View from the terraces
After seven years at Anfield, critics are wondering whether his magic is wearing off
Jürgen Klopp has achieved a remarkable amount during his tenure as Liverpool’s manager, said James Pearce on The Athletic. From Champions League glory in Madrid, to ending the club’s painful 30-year title drought, the German has been the “most transformative figure” in Liverpool’s recent history. But after seven years at Anfield, is his magic wearing off?
So far this season, the Reds have accrued just ten points from eight Premier League games, their worst return at this stage of the season since 2012-13. They currently lie tenth in the table, 14 points adrift from leaders Arsenal, who beat them 3-2 last Sunday. They keep making the “same glaring errors” and have become “ridiculously easy to play through”. For a side that nearly won the Quadruple five months ago, it really is a startling turnaround.
Liverpool are currently beset by several problems, none of which would be critical on its own, but which cumulatively amount to something serious, said Max Mathews in the Daily Mail. One is that Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk – their two most influential players in recent seasons – have suffered a simultaneous loss of form. Another is that the departure of Sadio Mané, who joined Bayern Munich over the summer, has left their front line struggling for fluency.
Then there’s the fact that Liverpool’s press – for so long the cornerstone of their success – seems to be losing “its precision and its intensity”, said Jonathan Wilson in The Guardian. When working well, it routinely smothers opponents. Yet the high press has always been a high-risk strategy, and it can leave them exposed when it misfires. And currently, that’s just what’s happening – with knock-on effects all over the pitch. It means, for example, that Trent Alexander-Arnold is having to play further back than usual – thereby leaving his defensive weaknesses badly exposed.
All this has led some to suggest that Klopp’s future at Anfield is in doubt, said Jonathan Northcroft in The Sunday Times. And history does indeed seem to indicate that he’s a manager who operates on seven-year cycles. At both his previous clubs – Mainz and Borussia Dortmund – he set about rebuilding the teams and achieved spectacular success for several seasons, only to find results tailing off around the seventh year.
Klopp himself strongly repudiates the notion that history is about to repeat itself, said Chris Bascombe in The Daily Telegraph. He claims he still has plenty of energy left, and that circumstances at his previous clubs were different. And on present evidence, talk of a “seven-year itch” does seem misplaced: it’s more a seven-year “hiccup”. Klopp still retains the support of the Anfield hierarchy and is still revered by the club’s fans. But that support could swiftly erode if Liverpool’s results don’t improve.