Thursday 19 October 2017

Still signs of progress as Klopp's men stop the rot

Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates after scoring Liverpool’s equalising goal in last night’s 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Anfield. Photo: Getty Images
Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates after scoring Liverpool’s equalising goal in last night’s 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Anfield. Photo: Getty Images

Paul Hayward

Jurgen Klopp said he would "look in" Sadio Mane's eyes to see if he was ready. But Liverpool's manager was staring into the irises of his whole team. Their souls, as well, on a night when the club's season hung in the balance.

Klopp's presence here in the shadow of the Kop has revived all sorts of hopes for an institution that has not held sway in English football for 27 years. Nobody doubts that he has restored their impetus, fashioned a new identity, added charisma and intelligence. In one turbulent month, though, expectations have been downgraded to a Champions League place next term.

You could feel it, too, when Eden Hazard was awarded a contentious free-kick from a slight push from behind by Adam Lallana and David Luiz stepped forward to side-foot the ball past Simon Mignolet.

Klopp jabbed his finger at referee Mark Clattenburg and then seemed to lose his rag with a group of Liverpool fans behind his coaching zone, presumably in response to unwelcome criticism.

Klopp and Liverpool, you soon realised, were at the point of maximum strain in a campaign that has threatened to unravel.

In contrast, Chelsea are a side certain of their ability to come through rough patches. They defended calmly, waited for their chance and struck with that Luiz free-kick.

Liverpool's problem has stemmed as much from their style of play: a busy, buzzy pressing game that constantly depletes energy supplies. Or so we assume.

It may well be that confirmation bias is at play here. We expect the high-intensity approach to exhaust players, and so wheel that theory out when results go bad. Is the link provable? No, but it sounds right.

Whatever: Liverpool kicked off in the rain here 10 points behind Chelsea, who were trying to put the title race beyond sensible doubt before February dawned.

The dichotomy between Liverpool's rescue mission and Chelsea's wish to pummel their fellow title contenders loaded tension onto the game; and it was most apparent in Klopp, who saw Wijnaldum's header lift Anfield out of its growing fatalism.

A helpful question for any club that sees promise flicker and fade is this: melodrama aside, is progress being made? At Liverpool - you would fancy Klopp to keep making headway. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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