LONDON – Those who expect an underachieving Liverpool to suddenly become a Premier League powerhouse because Jürgen Klopp is in charge will be disappointed. The German is an excellent manager, but not a miracle worker as some of the hype would have us believe.
His debut against an improving Tottenham will see the first real outbreak of Kloppmania. The lead-up to the match has been all about Klopp, the man with the permanent smile who calls himself the Normal One, though his personality, charisma and aura set him aside from most managers.
It is unlikely we will hear “all games are difficult” or “we’ll take each match as it comes” from the former Borussia Dortmund coach. He prefers to talk about “heavy metal” football rather than “projects” or “philosophies.” Klopp will probably be the biggest breath of fresh air to hit English football in many a year and his record also makes him far from normal.
Successive Bundesliga titles, a German Cup, plus runnerup in the Champions League final in three years is not a run-of-the-mill CV. That was then and he knows in the short term fourth place is probably Liverpool’s realistic ambition. The Reds have good players who, for whatever reason, have not played to their level over the past 14 months and his immediate task will be to raise their game.
Klopp will use a four-man defense, two midfielders in front of the back line, two attacking midfielders with Philippe Coutinho behind Daniel Sturridge.
“I know how I want to play and we have used the last two training sessions to understand a little bit more,” said Klopp who is already a media darling.
“All these guys are able to play really good football, that’s what they did in the past and that’s why they are here. Now we have to open our chest, let’s run and fight and shoot and all the things, defend together and attack together like in your best dream football looks like.”
As much as anything, Klopp wants to erase the negativity that has been creeping into Anfield, and Liverpool fans can expect to see the side discard any tactical straitjacket. “The bravery is to make mistakes,” he said. “This is a fantastic game, football. We all love it because it can be spectacular, fast, hard.
“But it doesn’t work without faults. We all, as human beings, think about them, but it’s not important to think about how many mistakes you make. You can always get better, if you accept that mistakes will happen. It’s not the biggest thing in the world.
“We have to be compact, close together tactically, and if you are close then you have options to play with. You don’t always have to try the most risky ball if you are compact. You have to run, to fight, until the moment, and then . . . bang, you take it.”
Spurs are almost the support act at White Hart Lane on Saturday, though Mauricio Pochettino’s team is the only side to be unbeaten since the opening day of the season. Their football may not be spectacular, but it is effective — no team has conceded fewer Premier League goals than Spurs; at the same time they have scored only 11 goals.
After a slow start with no wins and just three points from their opening four games, they picked up 10 from the next 12. In fact, victory over Liverpool could see them climb as high as second in the table for a few hours at least, with Arsenal and Manchester United not playing until later in the day.
Liverpool travels to London boosted by the fact it has won all of its last five games against Spurs by significant margins. The bad news is that the Reds have won only once in their last nine matches in all competitions. One thing is certain: the headlines will be all about Klopp, whose name is a gift for tabloid headline writers.
Dubious claim: Chelsea believes the Football Association is picking on its manager, Jose Mourinho. At least, that is the leaked view from Stamford Bridge, but can it really think such a spurious opinion is true?
This week the F.A. fined serial offender Mourinho £50,000 and handed him a one-match stadium ban suspended for one year for claiming referees are “afraid to give Chelsea penalties” after the home defeat by Southampton. Mourinho, predictably, called the punishment “a disgrace.”
Firstly, the widely held view is that the top clubs benefit from marginal decisions. The other weakness in Mourinho’s argument is that during the match in question Southampton was denied two nailed-on penalties by Robert Madley, while the incident the Portuguese referred to was far from conclusive. Unsurprisingly, Mourinho failed to mention how Chelsea had been helped by the referee’s failure to detect two obvious fouls by his players.
Since Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge two years ago, he has been fined four times by the F.A. totaling £93,000. Loose change given Mourinho’s special salary, but it underlines how he is almost addicted to using match officials as a convenient excuse for a defeat. Even Chelsea fans are tired of his ref rants.
I am surprised owner Roman Abramovich has not “advised” his manager to stop dragging Chelsea through the disciplinary mire. Nothing is gained from his — or any manager’s — outbursts apart from salacious headlines, fines and bans. Referees make mistakes, human errors, but to continually allege one poor decision cost a team points is becoming as tiresome as it is baseless.
Pressure is on : According to reports, Aston Villa have to win one of its next two games to spare Tim Sherwood the sack. In almost half a century of covering football, I have never come across a chairman or owner who has given his manager such an ultimatum.
Villa’s next two matches are against Chelsea and Swansea — what happens if it draws both games?
Hardly poor results even when you are 18th in the Premier League and desperately need points.
Or win one, one defeat then lose the next three?
It is true Villa is struggling, but if it is going to fire Sherwood, surely the international break was the time to do it — as Liverpool did with Brendan Rodgers.
Villa reached the F.A. Cup final last May, losing to Arsenal, and while owner Randy Lerner was accused of being too loyal with previous manager Paul Lambert, to dismiss Sherwood after a quarter of the season seems to be at the opposite end of the patience scale.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.
In previous editions of the Premier Report there were some factual errors.
On Sept. 18, Chelsea was incorrectly referred to by the nickname “The Gunners.” Chelsea’s nickname is “The Blues.”
On Oct. 2, the venue for that Sunday’s match between Arsenal and Manchester United was incorrectly stated on second reference as Old Trafford. The match was to take place at Emirates Stadium.
On Oct. 8, it was incorrectly written that Ashley Williams played for Stockport County until five years ago. He played with that team until March 2008.
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