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Monday 18 December 2017

It's all or nothing in Klopp's world

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

He is a fascinating man with a singular vision of how the game should be played but I would be driven to distraction if I was a player working under Jurgen Klopp.

I said a few times this season that I thought he was a one-trick pony and that there will be games like Bournemouth when everything goes wrong.

There will be many days when everything goes right and my feeling remains that there could be enough of them to win a title for Liverpool.

But I have to say, if I was in that Liverpool squad now, I would be maddened by the way he wants to play because I see no balance, nothing to lean on when the wheels come off and they concede soft goals.

In the Bournemouth game, there were opportunities for Klopp's team to ease back and take full control of the game with the lead they had.

Tighten up

On two occasions, they had a two-goal lead and with that established, had won a position where a balanced team would take a moment to take stock, tighten everything up and see out the game.

That usually happens in midfield when someone gets his foot on the ball and sets the pace of the game.

Sometimes the players themselves or even one strong-willed enough will see what is in front of him and make the adjustment without the manager even being involved.

But the moral authority to do that comes from the manager and the preparation for situations like that will have been rehearsed over and over again on the training ground.

In that case, the manager's philosophy is to have a balance between attack and defence and that is the right way to go about it.

With Klopp, it's all about the front foot, all about forward momentum and if anything interrupts the process, he wants nothing else from his players than for them to push on and try for another goal.

That's why his two full-backs were far away from the play at the wrong end of the pitch for a couple of Bournemouth's goals.

That's why he brought Adam Lalana into the game at 3-1 when other managers might have considered a steadying presence.

Not Klopp. He wants none of that. It's go, go, go all the time and while it produces some breath-taking football and can completely overwhelm other teams, it carries at its heart an obvious weakness.

There is no alternative. It's an all-or-nothing approach.

Both Nathanial Clyne and James Milner have been told by Klopp to do things that probably go against their instincts as defenders but must be liberating for them as players.

I'm sure the players think it's fantastic and I'm not being facetious about that.

Klopp tells these lads to push forward at all times and if the team does get punished, as happened against Bournemouth, his message on the training ground the next day would be that they had done nothing wrong.

He shoulders responsibility for them and I'm pretty certain, is utterly convinced that staying on the front foot, even when your defence is in disarray, is the way forward.

It really must be a fine feeling to be playing in a team like that and to be released to attack without any worry about the consequences. But you are walking as a tightrope all the time and when you fall off, there's no net.

So for Klopp, Bournemouth is a glitch, a hiccup which will not sway him in any way from his philosophy. Liverpool will probably go out and score five in the next one.

I have to say, if I had a big club and my pick of the managers currently on view in the Premier League, I would be leaning towards Antonio Conte, who does have the balance right.

When Chelsea are on the front foot, they can be just as irresistible as Liverpool but there is a big difference when they are not.

Chelsea are tight and disciplined when they don't have the ball. They have a manager who believes that there are times to attack and times to defend.

When a manager like that works with good players, you can get the type of consistency which has driven Chelsea to the top of the table with the kind of run which could leave everyone else for dead if he can sustain it.

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