In his weekly Liverpool blog, Dave Tindall says “forget two points dropped” against West Brom, “Klopp was seeing the bigger picture”.
“I’m a romantic. I love the stories and Anfield is one of the best places in the football world.”
So said an excited and expectant Jurgen Klopp at his first Liverpool press conference on October 9.
But, oh to have been a fly on the wall when the German spoke with his trusted lieutenants Zeljko Buvac and Peter Krawietz after overseeing his first four home games in charge – 1-1 draws with Rubin Kazan and Southampton, a 1-0 win over Bournemouth and a 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.
Might the conversation have gone something like this?
Klopp: “Where is this so-called 12th man, Zeljko? Where is this legendary Anfield atmosphere we all heard about, Peter? The stadium is flat. The people don’t believe.”
As an emotional man, who wears his heart on his sleeve, Klopp was never going to keep all this inside him and following the defeat to Palace he’d had enough. He had to let it out.
“After the goal on 82 minutes, with 12 minutes to go, I saw many people leaving the stadium. I felt pretty alone at this moment,” he said, clearly making a point rather than just an observation.
Some saw it as Klopp having a go at the fans although he was quick to add that his players had to make the people want to stay. “We are responsible that nobody can leave the stadium before the final whistle because anything can happen. Between 82 and 94 (minutes) you can make eight goals if you like.”
If that was part one of ‘Operation Anfield’, we saw part two after Divock Origi’s injury-time equaliser against West Brom last Sunday.
Liverpool’s next two games at home after the 2-1 defeat by Palace had been nervy 2-1 and 1-0 wins over Bordeaux and Swansea. We’d taken the lead in those games after 45 and 62 minutes respectively so it was a case of hanging on and that never helps generate electricity in a stadium.
To play his next card, what Klopp actually needed was for Liverpool to rescue a game. And when that opportunity arose against West Brom he took it.
The touchline spats with Baggies boss Tony Pulis actually helped build the energy and Klopp’s manic and theatrical performance on the touchline was infectious. He demanded an equaliser, the fans picked up on it and they generated the best atmosphere Anfield has experienced all season.
And, lo and behold, roared on by believing rather than disgruntled, exit-seeking fans, Liverpool found their equaliser. Klopp celebrated like a crazed gorilla and the crowd went wild.
Mission accomplished and cue the boss implementing the next stage of his masterplan by dragging his players over to the fans and getting them to link hands and raise arms in a display of togetherness. The supporters are the life and soul of the club and this was a way of saying thank you.
“I enjoyed the atmosphere with my whole body and it was great,” said Klopp. “To stay in the game, with only a few seconds to be disappointed, and to come back into the game, that’s a big moment in football.”
The dunderheads on Twitter who laughed at Liverpool for ‘celebrating’ a 2-2 draw with West Brom had missed the point completely. This was the next step about uniting the players and fans as one.
Great moments in football… pic.twitter.com/HRT1hKTbXV
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) December 14, 2015
Forget two points dropped, Klopp was seeing the bigger picture. Something needed to be done about the atmosphere inside Anfield and, in many ways, it’s just as important as trying to work out a strategy for his players to get past teams like West Brom.
As it happened there was good news there too as Liverpool created plenty and just got done on two set-pieces (more on that later). To get Anfield rocking again on a regular basis is a huge task and only someone with Klopp’s Shankly-esque charisma has a chance of doing it.
It was great for a while under Brendan Rodgers but that was completely results-led thanks to Suarez and co. When the good times went, Rodgers could only really mumble platitudes about us being “the best fans in the world” and it fooled nobody.
I was lucky enough to attend both Champions League semi-finals against Chelsea and they were extraordinary experiences – the 2005 one completely off the scale. The potential for something amazing is there.
Of course, those remarkable highs can’t be reached in a routine Premier League game but Klopp, by sheer force of personality, is making sure that Anfield gets its mojo back. Late equalisers or winners could make the difference between us finishing top four or missing out on a Champions League spot (yes, I’ve downgraded my fanciful title dreams for now!) so the upward spiral of belief sparked by the increased bonds between players and fans is hugely important.
The other thing I liked about the end-of-match salute to the Kop was that the players looked sheepish. If they know that such a ritual will become commonplace (as it was under Klopp at Borussia Dortmund), they’ll want to do it on the back of a win and feel less self-conscious. Jurgen, you’re a psychological genius!
While building the player-fan connection was the good thing to come out of last week’s 2-2 draw, the defending at set-pieces was the obvious negative.
From a Liverpool fan’s perspective, it appears we’re stuck in a miserable and forehead-slapping groundhog day. Corner comes in, Mignolet flaps, ball bounces about a bit, opposition player pokes home. We score nice goals but are undone by horrible ones.
The actual stats paint a less depressing picture. Breaking down the goals Liverpool have conceded this season shows that 32% have come from set-pieces. If that looks high, the average in the top-flight is 28% so it seems worse than it is.
Then again, all the ones we let in seem to be momentum changers. They’re not just consolation efforts at the end of matches, they’re goals that throw a huge spanner in the works and test the patience of the fans.
It wouldn’t be so bad if we were cashing in on dead-ball situations ourselves but how many times do Liverpool’s corner-takers fail to clear the man at the near post. I don’t have the stats on that one but it’s too many.
Liverpool’s next opportunity to impress, and be impressed by, the rejuvenated home fans will come against shock Premier League leaders Leicester on Boxing Day and that will obviously be a big task. Before then is the away trip to Watford, another side who are punching above their weight this season.
The Hornets have won their last three games and have the third best home defensive record in the Premier League. But as well as letting in just six goals, they’ve also scored just six goals at Vicarage Road this term and only bottom club Aston Villa have scored fewer times in front of their home fans.
Daniel Sturridge isn’t fit yet but, aside from the Newcastle blip, Liverpool have done some great things on the road in recent times and should have enough firepower to nick this game 1-0 or 2-0.
It’s an obvious opportunity for three points and one we need to take after managing just a single point from the games against Newcastle and West Brom.