Between The Lines: Strachan suggests Liverpool’s title challenge hinges on Klopp

Manchester City’s 2-0 victory over Everton on Wednesday evening allowed them to usurp Liverpool into top spot, albeit having played a game more than the Reds.

What’s the word?

Just a couple of weeks ago it seemed that Liverpool were in pole position to lift the title this season, but in the blinking of an eye City are back on top of the pile.

It’s a turnaround which has forced the British media to question the Merseyside outfit’s mettle, with Jurgen Klopp’s credentials particularly under scrutiny after the Monday night draw at West Ham.

Indeed, the shifting dynamics in the title race were discussed on Sky Sports’ The Debate on Wednesday evening, and former Celtic boss Gordon Strachan implied that it’s down to Klopp to rebuild his side’s confidence in light of a pair of draws, per Sky Sports.

“The tactics aren’t going to change too much, the philosophy isn’t going to change too much. After a couple of draws, everyone’s looking at the manager – the media, pundits but especially the players.

“They need someone to look at who says, ‘this is alright’. Everyone does it in different ways.

“As players, it’s difficult to deal with it, it’s better like when I was at Aberdeen, we lost a couple of games and it looked like we were out, but then we went back in there again with four games to go.

“It’s just character to stay in there and hang in there. I think it’s the manager at this time thinking about how he’s dealing with it, making sure the players come in and say ‘I’m glad I’m with him’.”

Strachan’s assessment suggests that this is a moment which could define Klopp as a manager, as his players need a strong leader to help them rediscover the form which made them firm favourites for the title just a few weeks ago.

Pressure is already ruffling Klopp’s feathers

Klopp’s reaction to losing at West Ham was telling: he is starting to feel the pressure of the situation. When the final whistle was blown the manager could be seen hounding the referee, complaining about something which spectators simply couldn’t get their heads round after seeing various replays of Liverpool’s offside opener.

The beaming smile which normally accompanies the German in the post-match interview was nowhere to be seen; instead, he looked rattled and concerned as he questioned whether the officials had tried to even things up in the second-half.

His reaction was one which hinted that he is in danger of allowing the magnitude of the situation to corrupt his managerial quality. But, as Strachan has alluded to, this is the time when Klopp needs to keep a cool head and show the players that he possesses the winning mentality to see the job through.

The former Borussia Dortmund coach’s ability to deal with the rise in pressure in the coming weeks could ultimately make or break Liverpool’s title challenge.