Did Jurgen Klopp scare his Liverpool players into beating Swansea?
The half time admonishment is a tried and tested managerial method of invigorating an otherwise impressive team when in the grips of inertia and, by his own admission, Jurgen Klopp gave the Liverpool players a stern talking to in the dressing rooms of the Liberty Stadium today.
Their results this term clearly indicate that Liverpool have attained a level of consistency that was beyond them last season, but their first half display against Swansea was among the worst they’ve mustered in recent memory.
The rabid intensity and vim that have hallmarked Klopp’s tenure were conspicuously absent, and Liverpool largely sleepwalked though the first 45 minutes.
The game was still in its infancy when Leroy Fer put the hosts in front and, soon thereafter, the in-form Adam Lallana was forced off with a groin problem, with Daniel Sturridge sent on in his stead.
Swansea had not won since beating Burnley on the opening day of the season so they were in desperate need of three points.
And, as the players made their way to the tunnel at the break, you wouldn’t have bet against the Welsh outfit bagging them.
However, then Jurgen Klopp got some face time with his players, and lit a fire under their collective backside.
For all his charisma and gregariousness, Klopp clearly has a dark side, and it’s easy to imagine him as an intimidating presence, were his hulking 6’4 frame to be utilised in the appropriate manner.
“I said to the boys, 'I am 49 and I have lost a lot of football games and unfortunately I will lose a few more, but today makes no sense,'” Klopp said of his half time team talk.
“It's not a day where we should lose a football game because we could have done so much better in the first half and we could still do better in the second half.
“We were angry at half-time, but with ourselves, nobody else. So we had to show we can do better because (up to that point) nobody could see why we were here.
“It looked like we were there for a football game but we were there because we want to win a football game. In the second half, there was no doubt about this anymore.”
Liverpool returned from the break a side transformed, and instantly went about turning the tide.
Within nine minutes they were level, as Roberto Firmino registered his third league goal of the campaign when heading home a Jordan Henderson delivery.
The strike imbued the guests and they vigorously chased the victory. Still, Swansea were resolute and it was six minutes from time before the Anfield outfit made the decisive breakthrough.
Once again, Firmino was central. As the Brazilian sought to make further inroads into the Swansea box, he was dragged down by Angel Rangel.
James Milner stepped up and buried the subsequent penalty. Liverpool have now won four consecutive league games, which leaves them in second place.
Of their upturn in the performance, Klopp again referenced events at half time, and lauded the players for heeding his instructions, but without going overboard.
“Often I have to accept what I see, I cannot change a lot in a game. Half-time, I can change a lot, but only when the players have open ears.
“They have, so that’s good. It's very important that on not brilliant performance days that you are still able to win. It's very important, always, because I have two hands and I'm pretty sure I have enough fingers to count the brilliant games in this season.”
First place Man City face third place Spurs on Sunday and, should Guardiola and co win or draw, Liverpool will remain in second going into the international break.
When the league resumes, they welcome a hitherto lukewarm Manchester United to Anfield for a spot of Monday night football, which is likely to prove an instructive encounter for both teams.