Saturday, 24 October 2015

Like Kloppwork

It’s been one of those fortnights that truly represent the stuff of football writers’ dreams. As a writer, I’ve always been drawn to the unexpected. An underdog winning the Champions League, Jose Mourinho praising a referee, Arsene Wenger purchasing a footballer- all fine examples of the wonderful and chaotic mess that this beautiful game throws up from time to time.

The last fortnight saw Arsenal defeat Bayern Munich, Jamie Vardy eclipse Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo for goals scored in domestic league football, Newcastle United win a game 6-2 and Chelsea Football Club win a game. There’s only so much damage to the established norm that this innocent world can take.

In the midst of all this madness, I’ve decided to write about something that actually echoed a semblance of sense. Or, did it? Jurgen Klopp was the most sought after manager in football when he announced his decision to leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of last season.

Many expected he’d take up residence in Madrid, under Florentino Perez’s thumb. Or, perhaps, send Luis Enrique packing since the latter only won the treble and gives terribly boring press conferences. City was spoken about, as was Arsenal. But, these severely average clubs faded in comparison to the allure of an institution that has won two significant trophies in the last 10 years.

Liverpool’s owners could barely believe their luck as they got off the phone with Herr Klopp’s agent, while Brendan complimented his players’ superb performance and unrelenting character in earning a 1-1 draw against FC Sion.

Yes, Liverpool fans were really sad and deeply moved to see Brendan go. Those 12 seconds were spent reminiscing on some of the best moments- Luis Suarez ripping defences apart, Daniel Sturridge signing for Liverpool, Raheem Sterling pledging loyalty and then asking for money, Daniel Sturridge returning from injury (all 7 times) and.. I’m quite sure there’s a Gerrard moment somewhere, but it seems to have slipped my mind.

The arrival of Jurgen Klopp filled Liverpool fans with an optimism and a passion that made them feel like they had won the league. It was an extremely unusual feeling for a lot of them, as I’m sure you’ll understand. But, given his start, there is valid reason for both optimism and a reality check.

Liverpool’s energy level in last weekend’s game against Spurs was through the roof. It was like the entire team were advertising an energy drink, or Jurgen Klopp had told them he would bring Mario Balotelli back if they didn’t start winning games. There was a real purpose about everything they did, and they won almost every 50-50 challenge in the first half.

The second half, sadly, represented the stumbling block in the emergence of a new league-dominating force from Anfield. The energy levels began to fade and Spurs gained much more control in the game. It should’ve been a higher scoring game, but a draw was definitely a fair result.

Klopp surely realized then (if he hadn’t already) that there was a way to go for this side to play like his Borussia Dortmund rockstars. The midweek Anfield opener for Klopp saw Liverpool face off against Rubin Kazan, and underwhelm once Rubin went down to 10 men. Liverpool pushed and pressed at a high intensity, but they lacked the quality up-front to finish good opportunities.

With Sturridge just watching from the stands, and Benteke and Origi evidently just watching from the pitch, Liverpool were left with a lot of bark and no bite. The bark is good, though, and once they supplement that with a decent bite, Liverpool will start winning more games.

Let’s not forget the biggest win from Klopp moving to Anfield- the multiple ridiculous word-plays that football writers now have access to with “Klopp being at the Kop”. Personally, if saving a sinking ship was his motivation, I wish he had joined the Dutch national team. It would have been the inspiration for my best piece yet- “A Kloppwork Orange”. 

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