herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Jurgen has no time for faint hearts at Anfield

Philippe Coutinho seems to be in awe of his new boss
Philippe Coutinho seems to be in awe of his new boss

It's a strange thing to say but I think Liverpool's under-performing players are a bit overwhelmed by Jurgen Klopp.

During the week and again after yesterday's frustrating 1-1 with Southampton, he wondered about the absence of confidence in the players and correctly identified a problem which several managers have had to cope with.

When the crunch came two seasons ago and with Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez in full flow, the squad showed a brittle heart when it mattered.

Last season, Suarez was gone and Gerrard was being squeezed out and with them went the team's backbone.

Klopp spoke about the pressure he believes his players feel playing at Anfield and how he cannot understand it. Now there's another factor to deal with.

It looks to me as if some of the Liverpool players are a bit in awe of this man. Philippe Coutinho is the most obvious one. It's almost as if he's playing in a shell and afraid to try anything too expansive but he needs to lose that very quickly.

It's a simple enough thing. If some of these players are afraid when they have to run out at Anfield and can't handle that reality, well they have to go.

Because he is so limited in terms of personnel, Klopp needs Coutinho and everyone else to work themselves to a standstill. He's not that sort of player and perhaps he's worried about his place in the new Liverpool.

There will be more days like this and we will all need to be patient and give Klopp time to digest his new environment.

Before he can fix it, he needs to know exactly what is wrong with Liverpool and he now has a better picture.

Weakness

The full range of weaknesses displayed by Liverpool with annoying consistentcy over recent years were visible in Klopp's third consecutive draw - the most irritating of all: losing points to soft goals.

Into his second week on the job and Klopp was still smiling but I reckon his funny bone was vibrating the wrong way when Sadio Mane bundled Southampton's equaliser into the net with only a few minutes left on the clock.

Before the game, Klopp spoke about how many chances he is prepared to give to a player he believes is trying hard but making mistakes, particularly if the player is young.

But he also said he wouldn't waste any time on someone he sees as incorrigible, a player managers have worked hard with before and made no progress. It was pure carrot and stick and sent all the right messages to his players.

Now we will see how they react. Essentially, he is saying that come January, or more importantly next summer, he will make his plans and if a player has done enough to prove himself over the coming months, he can be part of it.

There were plusses in the game and Christian Benteke was the obvious one. He brings a physical strength which Klopp must rely on until Daniel Sturridge can find a way to play a few games in a row without breaking down.

Benteke scored a truly majestic header and looks like one half of a great partnership if Liverpool can find someone to play with him but until that happens, Klopp will cut his cloth to suit the players he has.

Next up is a League Cup game against Bournemouth and then a big clash with Chelsea, a game I'm already looking forward to. Jose Mourinho is like Krakatoa the day before it erupted.

It will be billed as 'The Special One' v 'The Normal One' and Klopp's level-headedness will be used as a point of comparison with Mourinho's volcanic temper.

But I reckon Klopp was seriously annoyed with what he saw at the end of this game when Liverpool lost three challenges for headers in their own penalty area and lost a goal which should have been defended properly.

He is just better at hiding it and that, for me, is a good thing. Mourinho's temper has helped drive him to the point where there is a real chance that he will lose his job.

I know he has reason to be angry and that his control of the team has been eroded but he is hanging it all out for us to see and it just makes his situation worse.

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