Klopp would be the ideal man to sort out Liverpool mess, were it not for the fact it’s his mess
There’s no longer a question about whether or not Liverpool are broken. They are. This particular Liverpool team is done. It is broken beyond repair. Severe structural remedy is required.
The muscle memory of the great side they once were will occasionally kick in. Even this season we’ve seen it often enough. In the raucous Anfield win over Manchester City, in the first half especially of a 2-1 win at Tottenham, and in the ruthlessness of those game-clinching first 22 minutes at Newcastle last weekend.
But this Liverpool team will never again be the 100-point-mark bothering mentality monsters of old. Those days are gone.
The question now moves on from ‘Are they broken?’ to ‘How do we fix this broken team?’ and before answering that question comes the more immediately significant: ‘Is Jurgen Klopp the best man to do it?’.
It remains a very tricky question. Right up until this week, despite everything, we’d just about leaned towards ‘Yes, but…’ but now we think we’re a bit more ‘No, unless…’
But I know writers who use nuance and they are all cowards. So tits to that. We’re going to say no. We’re going to say it’s time for Liverpool to change. Not now, obviously, but at the end of the season. If Liverpool won’t make that call – which in fairness they almost certainly won’t because Klopp is understandably and correctly an Anfield legend – then he should make the decision for them. There is no doubting his love for the club, and the best way for him to show that is to walk away.
Even if he were absolutely 100% up for it, we wouldn’t be certain he would be the right man to perform the extreme surgery required to try and get this Liverpool team back to where it was. Especially as this is an operation with absolutely no guarantee of success.
Which got us trying to think of how many great managers had managed to create a second whole new great team. Building a great team from someone else’s mess, that happens all the time. Klopp himself has done it at both Dortmund and most spectacularly at Liverpool. But building another great team from your own broken mess of a side? Rare to get the chance, rarer still to pull it off.
Much of Sir Alex Ferguson’s genius lay in his ability to build and rebuild multiple great Manchester United sides, but the first one took him almost a decade and never did he face the task of building another from absolute ruins. Such was his and his side’s ludicrous brilliance through those first couple of Premier League decades that the nearest thing facing a crisis for Ferguson were those bleak couple of seasons where his side finished third behind both Chelsea and Arsenal.
And he was also quite probably the greatest football manager of all time.
Klopp doesn’t now quite seem to have that absolute commitment to go through what might be a painful couple of years. A third of the 12 times his Liverpool side have lost by three or more goals have come this season, and three of those four in the space of 10 games this year. Two of those were against Brighton and Wolves.
And after each of those defeats he has seemed crestfallen and world-weary. When Liverpool and Klopp were at their heavy-metal peak, he would react to each defeat with fury. We would mock it on the rare opportunities that great side gave us as he railed against opposition tactics or some perceived injustice, but secretly we all understood. He hated losing and couldn’t be rational about it in the immediate aftermath.
After Liverpool’s more recent, more frequent defeats, his response is more of a shrug. He tried to get angry after the Wolves game, he tried to pretend there was something unseemly about scoring a goal on the counter-attack after doing lots of defending, but his heart wasn’t in it. You could just tell. He was sighing. He wasn’t angry, just disappointed. He was at a total loss to explain the defensive snafus that led to Wolves’ (far more important) first two goals.
Then came a pair of wins over Everton and Newcastle. And here’s where Liverpool’s problem lies. They will never – with these players and this manager – be so bad that there is no flicker of lingering quality there. They will absolutely have their moments.
But these will not be corners turned. They will just be more misleading detours down another cul de sac. Especially if Real Madrid are waiting at that dead end, because even peak Liverpool could never quite get their heads around those bastards.
And so it was this week. And so it was again with Klopp after the match. “The tie is over, I think,” might be fair comment, but it’s not a monstrous mentality. Something has gone in him and unless he truly believes deep down he can get it back, then he should absolutely walk away in the summer and do what’s best for the club he adores.
The irony of the situation may ultimately be that if Klopp weren’t already Liverpool manager, he’d be the perfect man to bring in and sort everything out. But he absolutely does not look the man to clean up his own mess.
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