This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
While speaking to BBC 5 Live’s Monday Night Club, Micah Richards said that Jurgen Klopp has had a bit of a “Keegan meltdown” in regards to his response to Pep Guardiola’s comments on diving.
It all started when the former Barcelona boss spoke after the Reds had beaten Aston Villa 2-1 at Villa Park. Sadio Mane had been booked in that first half for diving, and Guardiola said after his side’s match against Man City: “Sometimes it is diving, sometimes it is this talent to score incredible goals in the last minute.”
This clearly got under Klopp’s skin, with the former Borussia Dortmund boss responding: “When I came into the interview after the game [at Villa Park] I really had no clue what the other Premier League results were. That is the truth. I didn’t ask anybody, It was 45 minutes after the game when I heard the results of the other games. When I come into the dressing room I don’t say: ‘What’s the result of the other games?’ I had to speak to players, I had to speak to a lot of people and then I went into interviews. I didn’t think for one second about the other games.
“Then, after the interviews, [he will ask] how did the other teams play? Then someone told me City won in the 86th minute and all this happened. I don’t understand these types of things. My brain is not big enough to think about another team as well. I have enough to do to think about us. Tomorrow we play Genk and that deserves all my attention and gets it. That is the only way I can do it. After that we can speak about Manchester City – we have to.”
Former Manchester City defender Richards has now had his say on the unfolding dram.
He said: “Sounded like a Keegan meltdown. After explaining for a minute or so that he doesn’t want to talk about Man City, he talks about Man City – it’s mind games. That’s what the title race needs. Two great managers, Pep’s come out on top a couple of times and he’s just trying to upset the apple cart a little bit. It looks like it has stirred up Klopp, to be honest. The way Klopp has reacted there, it’s like he has had a bit of a nibble.”
Sunday’s clash at Anfield between the two sides will have huge implications on the title race. If Liverpool win, they will lead the Citizens by nine points with less than a third of the season gone, but if the visitors triumph, the gap will be reduced to three. A draw will mean that the Manchester outfit have missed their chance to close the deficit.
Renowned for his tactical ingenuity rather than his mind games, Guardiola has clearly taken a conscious swipe at Liverpool. However, there was no real need for a response from the 52-year-old, yet he has let himself be drawn into a battle of words between the two bosses and, as Richards said, he has come out looking the worse of the two.
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This is not the juiciest of mind games, granted, but the fact that Klopp has already been drawn into reacting does not bode well, and may give his opposite number the incentive to try this tactic more often. It is is vital that the German does not fall into the same trap as Rafa Benitez.
The “facts” speech has now gone down in Premier League folklore, but Benitez’s comments were only in retaliation to previous words from Sir Alex Ferguson, perhaps the best at mind games of them all. The Spaniard then proceeded to lose his cool. Steven Gerrard, the captain at the time, even said that he was “embarrassed” when watching the monologue.
The Merseyside club were top of the league at that point, but Benitez showed the pressure had got to him, and Manchester United would eventually go on to win the title.
These quotes from Klopp do not equate to a full-blown “facts” moment, but he must make sure not to react so out of character in the future. In a title race of such small margins, it could be the difference between lifting the trophy and missing out once again.