Mark Keohane, writing for IOL Sport
Liverpool’s champion manager Jürgen Klopp has been so disappointing this season. He inspired when chasing the Premier League crown but has often been cringeworthy when wearing it.
Later today, Klopp’s Liverpool faces the biggest home league challenge this season against league leaders and arch rivals Manchester United and, win, lose or draw, my hope is that Klopp shows the charisma and dignity which made him the most popular club football coach in the world in 2020 when Liverpool finally ended a 30 year wait to be champions of England.
Klopp’s grin, pre-and-post matches, in the 2019 and 2020 season was massive. He always spoke with reverence about the occasion and the contest and with respect for the opposition and whoever was managing the team hell-bent on taking points off Liverpool.
Klopp, in the 2019/20 campaign, could do no wrong. Whatever he said made sense and he was liked by the opposition and loved by all who embrace Liverpool.
This season it’s been painful listening to Klopp after nearly every match, especially those where Liverpool have dropped points.
Everything from Klopp’s mouth comes across as a conspiracy, be it about who did and didn’t award a penalty, about his ongoing plea for a five-strong use of substitutes, about officials favouring Manchester United when it comes to penalties and about managers who dare to disagree with whatever it is Klopp is saying.
In the 2019/20 season, Klopp was comfortable in discussing his team selections and his strategic approach. He never responded to click bait, to troll-like taunts and he most certainly didn’t ever show anything but the utmost composure when on camera in any interview situation.
This season he seems to be more obsessed with talking about Manchester United than he does about finding a solution to the void left in defence because of Virgil van Dijk’s long-term injury.
Klopp has often been sarcastic in his response to questions about Liverpool’s inconsistency and there’s been too much arrogance, when previously there was always unconditional acceptance of the moment, the situation and, especially, the question.
I have always enjoyed Klopp’s style, his engaging manner and his enthusiasm, passion and sense of humour. Historically, since he joined Liverpool, he was always someone who could take it on the chin.
Not so in the past few months.
The Daily Mail described Klopp’s behaviour in 2021 as ‘Jurgen’s January Blues’.
‘He has complained about the snow, the wind, accused BT Sport of cutting a match short, blamed the broadcaster for injury to his players, bemoaned his team’s midday kick-offs, was unhappy at not getting enough telly time at Christmas and never stops complaining about referees, penalties and substitutes.
‘Where is the booming laugh and the goofy grin?’ asked the Daily Mail.
It has just been one whine after the other and listening to Klopp has been as uninspiring as watching Liverpool stutter against Fulham away from home, West Brom at home, Newcastle away from home and stumble against Southampton away from home.
Klopp’s Liverpool are unbeaten at Anfield in 67 Premier League matches, which dates back to May, 2017 but it will need something special from Liverpool and Klopp to retain this incredible home record.
Klopp certainly hasn’t inspired confidence in the build-up to a match the players on both teams acknowledge as their biggest in terms of player and supporter rivalry when it comes to Premier League showdowns.
All the pressure on Sunday is on Klopp and defending champions Liverpool, who trail United by three points and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who are a further point back but have played one less match.