The Klopp Project (Part 1): Great Expectations

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So. Liverpool Football Club. This great club of ours. Steeped in history and tradition, but in many ways still a sleeping giant on the biggest stage. A club that hasn’t won the top domestic prize for 27 years, a club whose fans have developed a perhaps unhealthy obsession with winning league title number 19 and the club’s first league title in the Premier League era.

The question everyone wants to know is how long do we have to wait? Of course the answer to this question is that nobody knows. What is important however is do we have the right man in charge to lead us to the title? In my humble opinion we do. Jurgen Klopp is the right man to do this. But the job is far from an easy one, as I will attempt to show here as part of a 3 piece series.

Perhaps the single most important thing that we can acknowledge as fans is, like in all walks of life, money talks. Not only that but we are part of a potentially growing group of clubs who can feasibly challenge for the league title in any given season.

This isn’t Klopp’s title winning era Bundesliga, with one realistic rival. This is a league where you have to best the Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs to land the elusive prize. You have to be better than all five of those rivals to win the title. Every single season. Five clubs with the money, managers and set-up to be part of the conversation more seasons than most.

What’s more, we have responsible owners in FSG who have to avoid breaching financial fair play rules and therefore have to maximise the profit the club makes. Only then can they go on significant transfer splurges. However, to make the challenge even harder, it is not just about how much money we spend on transfer fees but also how much we are willing to spend on wages. Buy a marquee player and you have to risk busting the club’s wage policy and therefore wave goodbye to being a profitable organisation. It’s a vicious circle as the more you pay in wages, the less money you have for transfer fees and other costs. And so on.

The fact is that, as Rafa Benitez has acknowledged before, the clubs with the most money tend to win in football. Therefore the best a manager of a rival can realistically achieve is to bridge the gap in other ways. You need to be almost perfect to win the title and beat the wealthy Manchester’s and Chelsea’s of this world. We simply cannot compete on financials alone as they can blow us out of the water. They can pay the highest fees and highest wages and, in addition, the nouveau riche clubs like PSG and Leipzig can cripple the European transfer market as well.

PSG did it this summer with the crazy Neymar deal and Leipzig were able to turn down ridiculous money for Keita as they weren’t desperate for cash (being funded by Red Bull). So perversely, even having money isn’t always enough. If you’re not regularly winning things and aren’t competing at the business end of the Champions League you’re not attractive enough for top players and, even if you are, a club doesn’t need to sell Coutinho to you! It really is a catch 22.

Now these ideas aren’t new and other writers have documented these facts before now. But it’s important that before LFC fans set expectations for the club we love, we understand the context in which it operates.

Perhaps the worst thing that could have happened for our club is Leicester City winning the league. Why? Because, whilst it shows that the impossible can be done, you need freak circumstances to do so and you need minimal pressure. It creates a stick to beat Liverpool with every season the title passes us by. But Leicester simply don’t carry the pressure and weight of history that comes with being Liverpool Football Club. Liverpool fans expect, maybe even demand, the title. Leicester just went with the ride and credit to them, they managed to hold their nerve and deliver. But the way teams set up against them is totally different to the way they set up against LFC. That makes all the difference.

So how does the LFC manager actually win the league title?

Well, we need a proven, world class manager that has sufficient tactical intelligence to get us competing as a team rather than a group of prima donnas. Klopp is a world class manager who is proven at the top level, so we have one of the best at the helm. That ticks off one of the requirements on the list of desirable traits we would want from an manager. Klopp can use tactics, motivation, training and modern methods to bridge the gap to our rivals.

But we must remember he won’t be able to compete for the very best players all the time and spend crazy money. Because it will destroy the club. In fact there won’t be a club left. However, the fact we’ve landed Keita for next season should be applauded. That is one of of the finest coups LFC have landed in the Premier League era. It smacks of a man with a plan, of the club’s ambition and of our owners’ willingness to put their money where their mouth is and land top quality prospects that can elevate the club to a whole new level.

Perhaps more importantly than being world class, the LFC manager must have proven he can build from the bottom and oversee a real project. Not a money driven whim where he spends huge money and leaves a club full of ageing, burnt-out players for the next poor manager to deal with and no money left to spend. Yes I’m referring to you Mr Mourinho and the mess you left Rafa with at Inter.

More recently Carlo Ancelotti, another bona fide alternative to Klopp has shown that he isn’t always tactically astute enough or in it for the long haul. He doesn’t build teams, he simply works with what he has and wins stuff, but spends plenty of money along the way. He doesn’t have a set philosophy or approach that he then adapts to the group he manages. This was perhaps his undoing at Chelsea, PSG and Bayern. He doesn’t promote youth, he works from an already strong player and financial base.

What is important now is that Klopp can build a squad that can grow together and stay together for as long as possible. He has to show steady but solid progress to convince the best players that this project is one staying for. This will enable him to improve the squad in increments and slowly build a genuine force at both domestic and European level. Something sustainable and lasting rather than a flash in the pan or one season wonder which was season 2013-14.

Klopp is not there yet. This is a real project and that’s why the fans need to show patience even if we’re allowed to vent at individual results and performances. That’s just human nature, but it needs a sense of perspective. If anything, I hope this piece shows the challenge lying ahead of Jurgen Klopp and why the Twitter calls for his head are nothing but madness. Let’s give the guy time, he wants the club to succeed as much as we do.

In part 2 I hope to discuss how Klopp’s tactics and signings play a key part in our quest for the title and why this summer was a promising but ultimately disappointing window.

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  1. If money talks, but we are feasibly one of those that are considered challengers then, as you acknowledge yourself, Leics won the league. People can consign that in whatever way they wish, but they won it. You decided to consign it by vague reference to “freak circumstances” and then went on to say that our players feel the pressure, as we are a bigger club.

    Bless their cotton socks. They only get thousands a week just like players from other teams & they have to deal with pressure. What a shame? My heart bleeds for them.

    Just remember also Spurs, with a net spend of virtually zero, have challenged twice.

    It’s a tired argument that “money talks.” It certainly helps, but don’t implicitly try to cover Klopp’s failings with the opening gambit that “money talks.”

    Second, have you seen the figure for our wages. We certainly can afford the wages, particularly when in January we made Lovren the 5th highest paid centre back in the league at the time.

    I ceased reading when you flippantly said Klopp is a world class manager and proceeded to your next point as if it was a given and not up for debate.

    Your views are like Hamza, Jackson et al. on this site. Apologists for FSG & Klopp, attempting to con others with long pieces lacking substance.

  2. Cant help but agree here. I think Klopp is naive at best. Our transfer dealings have never been “genius” but not getting two centre halves and a goal keeper is unforgiveable. We have nkt been abke to see a game outsince Benitez left…any world class manager would have addressed that in his first full year in charge. Not good enoigh Klopp

  3. @ Muhammad, thank you for your comments. I didn’t elaborate on Leicester as I tried to keep the word count down. The point of this series is to not talk about why we haven’t won a title but how we might go about it and where we are now. Leicester won the league with one of the lowest points totals of recent years and the odds of all the usual contenders having a poor season at the same time are very low so it was a freak season. Liverpool face a parked bus practically every game so the way we have to win games is quite different to the way Leicester did. It’s much harder than just hitting teams on the counter all the time.

    On the subject of money, this summer has shown that the situation is only going to get worse in future. Transfer fees and wages will continue to rocket with tv money and sponsorship deals. The reason Spurs have twice fallen short is precisely because they haven’t been able to afford the squad depth that makes all the difference in a run-in.

    Klopp is a world class manager, so much so that he is coveted by Bayern Munich and would walk into the job if he wanted it. He is doing the best job he can with his resources; he isn’t without his faults but name me a manager who doesn’t make mistakes. A new manager comes in and fixes a few things will then encounter other problems. It’s not as simple as changing manager every time something doesn’t work. For a manager to fix every problem takes huge money.

    It’s still early in the season and Klopp deserves time to get his squad to full fitness so he has more options to tweak things when they aren’t working. I will talk about the transfer window screwup in part 2.

  4. I agree that the Manc clubs, and Chelsea will always be ahead of us when it comes to spending but it’s not all about spending. Even this past summer, Davinson Sanchez moved to Tottenham for 35M, Matic moved for 40M, Krychowiak moved to West Brom for crying out loud (on loan) but PSG would have agreed for a fee with FFP breathing down their backs. And more importantly, all summer long we heard about how Liverpool were ready to spend the big bucks and were willing to pay 70M for VVD. Instead of say spending 40M on Oxlade Chamberlain, we could have used that to buy Sanchez, or talk to PSG about Krychowiak. It wasn’t about money this summer, it was about Klopp’s plan for the market, which was stupid and flawed. Not having a single back-up CB option was ridiculous. If anything we need 2 CBs. Also letting Lucas and Kevin Stewart leave without bringing in an actual DM was also incredibly short-sighted and foolish. All the teams above us have a solid spine which is comprised of 2-3 good defenders and 1-2 solid defensive midfielders. We have maybe 1 good defender (but even that’s a reach with Matip’s performances nowadays) and 0 DMs (neither Can nor Henderson are good for that role but both would excel next to a destroyer). Klopp hasn’t focused on defence and that’s what costing us ultimately.

  5. By the time I am writing this, we had again drew another game, one we should have won. Another game where a combination of defensive mistakes and inability to convert chances had cost us. Another game where Klopp had said ” how unfair football is” ,yes the same man who said ” i felt no pressure to win a title with LFC”.
    Now, contrast this with Pep, yes he spent more than 200 mill this summer but his star left back is crocked for mainly the rest of the season and now he loses his star striker. Instead of complaining he revises his tactics and simply said the rest of the players have to step up. See the difference?
    Our club had been dammed by the P word for a good number of years now, starting with BR. Yes its good to have thar but not at the expense of results.
    Its also strange that the author talks about tactics as Klopp clearly have none,capable of only playing one dimensional football and dependent on everything else falling into place. If just one element is out, the whole game falls apart, please refer below to Manc and Magpies game. Our beloved Rafa is a tactitian, Klopp is not.
    Supporters of BR and now Klopp talks alot about a playing philosophy and patience but nothing about trophies, no wonder we have no league title for 27 years. Leicester success was simply denounce as freakish, well why can’t our club takes advantage of this situation? See how Klopp’s apologists likes to make excuses for failures, just like the man himself?
    Many fans had forgotten that our first love is for the club not the manager, Klopp’s apologists could do well to remember that. Rafa won the CL in his first season and kept us in it for many years with NO money, that is why he is revered.
    For a manager that just refuses to learn from his mistakes like what other top managers like Pep and Rafa does, i doubt any success would come our way.

  6. The author speaks about facing parked buses as if it’s something unique that only LFC face or have faced. In this way, he surreptitiously tries to negate Leicester’s title win by implying that they are a counter attacking team & they won the league with the lowest points total.

    The contradiction here is that he refers to Klopp as a world class manager. Well, if a world class manager cannot solve the obvious riddle of overcoming parked buses, imagine when he faces a less obvious tactic.

    The money issue is overplayed. I recently heard the Preston manager on the radio, who categorically refused to overplay this factor. He said that the primary factor is the belief & tactics that the manager instils in the players and the desire of the players to run through a brick wall for the manager.

    Although Spurs have fallen short twice, the author failed to understand the point. Spurs’ inferior net spend compared to all the other challengers defies belief yet they still managed a sustained challenge. The point was if they can, Klopp should be able to pretty soon. According to Carragher however that is unlikely this season at least.

    Klopp is not a world class manager. One example alone will suffice. In the dying moments in the Newcastle game, Newcastle win a corner. 8 LFC players are in the area against a maximum of 4 men, yet Diame is able to get his shot away. We all know this level of disorganisation has been ongoing for 2 years.

    Regardless of personnel, organisation from set pieces is a basic aspect of the game that the not so world class Allardyce manages to sort within months with inferior personnel, yet Klopp, who is allegedly world class can’t do so.

    The author’s naivety is galling. We used to lambast Benitez & Rafa before him for playing square pegs in round holes, yet Klopp played a right footed ageing midfielder at left back for almost a full season.

    It took him 4 transfer windows to sign a left back, who having impressed in the games he played found himself not even in the squad against Newcastle. This is our so called world class manager: Jurgen Klopp.

    Tactically the man seems inept. Cheerleading is a different job than being a manager of LFC.

    If anyone listened carefully as to what his explanation was for the goal Newcastle scored, it beggars belief. He talked about stepping up to play Joselu offside, but the real issue was Matip’s starting position when Shelvey was about to receive the ball. It meant he went back to move forward to play offside within the space of a few seconds, which therefore resulted in Joselu being onside.

    Two seasons in to his reign, Klopp’s teams still concede basic goals & struggle to breakdown deep lying defences; in other words malfunctioning at both ends.

    Yet on here the language of mediocrity is spoken to dampen expectations & to defend Klopp, thereby creating a culture of mediocrity. Klopp is a liability. Wake up and smell the coffee

  7. Parked buses, bad luck, lack of money, are all these issues unique to our so called “world class ” manager? All of Klopp’s apologists refuses to acknowledge that Klopp really is “world class” when it comes to self inflicted problems. From insisting on only DVD as the only defender in the world who can improve us, to selling our best defender, to playing an obviously inferior Karius in the CL, you name it, all self inflicted and its costing us.
    No money? Ask Klopp to case study Rafa during his time with us and how he still won us a CL and FA Cup and us consistently in the CL, that is the mark of a world class manager.
    A whining, tactically inept, one dimensional and who likes to self inflicts problem of a manager, hmmm, had anyone change the definition of world class?
    Some says we should be carefull as Klopp might go to Bayern. Well i have zero concern, on current evidence we have nothing to lose and fear, cue then for our beloved Rafa to come back to finished off unfinished business.

  8. @ Chan, thanks for your comments. Even Rafa would find it difficult as the Premier League is far tougher and more competitive than he was at the club. I think the chances of Rafa coming back to the club under FSG are close to zero after they were poisoned against him by Purslow, Ayre and co. I would agree that Klopp’s position come under scrutiny if this team was the best he could assemble but he isn’t yet to complete the rebuild. It’s not as if he’s exhausted all possible options. We’re barely into the season and haven’t even played 10 games which is when I usually start to assess how well we are doing. I hate blind faith in the manager and never believed him to be the messiah that some fans were making him out to be. But at the same time he’s one of the few c adidates that has the know how for this project. Parts 2 and 3 will cover some of these themes.


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