Then, as I contemplated the even more lamentable efforts of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United against Arsenal, an altogether more prosaic analogy seemed more apposite. In their increasingly ragged attempts to seize the initiative, the two giants of English football are more akin to a pair of drunken old-timers having a brawl outside a pub. Breathy, heavy-limbed, unsure of foot and lacking the power to deliver a killer blow, the two are hesitantly circling each other in a semi-stupor, whilst in the background, a sober Frenchman in an unsettlingly long padded coat nips in and steals their chips and wallets.
Even more distressingly, the Portuguese manager’s habit of post-match paranoid posturing seemed to have spread to Anfield after the incredibly frustrating stalemate with Southampton. At least, so one would believe were one to trust the typically agenda-driven presentation of Jürgen Klopp’s quotes in some quarters. As I trawled the news sites for content, the headlines were screaming about how the Liverpool manager was blaming the dryness of the pitch and the referee for Liverpool’s attacking bluntness. One site went further and claimed Liverpool fans were ’embarrassed’ by the manager’s weak excuses.
Klopp, of course, is not noted for his whining. In fact, he has always taken responsibility for losses and protected his players in a way that does not separate himself from them. The idea of a less-than-ideal surface being an issue for a possession-based game is valid, but obviously it’s not what fans want to hear after dropped points. Klopp acknowledges this but points it out anyway, despite knowing that it will mean some will dub Liverpool “bad losers.” It’s not exactly Mourinho levels of monomania, but it doesn’t sit well with some.
“It is not what I want,” he said of the home draw to Saints. “To be successful you have to have a fortress at home. That is very important. We had that here for a long period. Now we have had a few results which are not that good. I know nobody wants to hear it but I am brave enough to say it. The pitch was really dry today. We gave it all the water we had but after 15 minutes it was really dry again with the wind. It was difficult. You could see it … a lot of passes you thought ‘why are they playing this?’ But it was difficult. In a possession game you need to have the best circumstances, if possible, in a home game especially, but today we couldn’t have this. That is nobody’s fault; it is only a description.”
When you factor in some references to Bobby Madeley’s rather idiosyncratic performance and Fraser Forster’s “sportsmanship,” it gives detractors all the ammunition they need to write unbalanced critiques. Forster’s efforts at psyching James Milner out were of the most Neanderthal variety and I have to say that I was really disappointed not to see Emre Can, say, or Joel Matip step in to separate the Saints’ outsized custodian from his direct opponent – Milner can’t exactly grow a foot to meet the ‘keeper’s stare and Madeley had his back to proceedings for about 3 hours.
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