Thursday 26 April 2018

Past glory complicit in future of Klopp

Salah's missed penalty underlines how Liverpool are captive to decorated history

Daniel Sturridge celebrates a goal for Liverpool but he could be on his way soon
Daniel Sturridge celebrates a goal for Liverpool but he could be on his way soon

Simon Hughes

Jurgen Klopp's endearing capacity for limitless exaggeration meant it was difficult to tell whether he was joking again or whether he was offering an insight into the deepest of anxieties at Anfield.

The question was about Mohamed Salah: Would he continue as the team's penalty taker having missed Liverpool's third in succession at home, this time against Huddersfield Town?

Klopp had thought it made sense give Salah the responsibility on the basis that he scored from the spot in the 95th minute for Egypt against Congo earlier this month to secure his country's passage to their first World Cup in 28 years.

"The pressure is bigger in Liverpool than in Egypt!" Klopp suggested, before unleashing an enormous laugh.

Egypt last played in the World Cup finals in 1990 - when they played out an utterly forgettable scoreless draw with Jack Charlton's Ireland - and which also happens to be the last time they were crowned English champions.

There might be a wider perception that the Liverpool manager's job, because of their lengthy wait for glory, makes it less relevant in European football than it has ever been.

Yet it is fair to propose that the reality is the opposite: no club is captivated by its history as much as Liverpool and equally no English club gets as carried away by the joy of victory or as sunken in the despair of defeat.

We have now reached the situation where, if a manager makes progression one season and does not start the next as promisingly, Liverpool are reeling backwards, as thoughts meander to 1990.

Suddenly he is not the messiah everybody but himself claimed him as at the point of his arrival.

It is an appropriate week to analyse Liverpool's current state because, a year ago next weekend, they reached the summit of the Premier League playing a blistering brand of attacking football.

Set that against the mood at half-time during Saturday's match against Huddersfield. With the score 0-0, the players were booed off, and Liverpool were set to remain in mid-table - all of this six days after a 4-1 battering at Tottenham.

Anniversary

What followed in the second half, and three unanswered goals, demonstrated that, just as the side was not as good as it seemed a year ago, they are not as bad as some believe now. "The moment things don't work out, we get compared with the past. Immediately, what you said before the season is the truth: we need to fix the defence, etcetera. ," said Klopp, noting the upcoming anniversary.

"It was clear after the really harsh criticism after the last game that you can't go like this [clicks fingers] and say it was not that bad. It was bad. It was very important that we reacted.

"The atmosphere was not too optimistic at half-time so to come out and do what we did was really nice.".

Klopp will get time from Liverpool's owners, Fenway Sports Group. He is under contract until 2022 and he receives their total support.

That relates to the prickly topic of transfers and funding too. It is appropriate to mention the issue on this week of anniversaries that Michael Edwards, the sporting director, is approaching a year in the job.

Any discussion about injuries relates to transfers and the deals Liverpool have not done because Klopp has been five players down for most of the current campaign and more efficient recruitment in the summer would surely have alleviated this problem.

Through injury, Adam Lallana has not played a game and has been missed terribly. Sadio Mané missed three games through a controversial suspension and then got injured while on international duty. Philippe Coutinho was absent for weeks while Barcelona chased his signature and now he is injured too.

Klopp certainly has questions to answer over results, team selections, tactics and substitutions but where is Edwards? He does not have a profile on the club's website, a platform where his words have not appeared since November 4, 2016, and he seems to be able to go about his work, which is crucial to Klopp's future, without any similar recriminations when it goes wrong.

For Bob Paisley - Liverpool's most successful manager - the trophies went to the football clubs that simply "bought and sold the best," but this might be another reminder that no club is imprisoned by its past like Liverpool.

© Independent News Service.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport