Jurgen Klopp: The Bench Connection

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Well someone didn’t get the memo.

Following three gutsy away games at Stoke, West Brom and Watford, and two limp ones at home to Bournemouth and Palace, yesterday’s match was an opportunity for the real Liverpool to stand up and beat their chests. Three games left, lads. Time to wipe Southampton away as City had done to Palace the previous day, yeah? Do you want this or not? Hmm?

Not sure.

This reticence to take what’s in front of our very noses does not necessarily begin and end with the players. If you were to compile a casebook called Things Jürgen Klopp Fucked Up, this would be Chapter 2, tucked in behind the section on the Europa League final.

Those words may sting but it’s important to remember that the manager is not some deux ex machina figure who will cure all ills in two seasons. He’s a human being who, like all of us, fucks up from time to time. Yesterday was an example of that.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course, but most people expected Lallana and Sturridge to trot out after the break following that turgid first half, but it was not to be. Save for standing in front of him and shouting ‘Behind you!’ in playful panto while pointing at the bench, there’s little you can do in that situation but wonder what he can see that is invisible to the rest of us.

Two defensive midfielders at home, no width whatsoever and a General Melchettesque predictable attack left us all frustrated, and it was a nervous hour before United made a worrying weekend a ‘sort of okay’ one.

The Race for Top Four (TM) is back in our hands and if we roll over West Ham and Boro we will reach the Promised Land.

Big if.

I’m never sure which is the real Liverpool. The one which shows enormous stugots when a goal down at half time in the Potteries or the frustrating, masochistic set of lads who panic when they’re not at least four up in the first ten minutes at Anfield.

That’s not to say that the opposition were cannon fodder. Southampton are a strong side and players like Cedric and Romeu have no issues with letting people know that they’re not just there for making up the numbers. True, they didn’t try to win the game but that’s a perfectly acceptable strategy. If your strength is in denying opportunities to avoid defeat then that’s what you do.

One criticism with Saints’ performance was their play acting and niggly tactics when it’s early May and they have nothing to play for. I don’t understand that condemnation at all. Liverpool could be third and sitting in a ten point enclosure from both second and fourth place and I’d still expect them to play like they needed a win. You don’t just go through the motions because it’s nearly beach time. You fight, fight, fight no matter the significance of the game and that’s what they did.

And we did too to some extent. We should have won the game but Milner too is fallible and their keeper is nine foot tall and took advantage of one of the weakest referees to cross the city boundary. Seriously. I love a bit of gamesmanship and anyone who thinks it ungentlemanly should look at videos of Grobbelaar and Dudek in European Cup finals, but it’s not often the ref just sits there and watches like an intrigued spectator. Putting your head on top of your opponent’s to emphasise your physical superiority should at least result in a word or two, eh Bobby? At least give us that.

Some blame Milner over the manager, but every now and then pens are missed. James can look back at this season with some satisfaction. He is, as PG Wodehouse liked to say, on the right side of the ledger in terms of credits and loss.

Things improved when Sturridge came on but I’m not going to use this column to re-assert my views that he can be really, really good while Divock Origi can be really, really average. It’s the same old song so I’ll just point at his cameo and raise a Roger Moore eyebrow to the bench one last time. If you can’t break a team down then putting a player on who can may not be the worst idea. Would an extra 20 minutes on the pitch have helped? We’ll never know.

So that was a strange weekend. Spurs handed Chelsea the league, City gave Palace a battering, we gave Southampton a point and Arsenal decided to wake up and beat a relatively good side for once. I can’t help but feel that we’ve missed a trick somehow but we’re still in the hunt.

I just hope that Boro are down by the time we face them and are playing with sombreros on and toy donkeys stuffed under their arms in readiness for a fortnight on the Costa del Sol.

We may need all the help we can get if yesterday is anything to go by.

Two games.

Six points.

No more additions to that file, please Jurgen.

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