Friday 24 November 2017

James Lawton: Jurgen Klopp needs to rise above another Liverpool false dawn

Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
James Lawton

James Lawton

In all the tumult of his presence, and his extraordinary rage to win, it seems longer but, no, it is just 10 months ago since Jurgen Klopp put down his first inimitable imprint on the slumbering ambition of Liverpool Football Club.

The German did it at White Hart Lane with a superior example of instant mobilisation of a team's best competitive instincts and the result was a fighting, swarming 0-0 draw. He returns to the old ground tomorrow with what is surely a sharply more desperate need to do better.

Klopp may have created for himself a tidal wave of goodwill on Merseyside and triggered long latent yearnings for the return of a great tradition, but if such stirrings are exciting they can also be dangerous.

They create an appetite in which patience is invariably the first casualty. Such certainly is the risk run by Klopp going into his latest challenge.

Defeat against Mauricio Pochettino's accomplished Spurs - Liverpool's first there since 2012 - would no doubt represent for some hard judges more than the loss of a mere three points.

It might, just two weeks after that superbly arresting triumph down the road at Arsenal, pose some rather probing questions.


Has Klopp - one of them could well go - been employing a brilliant instinct for the game or, the Anfield heavens forbid, smoke and mirrors?

Is he painting a picture that accurately reproduces the foundations of his superb reign at Borussia Dortmund - or portraying a future that is simply beyond the scope of his current resources?

Such doubts have inevitably gathered around last weekend's deflating defeat at newly-promoted Burnley, a defensive regression of shocking proportions despite a flood of Liverpool possession, but then none of them have appeared to significantly subdue the 49-year-old Klopp's messianic instincts.

Some defeats confuse him, he says, but they do not separate him from his belief that in Liverpool there is indeed now a powerfully flowing current.

"I want the excitement and satisfaction of success for this club as much as I ever wanted anything, the idea of it moves me very much."

Klopp is still talking, not just of a refurbished and more strenuously committed Liverpool, but one that, like the teams of Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley, can make its own sustained impact on football history.

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He is insisting that over the next six years - his current contract ends in 2022 - he will re-conjure all of that old excitement.

He says it in the street, as he walks in from the touchline and this week he went on national television and dazzled the not-so-easily-impressed Gary Lineker with the strength and the purity of his ambitions.

In Lineker's company, he coolly strolled back all the way to the bedrock of Liverpool's tradition, the empire-building of Shankly and Paisley.

"I would like to celebrate something each season over the next six years, not a small thing but really something - I want to be driving on the big bus through Liverpool.

"I've said before it's not important what people think of you when you come somewhere. It is most important what they think when you leave. That is when you need to be judged.

"When I was at Mainz, there were 20,000 people going nuts. Then I went to Dortmund and you would see 80,000. That wasn't bad but the reaction here in last season's Europa Cup quarter-final against Dortmund was the best I've ever had. I felt no-one could stop us.

"Having memorable games all in a row - that's my target. People being unable to wait for the next game. That is what football should be. If you can do this very often you will be successful."


The disappointment that came in Burnley to his belief in the supreme value of confidence fuelled by genuine momentum will no doubt move Klopp to one of his more passionate team talks at White Hart Lane.

"You cannot stand still," he says. "You have to understand where you went wrong, how you made your mistakes, and this is our great challenge in the next match.

"I believe we are really on the move, that what happened at Burnley will not be significant in the long run, but it is something you have to go out to prove at the first opportunity."

Klopp's men will face a Tottenham team who appear to have regained some of the authority that deserted them last spring at the end of a hitherto brilliant season. Pochettino appears to have recovered his nerve after the disasters of the spring, which saw Arsenal, of all people, claiming second place.

"We have learned a lot," he says. "And we have a lot to look forward to - not least the Champions League. I am pleased with the way we have come into the new season and I'm very pleased with our signing Vincent Janssen. He has been fantastic and created lots of chances. The supporters see that he is a fighter."

The 22-year-old Dutchman, Pochettino insists, will be a powerful catalyst in the re-stated attacking flair of such as Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela.

Meanwhile, Klopp invokes, almost casually, the names of Shankly and Paisley, saying that life - and football - goes so quickly that it is the influence and experience of such men which keep you in the race.

That, plus an understanding that some defeats have a tendency to linger in the bones - and the psyche. No doubt such a one has to be avoided at lunchtime tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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