Klopp left ex­hausted by emo­tional roller coaster

Liver­pool’s eight-point lead comes at a cost for the man­ager, says Chris Bas­combe at An­field

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Total Football -

We are now in a world where dropped points in Oc­to­ber trig­ger de­bate about a shift in the race

Jur­gen Klopp was dis­sect­ing Liver­pool’s last-minute vic­tory over Le­ices­ter City when he made a re­quest. He paused and asked to re­treat a lit­tle so he could lean against a wall in the in­ter­view area be­fore re­ceiv­ing the next ques­tion.

To use Liver­pudlian ver­nac­u­lar, he looked ab­so­lutely knack­ered.

A small de­tail – cer­tainly not the most sig­nif­i­cant or dra­matic of an af­ter­noon in which Liver­pool pre­served their flaw­less start – yet re­veal­ing. Klopp, emo­tion­ally at least, fin­ishes these games as fa­tigued as his play­ers, or those spec­ta­tors whose match tick­ets ought to come with a free stress ball. Man­agers such as Klopp and Pep Guardi­ola in­vite ven­er­a­tion and huge fi­nan­cial re­ward for their ca­pac­ity to in­spire stan­dards we have never been priv­i­leged to see in Eng­land.

What is never in rich sup­ply is em­pa­thy, lit­tle con­sid­er­a­tion given to the ef­fect of the adrenalin charge ac­com­pa­ny­ing a fren­zied and ul­ti­mately suc­cess­ful pur­suit of a late win, and the in­evitable come­down dur­ing the course of 10 post-match in­ter­views with broad­cast and print me­dia when the re­al­i­sa­tion dawns that this is only duel eight of 38.

Klopp de­vours the match-day ex­pe­ri­ence – bark­ing in­struc­tions dur­ing the rel­a­tively serene bril­liance of the first half, glar­ing men­ac­ingly at any au­di­ble whin­ing voice in the Main Stand and rais­ing the Kop vol­ume when de­mand­ing an­other ad­vance in the hec­tic clos­ing stages of the se­cond.

He cupped his ears to the crowd af­ter james Mil­ner slot­ted the 93rd-minute penalty, reit­er­at­ing his point that the in­ces­sant cheer­lead­ing has as much pur­pose as the tac­ti­cal tweaks that meant his other goalscorer, Sa­dio Mane, took on three for­ward po­si­tions in one game.

Then, there is Klopp’s full-time en­core, his pitch pa­trol a fea­ture of ev­ery Liver­pool fix­ture as he hunts each player in hug­gable dis­tance and ac­knowl­edges those fans who have not left early to beat the traf­fic.

As his side chased the cham­pi­ons Manch­ester City in last sea­son’s cli­max, there was an ex­tra el­e­ment to this rit­ual. Klopp would turn his back as if mak­ing his way to the tun­nel, only to pick up speed, skip to­wards the Kop and send three, feisty fist pumps their way.

He had not in­dulged with this part of the rou­tine this sea­son un­til Satur­day – the cam­era­men stalk­ing him made it in dan­ger of seem­ing too chore­ographed – but there it was, mak­ing its come­back just as his play­ers had fin­ished scuf­fling with their im­pres­sive op­po­nents in the wake of a con­tentious win­ner.

It was proof that the long­est ti­tle run-in in his­tory had be­gun and the stress lev­els on Klopp and Guardi­ola will only in­ten­sify. Ev­ery game and point mat­ters as if that tro­phy is at stake.

“It is true. It is our life,” Klopp agreed. “That’s how it is. All or noth­ing.”

That is why Mil­ner’s penalty al­ready feels mon­u­men­tally im­por­tant, par­tic­u­larly against such an ac­com­plished, im­prov­ing team as Le­ices­ter. Liver­pool and City are em­broiled in an in­fi­nite pur­suit of per­fec­tion, this be­ing the 17th con­sec­u­tive league vic­tory for the lead­ers, one from match­ing the record set by City two years ago. Al­ready there is a be­lief – call it a fear – that City might repli­cate and im­prove on it. We are now in a world

where if two points are dropped at home in Oc­to­ber, it will trig­ger de­bates about mo­men­tum shifts and squeaky bums.

For Klopp and Guardi­ola, it must be thrilling and im­mensely grat­i­fy­ing, yet also drain­ing – as if they are Michelange­lo granted a few hours to ap­pre­ci­ate the Sis­tine Chapel be­fore re­ceiv­ing a re­quest to re­pro­duce it a few days later. Liver­pool’s man­ager likes to evoke an­other im­age – that of an au­thor con­tin­u­ously du­pli­cat­ing a clas­sic.

“I said to the boys at half-time, if I had to write about all the good things you did in the first half it would be a book,” he said. “The only prob­lem was, there were still 50 min­utes to go.”

No won­der elite man­agers speak with such en­thu­si­asm about the next chance they will get to take a pro­longed break. With good rea­son, the world’s best have ca­su­ally added the word “sab­bat­i­cal” to the coach­ing reper­toire. Af­ter­noons such as this have the dou­ble im­pact of un­der­lin­ing why Fen­way Sports Group is so des­per­ate for Klopp to stay be­yond 2022, and why the man­ager is hes­i­tat­ing as he wants to make sure he will have the same vigour in three years’ time.

There are 106 Pre­mier League games be­fore Klopp’s con­tract ex­pires – a few hun­dred more mo­ti­va­tional speeches; a sim­i­lar num­ber of bel­lows to the crowd to sing louder; and a cou­ple of thou­sand in­ter­views in which to demon­strate ex­tra­or­di­nary lev­els of re­ju­ve­na­tion.

Given this is the 34th time Liver­pool have won a Pre­mier League game in the 90th minute, there will no doubt be more late vic­to­ries to cel­e­brate, too. Call it “Jurgie time” if you like.

How­ever gru­elling it all seems, there would be noth­ing more en­er­gis­ing for Klopp’s Liver­pool than one league ti­tle.

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