Wednesday 26 April 2017

Ronnie Whelan: Arsene Wenger's torture is a big lesson for Jurgen Klopp

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Ronnie Whelan

Ronnie Whelan

There's a big lesson for Jurgen Klopp in the torture Arsene Wenger is going through right now.

Facing into a banana skin moment with Sutton United, Wenger’s time is all but up and pretty soon Arsenal will have a new manager and a new approach, I’ll bet, to team building.

Sitting in the sun and warm air in La Manga, Klopp should ponder Wenger’s philosophy and how it brought him to where he is.

I’m not talking about the way Wenger wants to play football. I’m a big fan of that and will always be even if I admit he has an enormous defensive blind spot.

I’m talking about all the other background factors which left him with a team in disarray and not trying in Munich last week.

I don’t often say that about a top team but you had to be there to see how bad Arsenal were.

The disconnect between the players might not have been so clear on television but it was as if different players had different plans for the game. Everyone was shouting but nobody was talking.

I’ve never seen that from a Wenger team before and it told me that his authority is gone.

It doesn’t matter how many trophies you’ve won at that point. The supporters in the ground could see it and those watching at home could see it too.

Those fans have been extraordinarily patient. In the same circumstances, I’m not sure the Kop would wait as long as they did at the Emirates.

But they have had enough now and unless something definitive about the future emerges, this could be a very messy end for Wenger.

I hope not. From a neutral’s perspective, Wenger has an honoured place in the history of the game but the simple fact that I am writing in those terms says a lot.

It’s as if he has nothing more to give us and he may be the only one who can’t see that.

Many have spoken of sadness while watching Arsenal fall apart in Germany but I’ll bet there’s plenty of anger now among the fans and every game from now on will be a potential flashpoint.

With an approach to football which relies so much on the manager giving players the freedom to express themselves, Wenger cannot hope to make progress if the fans or his team don’t trust what he’s saying.

When you see footballers on a field doing their own thing, you can take it that they are not listening any more. To play the Wenger way, with a complete disregard for good defending or goalkeeping, you need everyone on message and fully committed.

Ideally, you also need players like Messi, Xavi and Iniesta in their pomp.

Pep Guardiola and Barcelona really did fly so high by simply scoring more than the opposition, no matter what opposition.

Wenger, after his Invincibles retired or moved away and while he was counting the pennies because of the Emirates development, could never bring himself to pay the kind of wages which would bring players of that quality to Arsenal.

He got close, there’s no doubt about that. By buying players young and bringing them on, he stitched together good squads but never quite good enough.

There was always someone with more money and better defenders.

There’s the message for Klopp. He must resist the policy at Anfield which seems to insist on buying players of a certain age profile, young and promising though they may be.

Klopp needs certainty. He can’t continue with someone like Daniel Sturridge or a young striker like Daniel Origi and expect consistency.

He can’t win a title while he is teaching young lads how to deal with the big show and the Liverpool first team should not be a testing ground.

What Klopp badly needs is some experienced, Champions League hardened lads who will make a difference now and not tomorrow.

I don’t care what age they are, and nor should Klopp.

I understand he has a process and he is working away at that but Wenger had a similar process and it took nearly a decade for Arsenal to find out that it is flawed.

The Kop will not wait that long.

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