Who’s bottling it, and does Jurgen Klopp HAVE to win a trophy this season?

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One of the beauties of football for me is the variety of opinions that it creates for players, managers, ex players, pundits and fans alike. I could normally spend hours on end discussing the beautiful game with friends or even strangers without getting bored. But in recent weeks I can’t actually believe what I’ve heard or seen written by some Liverpool fans and pundits. There will always be a difference in opinions and I love that, but the extremes that have been shown recently have just pushed that to a new level. Within this it has opened up two areas of curiosity for me.

So the first question I ask is, have Liverpool bottled it, even though there are still 9 games to go and only 1 point to make up? Or is it a huge majority of fans that are bottling it? From the moment we failed to extend our lead at the top to 10 points when we faced Man City in January 3rd there has been an increased  use of the phrase “Liverpool are bottling it” firstly from other fans and pundits like Rio Ferdinand but now it has crept into the Liverpool fan base. There will always be fans who take an overly negative approach to Liverpool and there will always be fans on the other end of the spectrum who rose tint everything. I find myself somewhere in between but towards the positive side of things. 

I was ok with the Leicester draw as I thought it was just one of those games that happens, we were poor but got away with a draw. The West Ham game left me feeling uncomfortable but we still had the lead and I thought maybe we were going through a small blip. Get out of it and we will be fine. For the game against Man United, it was frustrating how the game panned out but can a draw away at Old Trafford ever really be classed as a bad result?

Sandwiched in between these games were two very comfortable wins at home against Bournemouth and Watford. These games gave me hope that all is not as bad as some would have you believe. The draw against Everton at the weekend was terrible and like United they were there for the taking, but we failed to take advantage. For the first time this season I was fuming with the result, but at no point did I concede the league. Why would I? There are still nine games to go and only 1 point to make up. Do City have the advantage? Of course, they do, but it is still possible that we can overturn that.

In my article Have Liverpool turned a corner?  written in January I said that I believed there will be more twists and turns to come, and I still stand by that. Liverpool dropping from top spot is the first twist but there will be more to come. In the recent LFC Couch Podast (264: Everton Derby Blues & What Went Wrong) Nick Nova and Peter Kofinas spoke about Man City’s difficult fixtures in April. They have a freebie at home to Cardiff and then play Palace away, Spurs at home, Man United away and Burnley away. Throw some Champions League Quarter finals in there and that is a tricky month and there is every chance that they will drop points. We have to be in a position to take advantage of this, and if we don’t or if City win all their games, then fair play, they will deserve the title, as shit as we will feel at the time.

So back to my question… have the manager or team bottled it? Not a chance in hell! Have we lost the league? Of course we fucking haven’t. I still believe that we will win the league, and I will take the shit that comes my way if we don’t. I am concerned by recent performances but I still have this belief that come May 12th, we will see Jordan Henderson lift that trophy (which will also create more fume amongst Liverpool fans!).

Have Liverpool fans started to bottle it? I believe a large majority have. As soon as we drop points there is an overly negative reaction to it all and there is no worse place than Twitter after a negative result. With a quarter of the season still to play fans are throwing the towel in and throwing abuse at fans who still look at the season positively. I have been called deluded, weird, and a dick amongst other things because I refuse to throw the towel in and still believe we will win it. As Liverpool fans we have all been craving being in a title race in the hope that we finally end that 29 year barren spell, but now we are in one, peoples heads have gone. This was never going to be easy against a formidable City side, and being Liverpool fans we should also know that we never do things the easy way. If we go on to win this league, don’t be surprised if we clinch it on the last game of the season against Wolves with a late goal scored by Joel Matips left arse cheek.

I have never been a huge fan of Chris Sutton, but his comments this week ring so true to me.

"Can't we just say that Liverpool and Manchester City are two great teams - it's a brilliant title race. This will go to the wire”

"When Manchester City lost earlier in the season to Palace and Leicester and Newcastle, did we say Manchester City are bottling it?"

 "Is drawing at Manchester United bottling it?"

"Everton, their rivals, seemed to really up their game - their best moment of the season may be stopping Liverpool win a title.”

"It's ludicrous to suggest that Liverpool are bottling it. They are absolutely not. The players are just focused on the next game."

"To me the Liverpool fans seem to be bottling it, not the players and Klopp,"

Every single point that Sutton makes here is bang on for me, and it’s a pity more of our fans and the media don’t have this opinion. Regarding the media, we all know that they have to sell stories so they are really pushing the Liverpool bottling it story, but as Sutton says above, where were these comments when City dropped points earlier.

Until we are mathematically out of it, I will still hold that hope. In our next two games we face Burnley at home and Fulham away with a chance to go back to the top as City only play once in that period. Mark my words, we will win both games.

Luckily most of the fans on Twitter who instantly become suicidal after a draw against your rivals aren’t the ones going to the games. For all our remaining games we need a great atmosphere at Anfield – Similar to those seen against Bournemouth and Watford recently. I understand people are nervous, but don’t let that take over the atmosphere in the stadium as it did against Leicester. 

Regardless of our recent results the players appear to be holding their nerve when spoken to by the media and Klopp is also very defiant in his mood (I just wish he would stop mentioning the weather).

This leads me on to the growing opinion that Jurgen Klopp has to win a trophy this year or he has been a failure. There has always been murmurs of this from media outlets and fans of rival clubs ever since Jurgen walked into Liverpool on the 8th October 2015 but it is gathering pace fast and now some Liverpool fans are starting to say the same.

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People always point to the fact that Klopp has a poor record in cup finals and has been labelled a perennial loser by some as a result. I see it differently. As much as losing the finals hurts I would much rather us get to them than go out in the early stages. How much did we all enjoy the thrill of getting to Kiev last season? The fact that Klopp has led his clubs to 7 finals says to me that he is a class manager. Of those seven finals he has only won one, but look at the games

2012 German Cup - Borussia Dortmund 5-2 Bayern Munich – WON

2013 Champions League - Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Bayern Munich – LOST

2014 German Cup - Borussia Dortmund 0-2 Bayern Munich (aet) – LOST

2015 German Cup - Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Wolfsburg – LOST

2016 Capital One Cup - Liverpool 1-1 Man City - LOST ON PENALTIES

2016 Europa League - Liverpool 1-3 Sevilla – LOST

2018 Champions League - Liverpool 1-3 Real Madrid – LOST

Three of the four finals in Germany came against the powerhouse that is Bayern Munich, the biggest club in Germany and there is absolutely no shame in losing to them. The forth against Wolfsburg was at a time when Dortmund were struggling at the end of Klopps tenure at Dortmund.

Of the three finals for Liverpool, Klopp navigated our way to two of these finals in his first season with a very poor squad. We were unlucky against City losing on penalties but we just weren’t good enough against Sevilla. It looked like the long season had caught up on us and we were knackered second half as the game unravelled in front of us.

Last seasons Champions League final was a freak. We started well and then the injury to Salah killed our momentum. We weren’t terrible, but we were effectively beaten by two freak goalkeeping errors and an absolute worldie from Gareth Bale. Stick Alisson Becker in goal for that final and it turns out very different. So I do not see how Klopp can be judged as a perennial loser.

People also conveniently like to forget that Klopp led Dortmund to two consecutive league titles in the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons. This was a huge achievement to do this once let alone twice in a row ahead of Bayern Munich, but as soon as you mention this to someone with an agenda against Klopp they don’t even acknowledge it, or better still like recently I had someone reply on Twitter with “Well he’s never won the Premier League with Dortmund”!! Honestly you could not make this up.

When Klopp took over at Liverpool he said he wanted to turn Liverpool fans from doubters to believers. Well he has worked his magic on me but it appears there are lots who still need convincing.

This narrative that Klopp has to win a trophy this season or he is a failure is so far wide of the mark. If you cant see the improvements that he has made at Liverpool and the fact that we are on a constant upward trajectory then I feel sorry for you. Klopp came in and took over a struggling team early on in the 2015 season with us sitting in 10th place on 12 points after 8 games. We ended that season with only 60 points after the poor start and Klopp prioritising the cups towards the end of the season. Look at he squad Klopp had at his disposal for his first game in charge (away against Spurs).

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Compare that to our squad now and what I feel is our strongest starting 11 (you may have different views):

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There is no comparison.

Since Klopp has been in charge our league position is also improving positively, finishing 8th in his first season and then finishing 4th two seasons in a row. We are currently sitting 2nd in the league now.

After 29 games we have 70 points, which is more points than we got in the following seasons since the Premier League began (Seeing as everyone is obsessed with us never winning it) – 1992/93, 1993/94, 1996/97, 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2000/01, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2006/07, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13. That is a remarkable stat, and really shows how far we have come, and unlike other season, I am confident this is not a one off, this is the start of a good period for us, and we must continue with that man Klopp at the helm.

If the worst happens and we miss out on the league and the Champions League this season, I will be very disappointed, but I will not be calling for the head of Jurgen Klopp. He is the right man to take us forward and will lead us to trophies. So my answer is, as much as I am desperate for us to win the league this year, I will not class Klopp as a failure. How can he be a failure when we are continuously improving? If we go into a decline and in a few years Klopp leaves having won no trophies then that argument is more valid, but at this time in present it is not relevant.

Every now and again, we have a little wobble with results and so-called fans jump on the situation with ‘Klopp out’ comments which is ridiculous. I’ve seen comments about him being inept, mediocre, clueless etc… These moronic comments have exposed themselves again in the last couple of weeks as our performances have slipped off. Some think it is because either we have bottled it or Klopp isn’t up to the task. But for me it nowhere near the truth. We have still had some very good performances recently (Bournemouth and Watford) but people are focussing on the draws against Man United and Everton and saying that we are lacking something. Have people ever thought that maybe Klopp has just decided on a different approach for these ‘difficult’ away games?

 Since we shipped 3 goals against Palace in the 4-3 win, we have looked much more solid at the back which appears to be our main focus now.

 The Couch’s own George Xanthis noticed something interesting that Klopp said in his post match interview for the Everton game. Klopp said "We're not going to go all out attack, counter attacks etc could punish us. There's still 9 games to go, not time to panic"

This is George’s take on the recent change in tactics and Klopp’s approach

 He's playing a safer brand of football at the moment and probably explains why we're operating at this seemingly ‘conservative’ level.

The hope seems to be to win the game 1 or 2 nil rather than blow teams away.

It's why we've seen so many clean sheets - it seems now more than ever, that Klopp has decided to build the foundation of this new side upon a solid defence. When he entered, it was definitely on attack

He's explained that he's not going to leave gaps open and risk the loss, he'd rather protect the side and not lose

Interesting "gamble" (a counter intuitive way to describe it) that he's taking here - like the way we approached our first 4th place finish when we drew to Southampton, he said "a point gained rather than 2 lost"

We ended up making 4th by a point or so if I remember correctly

At the moment it seems he must fancy City losing a game or so, so he'd rather stay undefeated ie "difficult to beat" than take the risk in trying to get 3 points every week and risk jeopardising our (now) recovered defensive record.

 Klopp seems happy to stay in touching distance with City and bank on them slipping up /running out of steam

Really interesting to see this season be built on clean sheets and defensive defiance

Last season was attacking prowess and dynamism

Next season we could see both, given the right acquisitions and pre season.

These are all interesting points raised by George and if you look back at our performances away from home against Chelsea, Man City, Man United and Everton this season this makes perfect sense.

In all honesty I would have liked Klopp to be a bit more adventurous with the midfield in the Man United and Everton games, as looking back, they were both there for the taking, but I am no expert, and that’s why Klopp is in the job he is in. Remember when Mourinho used to win titles by winning most games but making his team horrible to play against when they went away to the other top 6 teams. He would be happy to walk away with 0-0 draw away from home against the likes of Man United, as long as they didn’t get beat. There has been doom and gloom about the recent results but we cannot say right now whether they are 1 point gained or 2 points lost, that we will only know at the end of the season.

Klopp didn’t help himself with his comments about the wind after the Everton game, and I’ve seen the suggestion that he may be making these comments to deflect the attention away from the players and onto him with ridiculous comments. But I don’t buy into this at all. Klopp has made many comments about the weather in the past and not always when we drop points. After we beat Wolves 2-0 just before Christmas, he commented on the wind and the weather, but did anybody flinch or make a huge thing of it? He is merely commenting on the conditions and not using it as an excuse.

We are all entitled to our own opinions, as mentioned at the start of this article, I like that, as long as you can argue, debate or back up your opinion. Don’t just make throwaway comments on things and then get all aggressive and defensive because you can’t back it up or at least reason with someone with a different view. Football and life would be boring if everyone had the same opinion wouldn’t it?!

So my opinion, for what it’s worth…..

No we haven’t bottled it, and some fans need to calm down a bit and see how the season unravels before kicking off and wanting Klopp out.

No Klopp is not a failure if he fails to win us any trophies this season as I believe he will lead us to the title eventually

Jurgen, keep doing what you are doing. YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE!