“Lucas and Emre (Can) got early yellows and that’s not so good”
“In this moment if we had our chances, we could do more, and 1 or 2 more goals”
“We gave the ball back to Simon (Mignolet) and this was a problem for us in the last 10 or 12 minutes of the first half”
Jurgen Klopp’s words after Saturday’s game against Manchester City, one in which his side put in an exemplary performance, were quite sobering. It must have almost made Liverpool fans feel bad for celebrating so much. A lot done but more to do seemed to be the message coming from the German; and he is right.
Having taken over a side sitting in 10th, who had scored only 8 goals in as many matches, Klopp has spurred Liverpool on to 9 goals in their last 5 Premier League games.
However, caution is still needed.
15 points from his 8 games in charge is a solid start, and the team appear to be playing with a belief and urgency that has not been seen for many months. Klopp must be wary, though, of Liverpool’s history of getting revved up for big games and turning out impressive performances only to see themselves go down 1-0 the next week to a Premier League minnow.
He has almost overnight transformed them into the Liverpool of 13/14 – practitioners of free flowing counter attacking football with the forwards in constant movement. The similarities don’t end there. At times when defending, Liverpool looked like a team leading by a solitary goal, not a comfortable three. There was some nervy defending and rushed clearances.
It was this shaky defence, even when a game should have been out of sight, that was Liverpool’s downfall under Brendan Rodgers. Liverpool conceded 198 goals in 166 games under the Ulster man. It’s quite frankly stunning that they didn’t end up in the bottom half with figures like that.
“We are very disappointed,” said Rodgers. “I thought it was a near-perfect away performance. We had chances to score and should have been in front. We looked defensively solid so to concede those goals, especially the second one, was very disappointing.”
“What can I say after 4-1 at Etihad Stadium. It was very very good but it was far away from perfect, we defended not as well as we would but we took our chances” – Klopp Post Match Interview after City 1-4 Liverpool
The difference between the two managers can be easily summed up in the above quotes. After a European away game in Russia where Liverpool went down 2-0 to Zenit. Rodgers described it as the perfect away performance.
In the Premier League Klopp oversaw his team fly out of the traps and race into a 3 goal lead inside 35 minutes. Despite a few nervy moments they managed to control the game and remain a constant threat on the counter attack. They even had time for Martin Skrtel to get his customary goal aginst City.
Yet, in a moment where Klopp would have been more then justified to grab the microphone out of Geoff Shreeves’ hand and scream down the camera “You see that?! I made that!!” He didn’t (sadly).
He pointed to the goal that they conceded, the yellows picked up by Can and Lucas, and Dejan Lovren’s cramps owing to a lack of fitness and said that these could be improved.
It is this failure to be content with the ‘what went wells’, but also look at the ‘even better if’s’, that should excite Liverpool fans. Here is a manager who really does want to get better every single game.
Footballing perfection may be unattainable but if he can get more performances like this one from his squad he will be given all the time in the world to try and achieve it.
With Liverpool’s next run of Premier League games seeing them face Newcastle, West Brom, Watford, Leicester, Sunderland and West Ham, before a visit from Arsenal in January, the German could look to build a confidence building run of results. He might even afforded the chance to ease the likes of Sturridge and Henderson back into the fold over the busy festive period. With soon to be fully fit squad, and the likes of Firmino starting to settle, and link with up the rest of the strike force, Christmas may be coming early at Anfield.