The reason Liverpool lost last night was not Because they were set up wrong tactically or because of team selection. They lost because they lacked composure. It was evident from the first minutes when they couldn’t string 2 passes together gifting the ball back to City, to the last few minutes when they couldn’t put the ball on Van Dijk’s head in the City box. With the last attack of the match Lovren, with time on the ball, decides to ping a straight ball off his bad foot to Van Dijk from the halfway line rather than working an angle for a delivery. The most composed players in Red last night were 3 of the Liverpool back 4 (guess the odd one out). Robertson had Sterling in his pocket all night and showed a cool head to knock the ball back across goal to Firmino. Trent switched the ball at will in the second half, great ball to find Robertson at the back post for the goal and Van Dijk, just pure class. Liverpool’s problem last night was a mental one not a tactical one, and its understandable given the magnitude of the match, the quality of the opposition and the atmosphere in the stadium. But to be clear, that doesn’t mean that Liverpool are a mentally weak team. One slip does not define a team…
Iain (…Wait a minute) Dublin

 

Raheem Sterling
Was really looking forward to F365’s 16 Conclusions after such a fabulous match last night.  Then you went and ruined it by point 3 by describing Raheem Sterling’s performance as “fantastic”.  You couldn’t resist could you. Sterling was poor last night.  Every run ended with him running down a blind alley and losing possession.  His finishing was woeful.  His decision making in key areas poor.  We get that you hate the tabloid treatment of Sterling.  We do too, honestly.  But using that an excuse to never ever criticise the lad’s play is beyond parody at this point.  He is going to play poorly sometimes, maybe even often.  And when he does you are allowed to point it out without anyone thinking that that means you support the tabloid’s despicable treatment of him.  Enough already, it is diluting the real and insightful observations you make.
Mike, WHU

 

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