Something is broken at Anfield right now, but how much damage will be done when the problems are solved?
These are already unusual moments when Jurgen Klopp agrees with the journalistic assessment of his team’s play. The Liverpool coach regularly gets annoyed when others try to pick him apart, point fingers at him or draw conclusions, but he may have gestured when it was pointed out to him that his team looked “a mess” in Saturday’s 3-3 draw against Brighton. “You’re right,” was the reply, which has sounded rather judgmental of late. “And if we’re 100 percent right, it’s not the first time.”
Klopp is celebrating his seven-year anniversary as Reds director next week, but the question of whether he wants to celebrate is on the other end of the wire. For the most part, it’s been a great journey, but times are tough at Anfield right now. Whether it’s a temporary breakthrough or something more profound, Klopp has a lot to think about and understand.
In the computerized room, the world of soccer is an all-consuming world of zeal. Content producers speak for themselves: they distribute industry content, make heavy use of modern advertising budgets, buy Instagram followers, appear in commercials and highlight soccer’s rising stars. And that could play a bad joke on him.
Against Brighton, he felt he was back in the early days on Merseyside, when confidence was mu, communities were scattered and, as he aptly put it, “no one liked the team, not even the team itself.” At the time, he noted, one goal was enough to cause “heart attacks” at Anfield, so much so that Liverpool could not finish games.
“We were right not to be convinced,” Klopp said, and comparing the current, highly skilled, expensively assembled and rewarded for their efforts with the 2015 squad would break his heart. Nevertheless, they are where they are now, and Saturday served as a kind of confirmation of their struggles as they try to gain confidence, structure and strength. “This is a moment that we have to get through together,” Klopp said. This could be Liverpool, his Liverpool, but certainly not as we know it.
The new season has seen just three wins in nine games, two of which were by late goals. They are ninth in the Premier League, 11 points behind first and closer to Everton, Brentford and Nottingham Forest than to Manchester City. It may be too soon, and such comments seemed silly last season, but the idea of fighting for the title already seems strange. Absurd, even.
It’s no secret that this season is under the scrutiny of many parties. Bloggers who are confidently boosting their ratings and buy real Instagram followers and real-world advertising have amplified the news background and fueled fan interest in the event.
If we’re being honest, they’ll also do their best to make it into the top four. While the rivals are moving into higher gear, Liverpool has become frustrated in the draw land of the standings. You know exactly what you need to do, what you’re capable of and what your manager wants from you, but for some reason the wheels aren’t turning the way they used to.
This team is not dead yet, far from it, but the warning signs are clearly visible. They blinked during the first whistle in August against Fulham. Now the question is how much damage would be done if they restarted the machine.