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Liverpool Need To Stick By Jurgen Klopp - He's All They Have

Liverpool Need To Stick By Jurgen Klopp - He's All They Have
By Gavin Cooney Updated

Few clubs do the boom-bust cycle of football better than Liverpool. They are wedded to the hopeless, wild parabolas of the addict: they turn corners as often as James Milner hits the first man with them. If Liverpool's endless resurrections were a story, their foot would be crushed by the stone they had rolled away in front of the tomb.

The latest in Liverpool's manic living came yesterday. A palliative win over Spurs preceded a pathetic defeat to Leicester, with the time in between punctuated by the typical Clear-The-Air Meeting, a bonding trip to La Manga where everybody became best mates, and the optimism that Liverpool now had sufficient rest time to gegenpress their way into the Top Four.

A fine start to the season concluded with a 1-0 win at home to Man City to round off a positive 2016 under Klopp - two cup finals, increased confidence and the signing of Sadio Mané ingredient parts in a raid on the Premier League, hitherto guarded by the gates of El Dorado. Liverpool ended 2016 with 43 points and as Chelsea's closest challengers.

Two months on, they have 49 points and Jamie Carragher is speaking on Sky Sports about the dangers of being caught by Everton. Carragher questioned Klopp after the Leicester defeat, in the highest profile criticism the German has faced since he arrived at the club.

I think he has far too much faith in certain players, really. He has to make changes in the summer. And while I'm not saying tonight is a good thing, it reinforces the changes that need to be made. Sometimes as a Liverpool fan, when it's going well you kid yourself about certain things. I love James Milner, but he's not a left-back. Lucas Leiva I'm sure is getting plenty of stick off Liverpool fans tonight, but I actually felt so sorry for that lad. I was happy when he came off.

I have no blame for him. He shouldn't be playing there. It's like putting me at right wing and saying 'why aren't you beating your full-back?'. I can't. There's no way I can possibly do it. And there's no way Lucas can catch Vardy in a sprint if the team are pushed up to the halfway line. He was put in a position that completely exposed him. There should be no blame attached to him.

The blame for that should be with Jurgen Klopp for putting him in that position.

Klopp signed his Liverpool contract in the same hotel room as Rafa Benitez, and up to recently, he was afforded the level of fervent belief that Benitez earned in a European Cup win. But now, he is facing serious questions. Heavy metal football is beginning to face the music. Or the lack thereof.

The timorous nature of Liverpool's defeat at Leicester was utterly predictable, and when Jamie Vardy left his studs in Sadio Mané in the first minute, the tone was set. Liverpool have lost five times this season, and four of them have come against sides who kicked off the game in the relegation zone. The other defeat came away to Burnley on the second weekend of the season, and the manner of the defeats shows that Klopp's greatest strength has become quite a recurring weakness.

When discussing how Klopp and Liverpool are a good fit, his melding of his charisma with hard work to upset the odds is the main argument in his favour. To do this, Klopp needs chaos. German football writer Uli Hesse explained this to Balls for a profile on Klopp we ran last year:

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There was a lot of talk in the German media after the second leg [of the Europa League clash with Dortmund]. How could Dortmund lose the game? After leading 3-1? There was a very good piece in Die Zeit that said modern coaches like Thomas Tuchel are from the Guardiola and Van Gaal School of coaching. What these modern coaches value above all else is control, 'we have to be in control at all times and we have to have the ball.

What Klopp likes is when things get out of control, because at that point it is all about emotion, about passion, and at that point it comes down to how much you want it. This is when Klopp's teams are at their best.

Klopp creates the situation in the game where it is no longer about tactics, but about getting stuck in and making tackles, and Dortmund lost their heads among this Klopp whirlwind.

Liverpool top the mini-league among the top six, yet have lost five games to sides in the lower half. In contrast, West Brom have lost just once. If you want to lose control, you have to cede it: so while this works for Liverpool against the top sides, the bottom half have little interest in controlling the game against vaunted opponents.

Klopp's failure to adapt his gameplan against Burnley, Leicester, Swansea, Hull, and to a lesser extent in the 4-3 loss to Bournemouth seems strange. He said during his first Liverpool press conference that if the opponents are really good, "you have to bring them to your level. On your level you can kill any team". Liverpool's problem is they seem determined to engage with every team on their level.

Klopp said in his post-match press conference last night that Liverpool looked like they didn't know how Leicester would play, which would seem a damning indictment of his preparation.

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But Liverpool shouldn't lose faith with Klopp just yet. Mainly because they cannot afford to. He has his flaws, but the manager is the only individual at Liverpool who is good enough to move to an elite European club and have an instant impact.

While Liverpool fans will bemoan Klopp's lack of action in the transfer market (he signed just two of the players who started against Leicester and spent the second-half playing a back three with two central midfielders) the reason the relatively parsimonious Liverpool owners have given him an enormous contract is because he is not expected to spend his way to success. Given the fact that Liverpool cannot compete financially with the Manchester and London clubs, it would be foolish to try and fight on those terms.

Klopp prides and sells himself on being a coach, capable of working daily on the training ground to improve players, and is one of the best coaching options in world football for that job.

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He has things to prove, however. Klopp needs to prove a new kind of ruthlessness at Liverpool. He has shown himself capable of selling players who do not fit his system (Christian Benteke at Liverpool, Ivan Perisic and Alex Frei at Dortmund), but now he must show he is open to selling players he believes to not be as good enough, because most of his Liverpool players are not good enough, and have been living off insincere Instagram posts basking in the afterglow of false dawns for far too long.

Klopp admitted last night that "we are all playing for our futures" after the Leicester debacle. His should be the only future at Liverpool that is secure.

See Also: Craig Shakespeare's Post-Match Interview Contained One Potentially Revealing Slip-Up


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