When Jurgen Klopp arrived at Borussia Dortmund, the remit was to increase stability and ensure survival within the German Bundesliga. Vast funds were not apparent, therefore smart recruiting and elite coaching were the key facets that saw tremendous success follow. That time period of approximately 7 years, saw many of the team (those that weren’t poached by Europes wealthy clubs) peak and begin to regress, indicating the need for new blood. Klopp’s final season at Dortmund was an undeniably difficult one, and perhaps the human side of Jurgen was saved, in not having to move on some of his trusted lieutenant’s. Jurgen Klopp created a tremendously successful side at Dortmund, and had to do so from a very unfavourable position, but his skill set allowed unbelievable success nonetheless. His time there will remain legendary, but that first elite group was never really replaced, and certainly not by him.
When arriving at Liverpool, the Reds were in disarray and searching desperately for a manger to push them back towards the top of the table. Liverpool, from the outset, would require much more long term success than which was expected at Dortmund. With much of that ‘Brendan Rodgers’ Anfield squad’ requiring overhaul, there were many pieces that would be moved on and replaced with elite and superior players, and only the odd player would remain. Little sentiment would have been there, as only time alongside ones playing staff will create that. Those couple of trusted lieutenants still remain at Anfield, and this in part is key to how Klopp is failing to see what is clearly apparent to most others.
Jurgen Klopp seems like the most admired, trusted, and loved manager (by the players) since probably King Kenny was first in charge. Klopp’s unity with his squad has been a notable and important part of his Liverpool success, and his departure from Dortmund showed the absolute adoration every player and supporter had for him. As I said, Klopp had built a great team, yet had never really delved into tearing that down, in order to rebuild. Klopp left that job for the famed Thomas Tuchel, and both the structure of what remained and the fresh faced abilities of Tuchel allowed further success to continue.
What Jurgen Klopp is faced with now (and for the past few years), is the need to make the hard decisions that’ll see certain players replaced with the starting eleven. Since Liverpool won the Champions League final, we as a club have only signed one actual central midfield. Thiago Alcantara is a wonderful footballer, but so much more has been needed in order to regenerate that key area of the pitch. Due to some long standing loyalty, Klopp has decided in many concurrent seasons to continue playing Jordan Henderson or James Milner (sometimes both), with one or the other often taking to the field. The team was often a able to carry average to good players, but where these players have fallen so far down in terms of ability, the detriment on the team is now becoming astounding, and clear.
There are other key factors involved, many of which I have written about in the previous weeks. The pain of failing to achieve ultimate greatness last season has clearly had a psychological affect. But continued regeneration of the team seems to always stall in one area, and area that would see Henderson and Milner overtaken perhaps. This failure has seen Henderson once again terribly at fault for much of Arsenal’s weekend success, as he is simply unable to compete at this (or more importantly our) level any longer. For anyone thinking this is agenda based or targeted, then please remember that I happily awarded the skipper man of the match against Rangers, where that level of opponent allowed him to shine. He probably didn’t even warrant that award, but his level of play was so much higher than his previous efforts, I saw it as deserving. We are Liverpool FC however, and it is of paramount importance that our midfield is on song against all elite teams, not just those that would struggle against our genuine reserve team.
I’m probably lucky in my standing, in that my relationship with the team is that of a pure supporter. I have never met any of the players, and I do not hold either allegiance or anything negative regarding the personality of any player or coach. I have my preferred players of course, like any of us. But much like many of those that share my options, my favour is based upon performance and ability. My want for the club is sustained success and prosperity, and the performance of players is ultimately what garners that. Jurgen Klopp’s performance is very much below par right now, but I do not believe it is his tactical ability or coaching levels that are to blame. I believe he has been unable to replace personnel with which he still holds trust, and it is his loyalty that has caused so many of the current problems. For me, the player is faceless, it is only ever the performance (or series of performance over time in fact) that is important, and how that effects the team.
Sir Alex Ferguson is still the absolute measuring stick of long term success within these shores, and showed how to continually regenerate team after team. Very rare was Fergie ever prone to sentiment, as success was what drove him to sustainable glory. Liverpool Football Club are an elite footballing entity, with one of the finest sporting coaches on the planet. We have a fine structure in place throughout the club, and an elite recruitment team. We are maybe a little too prudent in our spending, but I think much of that could be the mangers unwillingness to pull the trigger. Why is the central midfield area so commonly overlooked, why is there supposedly only one or two targeted players able to improve us, and why are others areas of squad being upgraded when the middle is not…? These questions are something that needs to be addressed in January, or quite simply this slippery slope could become a landslide.
These next two transfer windows need to be about regeneration of the midfield, and finding the means to dominate the pitch. Adequate protection of the back four is clearly lacking, and support of the front line is misguided at best. This club needs a genuine injection of talent, and Arthur Melo was evidently just a guy that would come in as cover for the cover.
Liverpool are experiencing a sustained moment of uncertainty, and are dallying pretty close to crisis. Jurgen Klopp is absolutely safe in his position, but he needs to make the hard choices (not yet taken) that have seen us in this predicament. An overhaul is not required, but the continual replacement of players in regression is. We have seen this great German create one world class team at Anfield, the question remains however, is he able to build another.