“Consistency is to do what you have to do always. We’ve brought ourselves into a situation where everyone can doubt our attitude. That’s really our fault, our mistake and nobody else’s.”
If you’re bothering to read anything associated with Liverpool FC this morning then you are either calm enough to put football into some kind of perspective or frenzied enough to actively search for something to rail against and deride. Either way, you are welcome here. There will be no judgement from this quarter. When Latest News was a thrusting young column full of the self-righteousness of youth, the need to apportion blame was always a priority. Now, sporting the grizzled beard of experience, that impulse seems unnecessarily exhausting and pointless, the preserve of the young and the angry.
The answer, you see, is patently obvious. The likes of Adam Lallana, Sadio Mane and Lucas Leiva may have been hopelessly inadequate in their performance; the heart/guts/balls/body-part-of-your-choice of Emre Can, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino may have been AWOL for the night and, if that late ‘cross’ was anything to go by, James Milner may have had a right leg transplant before kick-off, but the buck stops with Jürgen Klopp. You can end your frantic search for culpability with the gaffer.
Now, before the Klopp-Out ghouls rally to support this thesis, let us be clear, there is no better candidate to drag Liverpool back to success. None. However, the enormity of the job is only now dawning on the German. The fragile mentality of the club is deeply ingrained. So many of these players are schooled in the ways of failure, of underachievement, that when the tide begins to turn, they cannot swim against it and are drowned.
This is why the type of selection made by the Liverpool boss last night is untenable. It smacks of a confidence, an arrogance in fact, that has no foundation in the reality of lived experience. Lucas Leiva is not a centre-half, although he may, as a solid professional, perform adequately there on occasion. Adam Lallana is rendered almost ineffective when deployed too far forward or on a flank. There is nothing but evidence to support this idea – it’s not a subjective opinion. Emre Can, for all his potential, for all his apparent physicality, cannot translate that into a holding midfield presence. Not yet, at least.
Klopp, however, persisted in his belief that all of these choices would be fine. Moreover, the famous swarming gegenpress of old was no longer in evidence – was this deliberate instruction (hardly), mass underperformance (probably) or the aforementioned weak mentality (almost certainly)?
If you doubt the power of the mental side of the game, look at how the treacherous Leicester players, who had been so comically inept and unimpressive under Claudio Ranieri, suddenly developed passion and a will to win when freed from the yoke of the Italian’s oppression. The gurning, pinched visage of Vardy celebrating his goals was almost intolerable for this scribbler to behold. The fist pumping of Kasper Schmeichel was just as bad.
What really stung was the thought that if these Leicester players can perform as they did almost to spite a manager, then how much better should the motivation and drive of a group of Redmen be, who have perhaps the most famed motivator in the modern game leading them? Somewhere, there is a disconnect. The manager is seeing and believing in something that is not apparent to the rest of us. Until the ferocity of his belief is matched by those that don the Liverbird on a match day, Reds-watchers are doomed to disappointment and shattered hopes and expectations.
The only tolerable answer is almost intolerable – a further bout of recruitment. The unending rebuild. The perpetual reboot. The dreams of millions reliant on a collection of new boys. However, on current form, without Champions League football, what will be the standard of those recruits? At this point, let ol’ Uncy Trev make an observation: there is literally no choice but to be patient and hopeful. All the impotent raging in the world from us fans will make not one iota of difference. Ultimately, we have to trust Klopp to get it right but don’t be surprised if that entails a gegenpress full of new faces.