Comment: If Klopp is to succeed at Liverpool he must analyse predecessors’ failures and act accordingly
Calls for new manager to reshape squad are borne of frustration. If he is to succeed he has to analyse what predecessors’ did and do it differently
There was a recent episode of Doctor Who where Peter Capaldi found himself in a purgatorial revolving castle, challenged to escape only to be transported back to the same place he started to repeat the process over and over again.
This went on for over a billion years, the Doctor acting and saying exactly the same thing each time as he plotted his way out.
To many viewers it was all a bit confusing.
To me, it was a metaphor for covering Liverpool Football Club in recent times, the only difference being Mr Capaldi used his fist to bang against the wall that eventually created the pathway out rather than his head.
It is probably the same for many football clubs, but more than most Liverpool finds itself in a ceaseless loop of hope followed by disillusionment followed by hope.
Managers come and are embraced, do well, sign players, do a bit better, sign more players, deteriorate, leave, and then the process starts again with an idealistic new coach.
In between there are boxes to be ticked such as the annual demand for another squad overhaul; accusations the mega millions spent by the owners is not enough (“we may have spent over £200m but what’s the NET spend?”); the bi-annual revamp of the club’s Academy (“we know where we’ve been going wrong for the last 15 years but we’re getting it right this time, we promise”); and occasional cup collecting, Liverpool’s capacity to win trophies during the title drought one of the chief reasons that despite the despair during league campaigns such as this, hope remains – usually in the form of a European trophy or the League Cup. The grandiose expectations thus remain intact each pre-season.
Jurgen Klopp is still at the start of his Anfield process - the promise of his early months will need more than a couple of dire defeats to be derailed – but he must already realise the scale of the challenge to turn those ‘doubters to believers’.
He recognised quickly how fragile the mindset of his fanbase is, Anfield a shadow of the place it was just 18 months ago with supporters fatigued by the last 20 years of underperformance on the pitch and the persistent self-harm in the transfer market.
There are only so many times you can hear the same story about the 19-year-old Liverpool have signed from under the noses of every other major club and feel enthused by his impending arrival six months later. Instead, you find yourself asking: “If he’s really the new Steven Gerrard, is there any chance you can sign him in January rather than wait until the summer?”
Klopp brings an enthusiasm, ebullience and charisma, but – and this is certainly no criticism of him – we’ve heard it all before in a French, Spanish, Scottish and Northern Irish accent.
Liverpool managers arrive with a sense of energy and purpose, knowing if they perform well and galvanise The Kop they can ‘conquer the bloody world’ as the Shanklyism prophesises. A few years later they leave battle weary, steadfast in their belief they were just a couple of players short of winning the title. For all the criticism of them in their final days, they’re not usually wrong.
When there is no worn out manager to turn the guns on, a multitude of new signings are seen as the answer to everything.
That is why Klopp’s assertion he has not come to Merseyside to overhaul the current squad has been the first meaningful effort to break the cycle.
How refreshing and endearing to hear a manager commit to improving players instead of privately briefing about a lousy legacy. Klopp’s comments should have been applauded and embraced as the first, genuine vow to stop ripping it up and starting again.
Instead, cynicism prevailed with many either refusing to believe Klopp or – more perceptively – anticipating his view would be revised the more he worked with a limited playing pool.
“Give it six months and he’ll have those six or seven new signings,” say the weary veterans of many Anfield sieges.
When Liverpool outplayed Chelsea, overrun Manchester City and hammered Southampton, Klopp’s faith in the squad he inherited seemed justified - it was time to hand out cigars to the scouts. Klopp is undoubtedly the real deal in terms of elite coaches. He is a proven winner. That is something Liverpool have lacked in their dug-out for too long.
The last three results have reignited the fans’ sense of disillusionment that no matter how good Klopp is, he won’t fulfil ambitions until he has a core of players capable of showing technical and physical courage on a weekly rather than monthly basis. If those players are already in his squad, they are surely running out of time to prove it.
For Liverpool’s sake we must hope they do.
Squad overhauls have been demanded and sanctioned every summer with minimal impact. Liverpool have spent fortunes on players, only to hear further calls for new blood the following January. Adding five, six or seven new faces to cure inconsistency has bred more inconsistency. Without question, two high-class additions a year are infinitely more desirable than another five or six who do little more than keep Liverpool top of the agent fee table.
Calls for Klopp to completely reshape the Liverpool squad are borne of frustration, and understandable after shambolic performances such as that at Watford, but if he is to succeed where others’ failed on Merseyside he has to analyse much of what his predecessors’ did and do it differently.
Liverpool won’t escape the purgatory of Premier League failure by being stuck on repeat.