Jurgen Klopp will be thankful the title is as good as won already

The asterisk season. Jurgen Klopp said he had to look it up. What was this asterisk? How did it work? What did it mean?

Now he knows. The asterisk applies to a campaign that will not finish conventionally. It applies to Liverpool least of all the various divisional champions because their title was as good as won before lockdown. 

And Klopp may be thankful for that, now. He will not have enjoyed this fan-poor, flat experience, he will not have felt comfortable without the usual sound and fury. 

Jurgen Klopp will be relieved that the title was all but decided before lockdown began

Liverpool did not put in a good performance in the Merseyside derby on Sunday evening

Klopp hates the heavy metal football tag these days, but this was something else. The equivalent of John Cage’s 4’33 perhaps. The piece in which the musicians lay down their instruments for the composer’s prescribed time, and everyone takes in the natural ambience of the auditorium.

It may not bother many of his contemporaries, but Klopp needs a crowd. They feed off each other, they revel in the frenzy. And even when Merseyside derbies have been cagey, cautious affairs, a maelstrom surrounds them. 

There were still a few lively tackles – particularly when Richarlison was around, having given Liverpool and Virgil van Dijk a little lip in the build-up – and Liverpool are clearly the better team, but seeing them like this brought home the club Klopp has created, the clever way he has captured that wonderful passion and turned it to his advantage. 

RELATED ARTICLES

Previous

1

Next

Everton 0-0 Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp’s title-chasers held by… A ring of steel surrounded Merseyside derby with a… ‘The highlight of the Premier League’s return so far!’:… Jurgen Klopp insists Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson WILL…

Share this article

Share

The branding that ticks off their rivals – ‘This is Liverpool, this means more’ – would not have been possible without Klopp. He has made it seem as if it does. Anfield has always had a special noise, particularly on big European nights; Klopp has made every game sound extraordinary.

So it will feel strange again, on Wednesday, when Liverpool attempt to maintain their 100 per cent home record against Crystal Palace. They still could be playing to win the title that night if Burnley win at Manchester City, but again there will be emptiness. And so much for the police fears that football supporters are too stupid to control themselves. The streets beyond Goodison were, except for local residents, as empty as the stands.

Klopp may have enjoyed the grittiness of his players changing in the car park. Social distancing means the teams cannot convene inside the stadium, and Goodison Park is charmingly cosy, which is probably why it is soon to be replaced. 

So, a group of players that may yet prove to be the greatest champions in English football history, changed in a glorified Portakabin like a pub team and clip clopped across the car park in the fashion of those lads who take a final drag on a cigarette before grinding it into dirt with their studs.

The stellar dovetailing of Andy Robertson and Mohamed Salah was absent due to injuries

Yet once inside it was the same old Project Restart. And that’s why there will be an asterisk.  

Not because Liverpool’s achievement, once complete, will be devalued – but because this is a weird little denouement, and it should be noted as such. Indeed, Klopp and Liverpool’s achievement is all the greater because they have managed to skirt the danger this conclusion presents. 

Imagine if this had been last season, with a single point separating first and second. Imagine if, chasing Manchester City or trying to hold them off, Liverpool had been denuded this way, had their sting, their venom, their cacophony, removed. It would have been more than a pity. It would have felt like a travesty. What would have happened in a real season, we would have asked. 

We have been spared that debate at least. We know what would have happened in a real season – Liverpool would have won the title, just as they will in this one.

It may be that Liverpool’s delayed gratification stretches into July now. If City win on Monday night, Liverpool cannot claim the title on Wednesday against Crystal Palace and the show moves to next Thursday – away at Manchester City. Lose that and, well, on it goes, further into the summer, to more empty stadiums, more silent nights.

Liverpool’s wait to capture the Premier League title may have to stretch into July now

At least Liverpool have a prize at the end. For Everton, now pride has been salvaged, what remains is pretty much just a contractual obligation. 

They had the best two chances of the game, but their winless run in Merseyside derbies now stretches to 22 matches. There have been 11 wins for Liverpool, and 11 draws, and no home goals at Goodison since 2015. This is a mid-table, mediocre season for Everton and this routine encounter was its final flourish.

So shorn of action, all that remained was to look for 모텔출장안마 signs. For the second time, Klopp thought Everton were the right opponents for Takumi Minamino. For the second time, his best laid plans needed revision. It was a shame. 

The best managers have the power to affect change. Not just clubs or destinies, but players. Individuals suddenly blossom. To go through Liverpool’s team, from when Klopp arrived, or when he brought certain players to the club, is to witness that change. It was there, in glimpses, in the all-too-brief performance of Minamino.

He drops deep, like Roberto Firmino, which was not always ideal given the way Everton set up. 

Carlo Ancelotti had his back line sitting deep and there was little space to get in behind. Yet compared to the player who made his Liverpool debut against Everton on January 5 this year, Klopp’s influence on Minamino was already apparent. 

Takumi Minamino already has the restless energy of one of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool men

He looked a little lost that day, barely in the game and replaced after 70 minutes with the scoreline goalless. This was different, despite an even earlier departure. It is a different Liverpool without the obvious dovetailing of Andrew Robertson and Mo Salah – both absent through injury – but Minamino already has the restless energy of a Liverpool man, a Klopp man. 

He linked the play neatly, won tackles over by the touchline before tearing into a central area to join the counter attack his tenacity had started.

But, like most of the restart, it wasn’t much of a game in the first-half. Without 40,000 Evertonians screaming them on, the home side could play with more control and patience and keep Liverpool at arm’s length. Minamino was the victim of that frustration, replaced at half-time by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as Liverpool searched for greater energy and physicality, but the signs still remain positive. 

There was a time when Jordan Henderson’s range of passing was considered a weak link, when Naby Keita was thought a poor investment at £52.7m, when Trent Alexander-Arnold was identified as defensively raw. Klopp has changed them all. He will improve Minamino too; even if Sunday night’s truncated involvement would not at first sight bode well. Maybe, like his manager, 영등포출장안마 he just needs a bigger stage.

RELATED ARTICLES

Previous

1

Next

Everton 0-0 Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp’s title-chasers held by… A ring of steel surrounded Merseyside derby with a… ‘The highlight of the Premier League’s return so far!’:… Jurgen Klopp insists Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson WILL…

Share this article

Share