Klopp finished? This is his chance to prove he’s the next Sir Alex Ferguson…

Jurgen Klopp poses with Liverpool owner John W Henry. Credit: Alamy
Jurgen Klopp poses with Liverpool owner John W Henry. Credit: Alamy

The Mailbox continues the inquest into Liverpool’s slump, with Jurgen Klopp and FSG’s contributions examined. Also: Arsenal could do it; and Man Utd are fun again.

Get your views in to theeditor@football365.com

 

Klopp’s next challenge
Some people are clearly enjoying Liverpool’s current predicament saying Klopp is a basic manager, been found out etc.

I think the bigger question is can Klopp become a legendary manager and create new multiple title winning teams rather than just be an amazing/elite manager.

When Klopp joined Liverpool, he created his team that went onto win the 3 major domestic trophies and the European cup….an amazing feat.

Now he needs to change his ageing midfield, update his injury prone support cast, manage his 350k super striker and new erratic forward and work out what to do with VDD and the TAA enigma.

Can he achieve the Alex Ferguson level or is this where he (understandably) taps out.
Zak LFC

 

Klopp and knee-jerkers
People really do love to jerk their knees.

We are having a bad season. This is true. Some of that is injuries. We didn’t need mane, Diaz was doing just fine until he got injured and I’m confident he’ll be an ample replacement.

To the people saying we have been over performing…for 6 years? Or is it more likely that we are underperforming?

The midfield needs a lot of work. I don’t currently accept that any of them are up to task and we really need to replace everyone except Harvey and Fabio, it won’t be Bellingham but rice and tielemans are both free in the summer aren’t they? They seem like FSG signings and would probably fix a great deal of our problems there.

Nunez has some talent there, you can see it in his movement and his link up play. His issue is composure. Before people write him off id like to remind everyone that Suarez had a 5% shot conversion ratio in his first season and looked like he had no idea how to get the ball on target…but it worked out quite well once he adapted. I’m happy to give Nunez more time.

The sooner konate and matip are back the better because based on form vvd and gomez would not be in my starting 11. Neither would robbo. I’d like to see Ramsay get some gametime at rb and offer some competition for Trent or maybe even play them both on the right so they can support and swap with each other.

Finally there’s klopp, he’s having a bad time. I disagree with almost all of his starting 11 so far but he didn’t become a shit manager over night and if he was available any team would take him, even the ones mocking him – because he took a wreck of a team to 3 champs League finals in 8 years, winning one, one europa league final, a few domestic cup finals (winning 2) and has been the only team to win a premier League title from city.

Should he have won more? Maybe but as other teams are gonna find out , city are an inhuman supernatural monster. You can literally have the greatest season in your clubs entire history and it will be totally forgotten because you still won’t win the league while pep is there. He’s a far better manager than I ever gave him credit for.

Stop panicking. We’ll be fine.
Lee

Read more: Can Klopp be arsed with dragging Liverpool back up the mountain? They need the next Van Dijk…

 

Penny pinching
I get annoyed when I hear people talk about FSG investing in transfers, or lack thereof. If Liverpool spend money on transfers they are not spending FSG’s money, they are spending their own money accrued through sporting turnover. FSG have ‘invested’ a sum total of £109m in Liverpool in the form of a loan to allow them to build the Main Stand. Despite being widely reported as interest free, Liverpool actually paid £5m in interest payments before their kindly overlords stopped charging interest in 2019. Liverpool are paying this loan back at roughly £5-10m per season. All subsequent loans Liverpool have received (for Anfield Road expansion/AXA training ground etc.) have been through their own credit facility directly with banks.

So in terms of actual spending FSG have put in precisely $0. Truly representing the American dream, the owners have spent none of their own money. And whatever happens between now and nuclear Armageddon/them selling the club, I guarantee you that will not change.

Lets compare this with Man City. Their owners have made substantial investments through share capital, which provides funding without indebting the club. As of 2020 they had provided £1.3bln in capital. This has allowed the club to invest in the stadium, training ground and club infrastructure. There has also been an enormous spend on the squad. Whether this is right or wrong is for others to argue about, my point, is that Liverpool financed their stadium and training ground at the clubs expense.

There will be many who argue that this is the best way for a club to be run. Self sustaining and without relying on some sugar daddy/mummy owner. And there is a solid argument to back that up. However, there is a counter argument, and it goes like this:

The owners hold all of the clubs assets in their hands, so any investment in infrastructure, like the stadium, benefits them. For example, if Anfield was worth £250m when FSG bought it, but they then increase the stadium capacity, add in lucrative hospitality and refurbish amenities at a cost of £200m, that stadium might be worth £500m afterward. If they had invested their own money, their return is £50m, if the club spend money it has earnt, FSG’s return is £250m. And this is my point, for all the success Liverpool have achieved in the last 4/5 years, FSG are the ones who are benefitting financially. And they are really, really benefitting.

Lets look at Liverpool’s value. FSG bought the club for £300m in 2010, 12 years later Forbes values the club at £3.83bln. That’s a 1277% return on their investment. So considering they have made £3.5bln already, you could forgive the casual LFC supporter for thinking FSG might be willing to write off the paltry £60m Main Stand debt, allowing the club to free up some extra revenue to be reinvested in the squad. However, FSG have shown zero inclination to prioritise the club in this way, instead reaping the benefit of the value of their asset increasing whilst having the club pay FSG for the privilege of the loan.

It gets worse. I think FSG are now so financially risk averse they are detrimentally impacting Liverpool’s competitiveness. Let’s clear up another misunderstanding, Liverpool are not the poor cousin of Man City and Man Utd. The accounts to be released in early 2023 will likely show their turnover is higher than Utd and very similar to City’s. It will also show that they will have made HUGE pre-tax and operating profits. Liverpool have been run incredibly frugally these last few years, despite their income (Covid period notwithstanding) having steadily increased. There is not a single club in Europe with more wiggle room in terms of FFP than Liverpool. They could invest £300m over the next 2 transfer windows and comfortably stay within the FFP rules. They absolutely won’t though.

We don’t know whether Haaland would have considered Liverpool if they had offered the same financial package as City, what we do know is that they ruled themselves out of the running very early, seemingly stunned at the amount of money Haaland expected. What they don’t mention is that they could have comfortably afforded him. Whether that would be a sensible use of money is up for debate. What is clear though, they could have paid him the same amount.

Liverpool regularly take this approach, when MBappe was linked with Liverpool, Klopp again made clear the figures being discussed made it impossible for LFC to purchase him. Klopp has also made clear that he is not the one making those decisions, instead FSG state the financial restrictions and he works within them. 2 years ago, when Liverpool were top of the league but had lost the entirety of their defence, everyone expected them to buy a CB. Instead, they opted for a couple of cheap loans and subsequently fell of a cliff in terms of results. That they turned it around and achieved top 4 was due as much to the poor form of other top 4 hopefuls than it was their own improved performance. Failure to get top 4 could have cost them £100m, the amount of fee saved by waiting till the summer to buy Konate was how much? Maybe £20-30m max.

The same could be said of this season. Everyone knew Liverpool were light a midfielder. Yes we technically had enough bodies with Fab, Hendo, Thiago, Elliott, Milner, Ox, Keita and Jones, however a closer inspection made clear the problems. Keita and Ox had spent the last few years injured and were likely to continue with that trend. Elliott and Jones were good prospects but too young and inexperienced to fight for a title and Europe, leaving Henderson, Thiago, Milner and Fab who were 32, 31, 37 and 29 (though Fab runs like a 40 year old) Klopp played the good company man and argued he had enough cover but everyone else felt the midfield needed investment. There is no argument now. With Liverpool languishing in 9th its clear as day where the squad is weakest. In fact Liverpool tried to strengthen it, but Tchouameni turned them down.

I can explain very quickly why they didn’t bring in the player that sat second on their famed scouting network list. Because whoever it was, he had 3+ years on his contract. Liverpool almost always refuse to purchase players who have 3+ years as they have to pay a premium. They will refuse even if it means coming into the season light. They did it in the summer/winter before signing Konate, who they had been tracking for at least 18 months, and they have done it this season.

And this is the point. FSG will spend, but only on their terms. Klopp and the scouting network can identify targets but if their is not clear financial benefit, I.e. we are getting an obvious bargain, FSG are reluctant. And the definition of bargain is becoming increasingly difficult to hit. When only the best talents can get into your team, you sometimes need to accept the exorbitant fees that come with it. Even Haaland on £500,000 a week could be considered a bargain if he scores 40+ league goals.

What makes Liverpool’s current predicament different is how dire the situation is and thanks to the World Cup, there is still over half of the season to go when the transfer window reopens on 1st Jan. This makes the possibility good acquisitions can have an even greater impact on the season. However, being January any transfers will come with a huge premium, particularly for big signings. Bellingham and Rice, the types of players Liverpool are crying out for, could both be purchased for something like £220m up front, with another £60m in add-ons. Its exceptionally expensive, but that’s the price you pay for dithering in the summer and waiting until you are in dire need and in a much weaker position to negotiate.

Of course, the argument is moot. FSG will never pay it. They might opt for another loan signing and try and drag performances out of a squad not capable of playing at the level required consistently enough. We will come 5-8th. Bellingham will go to City in the summer. Rice will go to Chelsea. And Liverpool will look for the European equivalent on the cheap.

2 Years ago Liverpool were the dominant team in the world. They could have picked any of the worlds top young talent, but FSG’s penny pinching meant they missed the chance. It may never come again…
Ed Ern

 

FSG ultras
Loyalty to the owners is the most absurd thing I’ve read this week.

You can’t support a financial group, mate.

Klopp in, FSG out, let’s invest.
Theo, LFC, Liverpool

 

Liverpool the new Leicester?
Some statement from Jon,Cape Town that “Liverpool just did a Leicester and played above themselves for 1 season.”
Since 2018 Liverpool have never finished outside the top 3. In 3 of those seasons they accumulated 97,99 and 92 points.
Which season did they play above themselves Jon?
Must have missed Leicester winning the CL, the Super Cup,the CWC,the FA Cup,Community Shield and the League cup.

Klopp is there 8 years and has spent £600m.
That’s £75m per season…gross.
His net spend is £120m.£15m net per season. In 2 of the last 4 Summer Windows he bought no players and 1 player. What other top 10 manager bought no players in a transfer window?Bear in mind Ole spent more in 2 seasons than Klopp did in 5 to win the PL and CL. Klopp won the PL with most games left to play.

Mane wanted to go and Klopp had to change the front 3. You can’t have 3 forwards all 30+,2 of whom regularly miss games mid season due to Afcon. Two seasons ago people said Mané was finished and just last season Liverpool were a 1 man team…that man was Salah not Mané. Nunez is young and raw. He’s unlucky to be replacing a 30 year old Mané but don’t forget Mané was an unknown at Southampton when he was Nunezs age and Salah was 25 and “a Chelsea reject” when Klopp bought him. He didn’t work out too badly. Same loser Utd fans piling in on Klopp today were the same guys laughing at the Salah signing when they made a “statement signing” by investing in Lukaku…that went well. How’s Thursday night football by the way? Is it Glazers in or Glazers out this week?

He is currently the longest serving manager in the league. Mourinho has been sacked by 3 different PL clubs since Klopp has been at Liverpool. Arsenal have had 3 different managers . Chelsea have had 6 different managers. Utd have had 5 different managers. All outspent Klopp. None have won a PL since Pep won his first. None have even challenged or even looked like challenging. Klopp will turn it around. He needs proper investment from his billionaire owners. The days of easy titles when playing dross like Blackburn,Arsenal and Chelsea are gone.
Ken,Derry,Republic Of Ireland.

 

Luck or judgement?
Since the mailbox is seemingly split between those laughing at the disaster show that is Liverpool FC this year and the rest unsure exactly who to blame, I had a question.

No, not where is the money, though that will become more of a question in the summer.

Did Klopp create a winning team by excellent judgement, good fortune or maybe a little of both?

Salah had potential but didn’t seem to fulfill it until Klopp worked a system that gave him space to excel. Van Dijk was a player of a generation, albeit for a short period. Henderson became not incredibly shit for a short while. Milner continued (and still continues) to be a workman beyond where most would have expected him to have tapped out. Mané turned out to be excellent, an underpriced diamond. Allison changed expectations of keepers (although at huge price). Robinson was a bargain while TAA was able to be the deep lying winger that he could be (and be the only youth product actually present).

Was it amazing judgement to identify these and other players and bring them together, or did he just get lucky?

Because if it’s judgement, then Liverpool fans should have no concern, can trust his plan and just prepare for a rebuild over a few years. Will he have the same amount of time to repeat the trick? Will he even stick around to try?

But if it was a combination then Liverpool fans might be in for a rocky old time as luck rarely strikes twice. Can he coach the same levels from the next generation of bargain picks (and Nunez)? Will one big money signing a year fix the malaise?

The fast drop off of Van Dijk in particular is alarming. Can he have lost his key attributes so quickly or was it just a purple patch that aligned with other purple patches? That smacks a lot of luck. Possibly excellent judgement but then the challenge is to repeat it.

Ah well, will be fun times ahead. I’d say it was the end of an era, but I’m not sure an era can be that short.

Final note, I’m sure a staff writer “not so far from here” was saying how Reiss Nelson wasn’t good enough. And what a lovely 100th goal from Rashford who many on here were saying we should sell. Not to mention Dalot and Shaw playing excellently, yet again, but who were apparently both not good enough. Man, we see a lot of hot takes on this site.
Badwolf

 

Told you so
I said at the start of the season that if we didn’t recruit into the midfield things wouldn’t go well.
What did we do, brought in another Perrna-croc who wasn’t fit that hasn’t kicked a ball in the Prem.

I hope we get someone in January and really hope that FSG aren’t putting all their eggs id the Bellingham basket, as he will probably be sitting on the City bench next year next to Grealish.
Theo

 

Arsenal could do it
Everyone, including Arsenal fans, has been insisting they can’t possibly win the title. But when you see them rise to every challenge to sit at the head of the table, you begin to wonder, what if…? What if, at the end of the season Man City have a goal difference of +100 but Arsenal 1-0 their way to finish ahead of them? It would be properly hilarious, wouldn’t it?

Dropping out of the Europa would probably work in Arsenal’s favour were it to happen after the World Cup, allowing them to focus on the league while Manchester City fight on multiple fronts with a World Cup hangover.
Paul in Brussels (they couldn’t, could they?)

 

White hot
Arsenal’s campaign to finish 2nd is still going well and it’s exciting times being an Arsenal fan. However, there is only one player that has delivered an 8/10 performance in every single game he has played this season and that’s Benjamin White – at right back as well. He is potentially Arteta’s best ever buy as not only has he adapted to a new position without creating a fuss, he’s done it with the same quality that he showed at centre back. Unfortunately, as he doesn’t watch football, the media have decided he can’t be that good.

Southgate – you’re welcome not to take him to Qatar next month. As an Arsenal fan, it’s to our benefit for him to have a 6 week break. However, on form* he’s the best right back in the league right now.
Ash, London

 

Sit it out, Saka
Why is it only now that commentators and pundits care about Saka being kicked up and down?

Like the late Jose Antonio before him, it’s been happening every week and he hasn’t been afforded any protection from refs – but with Qatar 2022 on the horizon, we’re all supposed to be worried about his chances of making the flight to the Middle East?!

I couldn’t care less about this World Cup and would prefer Bukayo have a nice rest for a month. And no, you can’t have Reiss Nelson instead.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London

 

Wenger and the top four trophy
In a shameless exercise in pedantry I want to highlight the laziness of many a contribution to this fine Mailbox regarding Arsene Wenger’s fourth place trophy haul and how often his Arsenal are perceived to have finished fourth.

Rather than delving into the financial rewards and merits for each season, such as approximate £35 million Arsenal received during their Champions League campaign of 2012 vs the £1.8 million earned by Chelsea for winning the FA Cup, I simply want to highlight that Wenger finished as league runner up as often as he finished fourth, that is six times each. He also finished third five times.

I know this is petty and hardly at the cutting edge of modern football debate but when you look at the hand wringing by fans of other clubs who face the prospect of missing out this season and the impact it has on recruitment and prestige, you can see the point Arsene was trying to make.

And to the outraged who will leap to their keyboards in a fit of self righteous pique to say “but trophies are the whole point” I would agree. They are. So what harm in striving for as many as possible. Without the “Top Four Trophy” you can’t hope to win the big one in Europe and may very well struggle to finance attempts to win the domestic competitions.

Eoin (reducing Wenger’s legacy to that of master of the fourth place finish highlights an ignorance of the time and of statistics) Ireland

 

De Gea will do for me
Man United v West ham was an interesting game to watch and shows the difference between when Man Utd play a high line and when Man Utd play a low line.

In the first half Man Utd were the better side but not as good as we have been recently. I believe that is because we played very deep as we had Maguire back in the line-up who is not good at playing a high line as he’s not very mobile or quick so when he loses the ball he gets caught. Dalot was excellent both attacking and defensively and was almost the man of the match to me if it was not for De Gea. Throughout the game, De Gea had to make big saves and that was the reason we won that game. Rashford’s goal was fantastic. It came from a beautiful ball from Eriksen and Rashford at the far post with a quality header.

The second half was slower from Man Utd. West Ham had more space to play with as we were very deep. We brought on McTominay who seemed to be playing as a 10 and Bruno moved out wide which I was not crazy about as we have Donny on the bench or at least bring on a Garnacho for the wing or a Sancho. The Last ten minutes were pretty much all West Ham as Man Utd were tired and were unlucky to score but David De Gea was fantastic and was my man of the match as he saved the win for us.

Overall, You can see the difference between when we have Varane or even Lindelof playing a high line and when we have Maguire who has to play a defensive line as he’s not quick or mobile enough to play a high line. Rashford scoring was nice as he can hopefully continue with his positive attacking performances especially playing on the left as he is not a striker. Dalot, Shaw and Martinez were great and really were the defence for most of the game. De Gea continues to show why he is world-class and why it’s silly to complain that he’s not great at 50-yard passes or finding great balls when he wins us games with his saves and that’s what I want from a goalkeeper.
Max Of Whitegate

Michail Antonio is tackled by Man Utd defender Lisandro Martinez Credit: Alamy
Michail Antonio is tackled by Man Utd defender Lisandro Martinez Credit: Alamy


Happy days
goodness me, being a Man United supporter is becoming a joy again, rather than watching games with a sardonic grin on your face, whilst your mind drifted back in time to what it used to be like.

For at least four years United fans always knew the opposition would likely score, and whilst West Ham will feel unlucky, De Gea, Dalot, Martinez, Shaw and (bloody hell) Maguire were great yesterday. That is now five clean sheets in six matches.

And whilst the giddy feeling continues, in 12 EPL matches 6 have been against the Big Seven (welcome Newcastle) with an average 1.8 points per game.

Speaking of Newcastle, whilst the source of their wealth is controversial (abhorrent) the big six becoming the big seven is making the top of the league more competitive. If Pep could please retire and the robot bugger off to Madrid the moniker “best league in the world” will be well deserved at the moment.
Ged Biglin (In pastures new)

 

Save the showboaters
I don’t know if the recent furor about showboating is a sad reflection on the dark and humourless times we live in or we have simply forgotten the generation of footballers such as Rodney Marsh, George Best, Frank Worthington and more recently Ronaldhino, who were more artist than artisan and brought joy to a football stadium.

In fact it was often said that when George Best came to town, he would add 10,000 to the attendence, just to see him play.

It made me wonder… who today would one go out of one’s way to watch play? I for one got a chance to watch Messi in his prime and it was almost a religious experience, but I cant think of anyone who excited me like those icons of old. And I’m not just talking about the obvious ones, there were a host of names, Zidane, Ronaldo (the fat one), Hoddle, heck even Berbatov, just made you look in awe and realize why it is called the beautiful game.
Adidasmufc (Just take a moment from work and remember Cantona’s lob)

 

Chancers
Football is a game of chance; masquerading as a game of skill and athleticism. It was always this way – and will forever be.

Goals

Scoring a goal is the most decisive, exciting action in all of sport. This is because it’s very hard to do – and more often than not – decides the contest conclusively. If goalposts were bigger, and more goals were scored each game – football would be less of a lottery. But we don’t want that.

Chance

How many games have been decided by a single action ? A hopeful punt from long range finds its way into the top corner. The last defender slips in the mud. Deflections. The spin, the curl and the bounce of the ball itself. The wind. A f****** beach ball. The concept that “these things tend to even themselves out over a season”. Nonsense.

Ask yourself; is this unfair ? Have you been cheated ? Or is this all a game of chance ?

Cheating and The Rules

Some things we are relaxed about – such as shirt tugging. But how much is too much ? At the other end of the cheating scale, Ronaldo leaves his foot “in” – in order to win the decisive penalty. Blocking the keeper at corners. Time wasting. Going down “too easily”. Winding up the opponent in the hope of provoking violence and the resulting dismissal.

We can’t agree on the rules, which ones we believe in, to what extent – or how they should be applied. The official rule book is often more of a set of guidelines – to be applied inconsistently….by you-know-who.

Penalties

It’s not just the frequency by which penalties decide games – it’s the way that they factor in with everything else.

Referees / linesman / VAR

Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Football is a game of chance – because the decisive action of the contest is often a matter of opinion. Did x deliberately hurt y with that tackle. Was x interfering with play. Did the ball cross the line. Does the referee agree with the linesman. Was x offside. And many more. The referee’s opinion is often – in itself – a matter of chance. Handball, anyone ?

Extremes of emotion are fun to express. Cathartic. Sometimes even necessary. So we built a game of chance, called it a sport and then got angry at the injustice of it. Or instead we celebrate when things “go our way”. Every time. We are gambling addicts – all of us.

So the next time you feel like screaming abuse at the referee, consider this idea. Think of all the whirling, interlocking roulette wheels that spin behind every action and every decision in the game.

Let it go; because it’s all a game of chance.

Here’s a little song I wrote /

You might want to sing it note for note /

Don’t worry

Be happy
Tom E13 (Ooh-ooh-hoo-hoo-ooh hoo-hoo-ooh-ooh ooh)

Read more: Liverpool defensive trio feature in Premier League XI of disappointments in 2022/23

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