Klopp passes first Liverpool test
LIVERPOOL — Jurgen Klopp was reflecting on his goalless debut as Liverpool manager, where his new charges ran hard but created little, and had to deny that he would be bestowing any of his own transformative magic on his new players.
Expectation control is part of modern football management - Jose Mourinho was forced to clarify that he was not Harry Potter when he took over at Real Madrid in 2010 - but Klopp has a lot to do here. Judging by the number of flags and banners in his honour on Saturday - “Liverpool Uber Alles”, “Wir Glauben” (“We Believe”), “Jürgen’s Reds” and the rest - he is a hero already.
Liverpool pressed Tottenham hard at points but lacked the technical execution to create an open-play chance or score a goal. So would Klopp be performing football alchemy on these players? Not so fast.
“Should I teach them the technical aspects? They know them,” Klopp said. “We have to help them to show it. This is not the biggest problem. We don’t have to sprinkle magical dust on them ‘and now you can play football’. They know how to play. We just have to create a situation where it is possible to do this.”
Brendan Rodgers was not averse to speaking about his gift for “educating” players and making them better. Klopp made no such claims. His immediate priority is just to provide the atmosphere and framework for his squad to play as well as they can.
Klopp ran through his whole midfield - Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Lucas Leiva, James Milner - describing how they could play better than they did, not as admonishment, but encouragement that he knows their level.
“Of course, we should play better football, not because I say so but because we can,” Klopp said. “We start with this development, and the most important thing is for the players to be prepared to be a little bit wild. You can run and then you can miss. No problem. Don’t worry. Come back again.”
The start of the Klopp era, then, has been decidedly light touch. He has his own way - high pressing, counter attacks - but it has been made as simple as possible for his players so far. Melwood has not exactly been suffering from a jargon deficit for the last three years.
“You can see that something changed,” Klopp said. “We didn’t want to do it too complicated because it is not physics, it is football. We had some information. Maybe some things are new but we didn’t want it to be complicated.”
Although Tottenham did not create as much as they would have liked, Liverpool’s best player was still goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who produced on excellent save to deny Clinton Njie in the first half. Mignolet revealed just how Klopp is trying to intensify Liverpool’s game, while lightening the mood.
“We did what the gaffer wanted us to do, which was press them high and try to make it difficult for them to play football,” Mignolet said.
“As you can see he is very enthusiastic and very ambitious. On the line you can see that and it rubs off on the players.
“He is very positive and he wants everyone to go full blast, like he is as well.”
Mignolet received a congratulatory hug from Klopp at the end, on the pitch, but so did all of his teammates.
“Now we have our experience together that we needed,” Klopp said. “Now we will go on.” — The Independent
Jurgen Klopp instructs his players at Tottenham on Saturday.