There is no correct way to play football no matter how much we may hear the phrase “Play the right way” across the media. The uber-pragmatic style which epitomized the mid-noughties could not be further from the pressing dominant, possession styles of the modern era.
Both Jose Mourinho and Jurgen Klopp employ styles which don’t necessarily adhere to the bulk possession ethos demonstrated by the likes of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea, however, comparing the fortunes of the two over their shared tenure at the Red half of their respective cities proves to be bleak for Liverpool fans.
In terms of trophies collected, the Portuguese notched a Europa League, FA Cup and Community Shield in his first season in Manchester, whilst the German is yet to open his Liverpool account, falling agonisingly close to European glory twice with the Europa league in 2016 and the big-eared trophy last season.
Here lies a major conundrum for football fans. Reaction vs results. Style vs substance.
The combination of these two sides of the game is currently on show at the Etihad Stadium. The football infrastructure implemented by Manchester City, from their academy to first-team facilities, are second to none.
The financial logistics with which said infrastructure was achieved is questionable, to say the least, bought to the forefront by the latest Der Spiegel ‘Football Leaks’ revelations. For most, this lack of compromise is unfeasible.
Perhaps the Anfield crowd have been conditioned to believe that trophies are secondary to entertainment with swashbuckling displays that have led to no tangible results. Whereas as the Old Trafford faithful may argue that their success in 2017 vindicates their sides dour displays of late.
Gone are the days of Sir Alex Fergusons United sides who were able to sustain attacking football and domination on English shores and the continent. Chants of “Attack, Attack, Attack” now commonplace from the stand named in honour of their most winningest manager.
Realistically, would any Liverpool fan bemoan Klopp’s appointment?
The former Borussia Dortmund boss is able to corral the vast weekly crowds at Anfield, as he did at the Westfalonstadion, wearing his heart on his sleeve in every match, akin to a fan in the dugout. His passion and fervour spilling over the advertising boardings for all in attendance to resonate with.
Ultimately, the fans are the reason why the larger football landscape and the Premier League, in particular, is such a lucrative business. Klopp understands this more than anyone, stating in a BBC interview “20, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80000 people in a stadium when it’s a boring game, it’s not ok…we want to enjoy our own game.”
This season has seen a new-found solidity in defence for the Reds, with Allison only having to pick the ball up out of his own net on 5 occasions in 13 Premier League outings. Klopp’s understanding of the fact that football is about balance has stemmed the tide of the end to end displays of last season. Perhaps he now acknowledges that the way to maximize the enjoyment of their game must also be with a W in the results column. A slight tweak to an already brilliant system.
The multibillion-pound television deals would not be possible without interest from a larger global audience outside of the UK. And what is the key factor which gains the attention of these far-reaching markets? Entertainment, or on a fundamental level: goals.
Klopp’s teams have always produced in that department, with his self-proclaimed “heavy metal football” a match for his intensity on the touchline.
Upon reflection as to why this writer is such a football fanatic, three words come to mind. Steven. Gerrard. Olympiakos.
A conductor on the pitch, Gerrard was able to make the crowd purr on his own by winning the ball back with a scything challenge, carrying the ball upfield with a mazy dribble and stick it in the top corner with that sledgehammer of a right foot of his. Single-handedly providing millions with an escape from their lives 90 minutes at a time. The combination of the Liverpool native and Klopp would have been every Reds fan dream.
Even though there may be no right way to play football, the choice lies with the individual. Klopp’s style may not have produced any silverware yet, however, when the victory does come, it will be all the sweeter for those who came for the love of the game.