Comment - Jurgen Klopp needs to dispel any suggestion that he is morphing into Arsene Wenger
We have all been seduced by Jurgen Klopp’s charms since he took over as Liverpool manager almost two years ago, yet an alarming comparison can now be drawn to the German tactician who retains high approval ratings despite huge question marks over his abilities.
As millions of Liverpool fans around the world were taken to the brink of despair once more by a team that confirmed they are as brilliant in the final third as they are woeful in their defensive duties during their 3-2 win at Leicester on Saturday, Klopp was forced to admit he is running out of ideas in his bid to resolve his side’s defensive woes.
As ever with this fascinatingly charismatic figure, these were words delivered with a real sense of despair after his side clung on for a vital win.
“It’s obvious we concede too many, there’s no doubt,” he stated after the fraught victory at the King Power Stadium. “That’s really hard for me. Usually, I’m a really good defensive coach, but obviously that has worked not too well so far.”
Liverpool goal scoring great John Aldridge was a little more forthright in his assessment of the defensive calamity that his Klopp’s team, as he offered up these comments to the Sunday World.
“I think I’m going to need counseling by the end of this season because I’m a nervous wreck watching this Liverpool team,” declared Aldo.
“We cannot get away from the fact that the Liverpool defence is shot to pieces in terms of their confidence. They know they are getting stick from every pundit on TV, every newspaper report and the clubs fans and it has got to them.
“Every time they face up to a free-kick or a corner, they are terrified and the opposition know it. It doesn’t matter who Klopp picks at this stage because as a collective unit, they fear the worst defending set-pieces.”
Klopp’s honesty can only be admired and that is one of the reasons why anyone who dares to question the manager directing this unsteady ship will liable to face a few days of social media abuse from devoted Kloppites.
Liverpool fans have invested so much of their faith into the Klopp project that they simply cannot contemplate the prospect of their German Messiah coming up short in his mission to take the club back to the top, yet as Arsenal fans will readily confirm, showing unshakable loyalty in a manager who has a big flaw in his make-up can lead to long-term pain.
Arsene Wenger banked many years worth of credits in his personal credibility bank as he produced some sensational Arsenal teams that reigned over English football at the turn of the century, yet the last decade has highlighted why standing by a beloved manager at all costs can be a recipe for disaster.
Occasional FA Cup wins have papered over the cracks in the Wenger empire, but he should have appreciated that his time as emperor of every facet of the Arsenal set-up needed to come to an end before his side were reduced to flying to Belarus to play BATE Borisov in the Europa League this coming Thursday.
It really didn’t need to be like this for one of the icons of the Premier League era, but Wenger’s thirst for power is unquenchable at the age of 67.
While we are a long way from offering up such a damning final conclusion on the Klopp era at Liverpool, the similarities between the Arsenal boss and his opposite number at Anfield have become more than a little alarming in recent months:
For far too long, Wenger’s side have had a reputation for being susceptible to conceding from set-pieces, with tactical 'visonaries' Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce among those exploiting that weak spot relentlessly down the years.
Arsenal have long been brilliant going forward and weak at the back and that is not the only similarities he shares with Klopp as these bullet points confirm:
- Wenger has refused to make changes to his coaching set-up to try and find a solution to his side’s defensive weakness and to this point, Klopp is also reluctant to consider changes to his backroom staff.
- Supporters stood behind to Wenger for many years despite these enduring problems and a similar loyalty has developed towards Klopp from Liverpool fans.
- Wenger has focused his attention on signing high profile attacking players in recent years and has failed to solve the defensive weakness in his squad and Klopp followed a similar path last summer.
- Wenger has persistently claimed the reason why he does not splash the cash to sign players is due to a lack of talent available in the market, with Klopp muttering the same lines as he explained why he didn’t buy a defender in this summer’s transfer window.
Liverpool’s presence on the Champions League fixture list this week confirms that Klopp has made some progress in his tenure at Anfield, yet so much hope and expectation has been invested in this coach and, to this point, he struggling to justify that backing.
Klopp’s beaming smile, his booming laugh and his wonderfully colourful media interviews may have endeared him to an audience well beyond Liverpool fans, but the moment has come to prove he can win trophies as well as popularity contests.