Watching Jurgen Klopp is exhausting, so imagine how it is to play for him. No wonder that burn-out is the biggest danger to Liverpool’s title chances
Cut Jurgen Klopp and he bleeds triple espresso.
The Liverpool manager spends each match in a state of such permanent hyperactivity that it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn he was wired to the nearest electrical sub-station.
It’s physically exhausting just watching his 90-minute-plus-stoppage-time display of touchline pyrotechnics, so what must it be like actually playing for him?
Having escaped from their home match with Manchester City with a draw, Klopp cited fatigue as one of the reasons for Liverpool’s somnambulant performance:
“I know people say they are on a lot of money. But people want to see the best football. Somebody has to start to give the boys a little break, because we can’t as we play every three days. Somebody has to start thinking of the players. Because without them this game is difficult to play.”
Lethargic Liverpool in Premier League return?
This doesn’t auger well for Saturday’s home game with Huddersfield. Klopp may have had a point, but his words called to mind the alleged response of England captain Alan Shearer when his manager Glenn Hoddle asked what was the cause of a catatonic performance against Luxembourg in a World Cup qualifier. To wit: “Have you ever thought it could be you?”
Before the start of last season the Dutch coach Raymond Verheijen claimed Klopp was playing Russian roulette with his team’s fitness and that his methods were directly responsible for an injury to Adam Lallana, a player arguably more famous for advertising face cream than anything he’s done in Klopp’s midfield.
Klopp’s popularity in the UK extends well beyond Anfield. He speaks better English than many of the 60,000,000 natives and has the gifts to embark on the mutual interchangeable careers of politics and stand-up comedy if he ever gets bored of football.
He does however, have a tendency to go well over the top, making him a manager cast in the image of his fan base. This after all is the club whose fans made a banner of Alberto Aquilani dressed as a Roman gladiator, and with the words “A hero has arrived,” after signing him.
Aquilani cost £17 million, or approximately £1 million for every appearance he made and the gladiatorial reference was uniquely ill-advised given that he seemed to built entirely from blancmange.
Liverpool’s high expectations
When Liverpool lost the 2018 Champions League final to Real Madrid the result was greeted with relief by fans of rival English clubs, because, as one Everton fan put it: “you literally never hear the end of it when they actually win something.”
The level of expectation at Anfield was best typified by the title run-in in the 2013-14 season, when “Make Us Dream” banners were displayed to fate-tempting effect as their challenge evaporated into a cloud of mourning not seen in England since the death of Princess Diana.
Liverpool’s manager then was Brendan Rogers, a man who usually looked around 57 times more pleased with himself than he had any right to be. If Rogers was a departure from the usual, taciturn mould of Liverpool managers in the Paisley/Dalglish tradition, Klopp may well be from another star system.
When he gets it right, Liverpool obliterate the opposition. The problem is his strategy is often akin to starting a 10,000 metre race at Usain Bolt’s pace and hoping they get enough of a lead to coast through the rest.
The signs were already there after the City game, when Klopp said. “We did really well after seven games in the last three weeks. They were at the highest level so you cannot have a second of a break.”
Klopp subsequently became approximately the 967th manager of an English Premier League club to claim his players needed a rest.
Don’t we all, Jurgen.