Rage on the touchline is nothing new in management. From the twitchiness of Martin O’Neill heading every ball and getting stuck in himself on the touchline, to the pure rage that some managers can exhibit when things aren’t going their way, touchline antics are always a wonderful thing to look out for.
But in Jurgen Klopp’s case, that jumping around isn’t simply precipitated by what goes on in one game. At least, it doesn’t seem to be. Because he does it in every game.
So either it’s just his way, or else he’s a normal guy who loses his temper at only very slight provocations, like hefty tackles and debatable refereeing decisions.
Actually, it’s one of Klopp’s charms.
When you see him on the touchline, he evokes one of the central virtues that British and Irish football see as vital – effort and investment. When teams play badly, the first thing that fans seem to shout is about their effort, calling their team lazy or overpaid or disloyal, usually culminating in telling them that they’re not fit to wear their team’s colours.
[ffc-gal cat=”liverpool” no=”5″]
Fans bemoan mercenaries in their squad, those who don’t care at all about the club, and play football simply to earn a pay cheque. But really, that’s just modern football. Are you really going to believe that your new centre forward from Burkina Faso has been watching Coventry City games for years, and travelled to a game at Highfield Road with his dad when he was five years old?
So fans don’t quite expect that. But they do expect someone to buy into the club, and to invest themselves emotionally in the games they take part in. And that’s exactly what Klopp does. Either that or he’s an insanely good actor who is very much in the wrong profession – though maybe he’d be adept at winning penalties when there’s little to no contact.
The raging, emotional Klopp may be tagged as a hothead in the weeks to come. Every game there’s some camera focusing on him, and he does nothing but fan the flames of that characterisation when he refuses to shake the hand of an opposing manager, just like he did when Liverpool played West Brom.
But that doesn’t matter to Liverpool fans. Klopp was fairly well known before he entered the club. I walked around a provincial UK city only a couple of days ago and was shocked to see more than a handful of Borussia Dortmund tops flying around. Everyone knows Klopp, and everyone loves his style.
So when he came into the club, everyone knew the style they were getting, and the emotion that the man himself would show on the touchline. The difference between Klopp and other managers in the league, though, is that Klopp has built a persona around that. If Brendan Rodgers had done the same thing at West Brom, and then taken the players to the Kop at the end of the game to thank the fans, it wouldn’t have worked so well.
After all, it was a 2-2 draw with West Brom at home. But Klopp was able to command the sort of respect from the fans that Rodgers just wasn’t able to achieve. The fact he’s so personable and seemingly so interested in the club fosters a sense of complicity with the fans. Everyone is involved, so everyone feels what Klopp feels. It’s just that Klopp feels it to an even more heightened degree.
But this emotional persona is something that deflects away from his main quality. The fact he’s such a clever manager. When you see the likes of Stuart Pearce jumping up and down on the touchline, you think of a hothead who gets his team to go onto the pitch fired up to chase the ball around and put in heavy tackles. Klopp’s brilliance is in making everyone think he’s the same. The kind of manager who sets his team up to press the ball like headless chickens, but whose approach is totally unsophisticated.
Klopp’s ability to throw people off the scent only goes so far. Just look at the number of analysis pieces that were presented in the media just after his appointment, focusing on gegenpressing and the beauty of Klopp’s game.
Klopp is a sophisticated man dressed as a man of the people. So the more he’s targeted as a hothead, the better for the club,. The more the public sees Klopp as emotionally unstable on the touchline, the more opposition managers will feel that they can get at him. And the more all of this happens, the easier it will be for Klopp to use his brain to sort out a win.
It’s all calculated, even his tantrums.