Sometimes clinging on is the mark of a good side. It’s not always about blowing the opposition away – sometimes you have to take your medicine and actually just make sure you hold onto the win.
When Arsenal cling on to win a game, sometimes i’d praise them even more highly than when they win 5-0. Arsenal aren’t a team of scrappers, so when they do end up winning 1-0 after being under the cosh for a while at the end, I always find that more impressive.
But perhaps Arsenal shouldn’t be looking to be in that position. Arsenal don’t really have the defence for it. At least traditionally. For years Arsenal have had a weak defence and a great attack, their lack of a backbone was their undoing. But if they played to their potential in attack, they’d put the game to bed before it became time to defend.
Liverpool, under Klopp at least, are a different kettle of fish. Klopp is a great scrapper. Liverpool will be capable of beating teams by dragging them down to Klopp’s level.
That sounds harsh. It makes it sound like Klopp has no merits of his own, or that Liverpool can’t beat teams just by outplaying them. But that’s not really what I mean. What I mean is that Liverpool are capable of hassling and harrying opponents, just like they did at the Etihad the other week. Liverpool frighten other teams, because it’s so intense.
Sometimes, when you’re playing FIFA online, and you come across this one kid who is just the least sophisticated player you’ve ever seen. He simply runs around the pitch with his biggest and baddest players (I’m thinking Yaya Toure) so he can tackle you and run at you.
Intensity is the word. It’s an awful game to play becuse it’s physically tiring and it’s mentally tiring. You’re no longer trying to beat this kid through nice passing moves, off the ball runs and skill. You’re trying to beat him by closing him down as much as he’s closing you down. It ends up a war of attrition. Both sides are worn down and exhausted, and when you want to play a different style of play, being forced into mashing buttons is hardly fun.
Klopp has a similar vein running through his core. He’s more sophisticated than our FIFA opponent, but the overall game plan shares one major similarity – that you make your opponent uncomfortable and throw him off his game.
After the huge drubbing of Southampton last night, Jurgen Klopp’s post-match interviews saw Klopp look ahead to the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup. He’s only been in charge a few months, but for Klopp, League Cup silverware is up for grabs. Just like Jose Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini, the League Cup might be the first piece of silverware in a reign which takes him to even better places with Liverpool.
Yet he wasn’t talking about winning it, or at least not talking about how great it would be to win it. Klopp’s phrase was ‘we can’t dream, we have to work.’ And that about sums it up.
This team is about scrapping, but that doesn’t mean scrapping on the pitch, it means a scrapping mentality. It’s the mentality that forces people to play in uncomfortable situations and gets them to make mistakes.
And their mentality doesn’t take place on the pitch, it takes place off it. Liverpool won’t dream about the prizes they can win. They’ll just work hard and reflect on the prizes when they’re won.
It’s why Liverpool will be able to win by big scorelines – like against Southampton and City. It’s because the opposition just aren’t geared up for that kind of fight. And even when they are geared up for it, like against Swansea at the weekend. There, they held on and managed to grind out the win. They’re so focused on what they need to do, and they know exactly how they’re going to do it.
Liverpool’s ability to blow away teams who aren’t accustomed to their style of play will serve them very well for the rest of the season. But what’s more important is their ability to scrap, and that mentality that is already instilled into the team. Work hard and reap the rewards later. Don’t dream about winning trophies, just work hard enough to win them and enjoy yourself when you have.
Klopp isn’t just a gugu for management. Klopp is a fountain of advice for life.