Sunday 17 November 2019

John Giles: Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool are in a very bad place and it's the manager's fault

Read John Giles' exclusive column every week in The Herald

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

John Giles

Jurgen Klopp is smart enough to understand the layers of irony which Cristian Benteke exposed at Anfield when he came back to haunt Liverpool.

He’s also bright enough to understand that he is in a very bad place now and a lot worse than you might think looking at and listening to him after his players collapsed again.

This has happened too often for comfort and Klopp is heading towards 18 months in charge without any indication that he has solved some fundamental problems.

Last season, Klopp made a fool of Benteke when he gave him some very public coaching lessons on the pitch at the end of games. He couldn't get him out the door fast enough when the summer rolled around.

Benteke is a decent striker who will score goals if you get the ball to him near the box but Klopp’s dogma would not allow him to consider a player who wasn’t minded to run all day long as well as score goals.

Klopp wants mobile strikers because his philosophy demands constant movement but he finds himself flying on one wing with Firmino his only consistent striker, Daniel Sturridge in a perpetual treatment room twilight and Divock Origi unable to deliver.

This is an example of his stubborn refusal to stray from his “go, go, go” mentality even when it has become more than obvious that he doesn't have enough players to do it successfully in the Premier League.

Mind you, he wasn’t alone last weekend when it came to falling short.

Mauricio Pochettino let himself down when he spoke like a wide-eyed manager from a lower division club, awed to be at Wembley for a big day out. It surprised me in one way because I thought Pochettino was made of sterner stuff.

It certainly doesn’t look good for Spurs in the run-in if the manager is just happy to be able to hold his own against the best teams.

Oddly enough, the big winner over the last week was Arsene Wenger.

They really are a pushover, the Arsenal faithful. Even the tiniest glint of silver in the sunshine and Wenger is restored.

Not redeemed yet but still alive, still holding on to his job with a death grip. But I can understand that and I even predicted it.

When your lot has been to watch, year after year, a man stand on strong principles of financial rectitude while other clubs dealt in reality and backed their ambition with cash, there may have been a stoic sense of pride in Wenger’s work but not much joy.

This is really the core of the problem. Wenger’s careful husbandry of the club through their development phase matches his nature and when the time came to break out of it, he couldn’t.

Now, the word is that Wenger will accept a new deal, as Director of Football, and will spend like an oligarch in the summer to buy the kind of players he hasn’t been able to develop.

Such a radical change from the strategy he has stubbornly insisted on pursuing smacks of desperation on his side of this equation but as I’ve said before, it’s the last card he has to play and he simply cannot let go.

I still believe he has to win the FA Cup or finish fourth to be sure that the Arsenal Board won’t reach a decision without him but he’s in there fighting and that’s remarkable.

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