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Saturday 21 October 2017

Gunners caved in but Klopp's men will fight

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Reuters
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Reuters

There is one absolute certainty about tonight's episode of Red v Blue at Goodison Park. It will be a battle beyond the normal blood and thunder in a Mersey derby.

The context is simple enough. Everton found out this week that they have it within them to physically dominate a more gifted opponent and if they could find a win in this one, a season which was going down the tubes is suddenly kick-started.

Everton beat Arsenal by being more committed and aggressive. They will try to do the same against Liverpool and that is the test that Jurgen Klopp's players must come through.

It will stand them in good stead for the rest of the title run if they can win this one.

Everton's win has been seen by some as a vindication for Ronald Koeman, not least by himself, an unashamed hard man of football management, but I don't see it that way.

He's Dutch and he hit the heights as a footballer. He doesn't suffer fools and is more than happy to hang players out to dry in the media.

Arrogance

Some call it Dutch arrogance, some call it self-confidence. Either way, I think he hit a brick wall with the players at Everton and I think the win over Arsenal was achieved despite him rather than because of him.

Remember, this is a group of players who worked for many months under the arm, literally, of Roberto Martinez, a man who is every bit the modern coach and wants to cajole rather than bully.

But usually, the good managers are bullies and in Koeman's case, it's all about the delivery. He should take a leaf out of Klopp's book,who I reckon is every bit as hard but manages it all so much better.

On three occasions since he became Liverpool boss, he had to deal with issues surrounding players.

How he handled Daniel Sturridge, Alberto Moreno and Loris Karius demonstrates very clearly that Klopp covers all the bases in terms of public relations, in and outside the dressing room. But when he needs to, he wields the axe.

In each case, he defended the player publicly but when it was obvious that the consensus was actually right, he acted.

But he made some space to operate within first. There was no kneejerk reaction and he made his decisions in his own time.

With Karius, he took the sensible decision to drop him. This was an admission of an error since he had already nominated the young German as his No. 1. Simon Mignolet is not the long-term answer - or perhaps even the short-term answer. He could have a spell-binding six months or he could throw the ball into the net.

That kind of uncertainty can unhinge a defence but good players can rise to a situation like that.

I know that because I played in front of Bruce Grobbelaar, who had a personality streak which only a goalkeeper could get away with on a football pitch.

But we actually took it into account in training. There was always someone ready to tuck in behind Bruce for corners, just in case. We were told to do it.

He was old enough and bold enough to hold his own but Karius is only 23 and he's not ready.

That was the miscalculation Klopp made and he will hope that by taking the lad out for a while he can come back stronger in much the same way David de Gea did after Alex Ferguson withdrew him from the spotlight when he received some harsh criticism in the press.

More immediately, Everton will hope to exploit what they will see as a weakness but if they are to do that, the impetus is more likely to come from Seamus Coleman or Leighton Baines than anywhere else.

This is the key difference in the two teams and the reason I can see Liverpool winning.

Adam Lallana has moved up more gears than I thought he had since Klopp took over and as I said a few weeks back, he lifts Liverpool visibly when he's playing.

Everton have nothing like him and must rely on Coleman's remarkable transformation from excellent attacking full-back to leader of men and rabble rouser for inspiration.

This will be a fight and he will make sure it is. I just think that Liverpool, unlike Arsesnal, will fight back.

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