This can’t be considered new…
On the 8th October 2015 Jurgen Klopp put his name to a piece of paper to succeed Brendan Rogers as the new manager of Liverpool. In the 16 months he has been in charge there has been a mixed bag of highs and lows for the club. He’s reached two cup finals, although defeated in both, and has made Liverpool play a high pressing team relying on pace, skill, and power, and where a lot of defensive issues are still be addressed, the team has been able to paper over these cracks by frequently outscoring teams.
What hasn’t changed is Klopp’s attitude to the English game.
He frequently laments the Christmas fixture pile up, and has called for a winter break to be introduced on numerous occasions. Although unfair to single him out on this matter, because managers have and probably always will complain about the lack of a winter break, he has refused to accept it. His acknowledgement of it, is not to adjust to it, but it is seen as a burden to his campaign.
In December 2015, he said “You have too many games, that’s for sure.” Klopp, who is used to a winter break in Germany, told the BBC. “You have no break, too many tournaments.”
In terms of games played, Liverpool should have been in a stronger position going into this winter. With one less fixture this December, and the semi finals of the EFL Cup not until January. December and January should have been full focus on the league, and making ground on Chelsea.
Over the course of 15 days, 4 games, is a lot to manage over a such a short period of time, but there was a sourness hanging over these games. A sense of resentment that was first addressed almost a year to the day that he was appointed manager, in October.
“Now I have seen the fixtures and I am not too happy,” said Klopp. “We have less than 48 hours between our game against Man City on December 31 and in Sunderland on the 2nd.
“Forty-eight hours is an interesting idea but less than 48 hours I cannot believe. I learn more and more about this league and maybe I have to ask someone if we can ask if there will be another time for us at Sunderland.”
A year prior, going into December 2015, it can be agreed that he can curse the fixture pile up.
It was not his team, they weren’t his players, and it would be the first year he would have a challenge of this nature. But by December 2016 he knows the English game, he knows the winter pile up is there, and he has had two transfer windows to build his team to cope with whatever challenges come his way. Mane and Matip have both been solid purchases, and key members of the team, but they were signed in the knowledge that they wouldn’t be available during the African Cup of Nations.
So there can be no sympathy anymore, the Premier League is so ruthless and demanding, so much so that a lot of managers don’t even make it until December to get to see the Christmas fixtures, if you’ve had one taste of it and you have your job next season then you best have learned and adapted to it.
Even after winning the first 3 of the 4 games run, he found time to vocalise his distaste for the schedule by offering his players the opportunity to opt out of the Sunderland game through exhaustion and his opinion that it was too much. This is where he has to make adjustments and balance his squad, but put on a performance to take 3 points. Sunderland may have took the point from penalties, but instead of biting his lip and moving on, Klopp cut a resentful figure.
Today he has still refused to let go off the schedule, “In December we missed players and did not have the best schedule. From 31 December to 2 January you could see the difference physically. Oh, my God – what have we done?
“It was not that we had all the players to change it at Sunderland. It was a few things. On a few things we had an influence and on others we did not have an influence – we conceded goals, offside against us, penalty against us.”
And has also said of the EFL Cup that we should ‘Get rid of this’ and ‘We should have been out of the EFL Cup last year’.
During an extremely poor January, where there was a transfer window was available to procure strength in much needed departments, and with form not going in the right direction, at some juncture he should have took ownership of the issues.
He has not managed the team in a manner to adjust to all competitions, and is still finding reasons for the failures, none of which seem to be his own. As a fan, losing the first leg of a semi final, but having the home leg to play, you want to throw everything at it. Regardless of the trophies value, the fans still want you to have a go in every competition. And the opportunity to resurrect a trophy chase was there 3 days later at home to Wolves. But again no desire to want to win silverware.
Having seen his comments today, it begs a serious question about Klopps priorities. He is without doubt a fantastic coach, and he has got Liverpool playing some electric football, but how does he progress from here. Does he want to win trophies, or he is just targetting the one. He is happy to have a thin squad he trusts, and at the moment they look capable of reaching Europe next season. Champions League or Europa League would remain to be seen.
But how does he cope next year, if Champions League isn’t reached, and he lands in Europa League having to cover weekly trips to all corners of Europe and then coming back to England and the Premier League, FA Cup replays, and EFL runs.
As a manager the talent is there, and fans loved the run they were on when they were top of the league at the beginning of the season, and seemingly unstoppable, but that time has come to an end, and where Chelsea look to be walking away with the league, he has now silverware left to chase.
Fans of all clubs are fickle, and at some point soon he will reach a point where he has to stop aiming the blame at external issues, and adapt to the requirements of English football before fans lose patience and point the finger in his direction.