Klopp’s reliance on indepositables reveals Liverpool’s soft underbelly | liverpool | Techno Glob

EEven Jürgen Klopp sounded a bit mannered and serious in his pre-match press conference, unwilling to offer barbs or playful, exuberant jokes or swear words. There were headline-grabbing stuff about the limits of being able to compete long-term with nation-state-owned clubs, remarks that, while undeniably true and worthy of debate, will still annoy even the most bidders from Etihad’s public relations department. .

Mainly, Klopp sat at his desk talking without hyperbole about Manchester City as the best team in the world and Erling Haaland as the best striker in the world. No one disagreed (they shouldn’t: they are; he is) or really made much of it. But then, as Liverpool welcome City to Anfield on Sunday afternoon, eight games into a Premier League season of entropy and metal fatigue, it’s hard to avoid the feeling of a cocked gun hammer.

Liverpool haven’t won a league game since August. Liverpool had conceded 10 goals in five games heading into Wednesday night’s walk through a Rangers backline that showed all the resilience of a bead curtain.

If Klopp’s side look tired, well, maybe that’s because they are. At the Emirates last weekend, Liverpool had eight men on the pitch who also played in the Champions League opener played four years ago and a global pandemic. Even the strongest material has a limit to its tensile strength.

By contrast, City are yet to lose this season and have looked like an entity in full transformation, all new shapes and forms, new energy. City have scored 44 goals in 14 games, 31 of them by 22-year-olds. Even Pep Guardiola started dressing a little younger, wearing pants with too many pockets, a man who is suddenly able to marvel a bit at what he has done, even, for the first time, just to watch him go.

No wonder there’s a temptation to give in to the idea of ​​the seven-year-old itch, the aging plays, the failed renewal, those memorable shots of Klopp looking weirdly on the touchline like a robot dummy ill considering the meaning of mortality; and from there to throw Sunday into the gallows, the requiem of an era.

Klopp and Pep Guardiola kiss on the sidelines at Anfield
Liverpool have struggled to keep pace with Manchester City so far this season. Photography: Michael Regan/Getty Images

This fatalism might even be Liverpool’s best hope of defying gravity. It’s still a game of small details. There may be an obvious mismatch in the prospect of Nat Phillips (an hour in the Premier League in the last 18 months) being asked to rein in the world’s most insatiable Nordic raptor. But last season’s Quadruple Hunters aren’t quite done yet.

Maybe, for the neutral at least, there’s a better way to look at this. Sunday is also a time to look back on the larger narrative of the past four years, to record how dizzyingly good City have been in that time and to appreciate Liverpool’s ability to keep pace, willingness to push league seasons over.

It’s a Liverpool team that won by making their opponents suffer, but now finds it’s a quality that goes both ways, wearing themselves out chasing after the sun. If there is a knee-jerk urge to find fault with a declining team, to look for avoidable mistakes – which are undoubtedly present – there is an argument that Sunday is also a time to celebrate, a funeral viking for the age of high Kloppism.

There have been missteps along the way. Why no new midfielder this summer? Why no plan B, no feeling that this team is evolving or finding different patterns? This Liverpool has the same strengths and weaknesses as every Liverpool of the past five years.

The most telling weak point is the dependence on a core of essential players. Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold never rest, never have time to breathe in the shadows. Mo Salah has played 233 games over the past four seasons, more than Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden.

It is a source of strength. The relationship with these indestructible was unusually close, intimate, galvanizing. But in Alexander-Arnold’s case, the insistence on supporting him in his downturn, insisting it was all part of the plan, felt a bit misguided, not to mention unfair to the player. himself. João Cancelo is also a top-notch attacking full-back. But does anyone actually notice if they’ve rested or rotated or had time to recover if their levels drop?

Trent Alexandre-Arnold
Trent Alexander-Arnold is one of a group of Liverpool stalwarts who have started to look increasingly jaded. Photography: DeFodi Images/Getty Images

The same goes for Van Dijk, a player so overly revered that removing him from the squad would feel like blasting one of Mount Rushmore’s presidential heads, to invite notions of collapse and decay. Van Dijk achieved the rare late feat of becoming one of the best centre-backs in the world for three seasons. But after that terrible injury, he was forced to seek his best form under the watchful public gaze.

It’s depending on the greater quality of the City team that Rúben Dias or John Stones can disappear for a game or two without comment, that De Bruyne can be rested when his body starts to trouble him. The money comes in. Liverpool’s net transfer fee over the past four years has been £80m, compared to City’s £200m.

It’s not just about numbers. City also passed with flying colors, a club that operates at all levels with an extreme degree of skill that is unlike football. There is something else too, a level of comfort. No nation-state club will ever go bankrupt or overstretch, never have to worry about resale value or owner dividends or moneyball stuff.

It’s a level of financial invincibility that makes the difference in every tough choice. City fans will rightly point out that other elite clubs have spent as much. But the thing is, they’re doing this to follow City and Paris Saint-Germain, not because it makes sense. Consider for a moment the catastrophic transfer deals from Barcelona or Manchester United. Does anyone really think it’s good for them?

If there is reason for optimism on Sunday, it’s that Liverpool aren’t as bad as they look. Salah is not a player with five league goals in eight months. Andy Robertson is back. Van Dijk might not be great anymore, but he could at least be good.

Moreover, Liverpool have not lost at home in the league for a year and a half. There is still hope to kick-start that wheel, to generate those surges of energy that once caused Guardiola to refer to Anfield as ‘that place’, which left him stomping, waving his fists skyward and screaming “twice, twice”. But really, how many more times?

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