MARTIN SAMUEL: Just like Pep, Klopp can recharge and come again

MARTIN SAMUEL: Just like Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp can recharge and come again… Liverpool must back their boss in the market otherwise he could become very jaded, very quickly

  • There have been question marks over Jurgen Klopp’s position as Liverpool boss
  • A dismal run of form has seen the reigning champions concede without a fight
  • It is no wonder after two seasons or near perfection that they’ve burned out 
  • However, Klopp is capable of recharging and coming again, just as Pep did
  • With one caveat – Pep has had the full support of his club, Klopp needs the same

It used to be argued that Pep Guardiola would burn out. Him, his players, his club. That is why he’d only do three years. Too much intensity, too many demands. By the end, everyone is exhausted. He has to recharge and move on.

We’re hearing the same about Jurgen Klopp now. That he’s baked, that he’s done. He lasted 270 games at Mainz, 316 with Borussia Dortmund, he’s on 300 with Liverpool. That’s the Klopp time span, apparently. That’s when his mentality monsters crack under the strain.

Yet Guardiola does not seem to be doing so bad in what is now his fifth Manchester City season, so who is to say Klopp cannot renew once this blighted campaign is done? A summer of rest, better fortune with injuries, backing in the transfer market and what might 2021-22 hold?

There have been question marks over Jurgen Klopp for the first time at Liverpool 

Even this season appears to have been written off prematurely given that on Tuesday night in Budapest Liverpool embark on what remains of their Champions League campaign: six games separating them from a tilt at the trophy in Istanbul, starting with RB Leipzig.

Liverpool beat Ajax home and away and put five past Atalanta in Bergamo to get there. No coach will want to draw Liverpool, no matter their league status.

Klopp insisted on Monday that he is full of energy, and nobody should worry about him. He said a banner outside Anfield in support was nice, but unnecessary.

Klopp reached a Champions League final, won a Champions League final, then won the league in record time in successive seasons. Given that injuries have blown a hole in just about every plan A through Z this season, is it really any wonder Liverpool’s players look fatigued? It is impossible to keep going at the level of the past two seasons.

The mistake, however, would be to see permanence in what is probably a temporary issue.

Banners were hung outside of Anfield showing their support for the German boss

Would Liverpool with Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Diogo Jota be a different proposition? Yes. Would Klopp’s demeanour change as a result? Almost certainly.

Even setting aside his personal pain, professionally Klopp has looked like a man with the weight of the world upon him in recent months. There have been arguments, confrontation, tensions that do not arise when a team are winning, or even just settled. A lot of those burdens will be lifted by the mere passing of time. The rest, then, is up to the club.

What is often overlooked about Klopp’s reshaping of Liverpool is how it all began: with the sale of the best player.

The success that followed has allowed for a different narrative to develop, that of generous, indulgent owners who supported Klopp with the acquisition of two of the most expensive players in their positions: centre back Van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson. 

Yet munificence did not deliver those crucial signings; the sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona did. That move went through on January 6, 2018, for £142million. On January 1, Liverpool had paid £75m for Van Dijk. That summer they paid £66.8m for Alisson.

The maths is almost too perfect, with Liverpool £200,000 in credit having spent 98.6 per cent of the Coutinho money on defence. And, yes, that recruitment was magnificent.

After two sublime seasons, which saw them win the Champions League, they’ve burnt out

It is a myth to say, however, that Klopp has been lavishly indulged. His net spend since October 2015 amounts to £103.15m. Given his level of success and spread over more than five years, for a major club that is positively frugal.

So it is certainly no surprise that the Fenway Sports Group refused to throw money at a top-level centre half in January, as Liverpool’s hopes of retaining the title faded.

FSG are venture capitalists, meaning everything has its price, whether buying or selling. They will reason that, with everyone fit next season, an expensive defender is not the priority. 

They might even rationalise that, providing the domestic slump is not too great, a season in which Liverpool are not fighting all-comers to the wire in all competitions could be part of a recovery process. 

And that there remains the Champions League, the greatest prize of all, and who knows what will happen in a cup competition?

Most of all, they will believe Klopp is capable of recharging and coming again, just as Guardiola has this season.

With one caveat. Guardiola has always had the full support of his employers to shape the team as he sees right. Without that, one imagines, a man could get very jaded very quickly. So sell to buy is probably not an option this summer.

Now Klopp is capable of recharging and coming again, just like Pep Guardiola has done

An all-too-predictable test

Ravichandran Ashwin’s batting made fools of those who derided the wicket in Chennai. England’s bowling was poor and the spinners, in particular, failed to take advantage of the conditions. 

However, the fact remains, no observer should be able to call, with absolute certainty, the outcome of a five-day Test at tea on day one with the team batting first 189 for three, as former England captain Michael Vaughan did. 

And if anyone can, something is wrong with the structure of the match. In this case, it was the wicket. 

Strange source of inspiration for Serena’s ‘Flo-Jo’ attire

Strange, indeed, the attitude of some athletes to those who may not have upheld, let’s say, the highest ethical standards in sports.

We’re tip-toeing here, obviously. Florence Griffith Joyner never failed a drugs test. Prince Alexandre de Merode, chairman of the IOC’s medical commission, said she was subject to rigorous testing at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. ‘We never found anything,’ he explained. ‘There should not be the slightest suspicion.’

But there is. Her personal-best 100m time in 1987 would not even have made the top 40. She ran another personal best in June 1988, but it would not have bettered her rival Evelyn Ashford’s three best sprints. Then, the following month at the US Olympic trials, she broke the world record. It still stands.

She broke the 200m world record in the Olympic semi-finals, then broke it again in the final. That record stands, too. Griffith Joyner retired after the Games, to concentrate on her fashion career. She died 10 years later, aged 38. Her physical transformation pre-Olympics was astounding.

Serena Williams says the inspiration of her attire was inspired by Florence Griffith Joyner

Gwen Torrence, three-time Olympic gold medallist who won the 200m at the 1992 Olympics, said she did not even acknowledge Flo-Jo’s records. ‘To me, they don’t exist and women sprinters are still suffering as a result of what she did,’ she said. 

So what Torrence, Ashford, and others made of Serena Williams wearing a one-legged, long-sleeved colourful tracksuit at the Australian Open, in tribute to Griffith Joyner, would be interesting to hear. 

‘I was inspired by Flo-Jo,’ Williams said. A strange word, given what is suspected. Maybe it’s easier to be inspired by somebody when they are not on your playing field. Then, maybe she’d care.

Publicising the racist posts isn’t stopping the contagion

In the month after Marilyn Monroe died from an overdose of barbiturates, instances of suicide in America went up 12 per cent.

This is contagion. It is the reason the reporting of suicide, particularly celebrity suicide, must be sensitive. Suicide cannot become inspirational or aspirational.

After Gary Speed’s death, there was an ill-considered campaign on social media to make him Coach of the Year at the BBC Sports Personality awards. Those who work in the field of mental health were horrified. What message would that send to those entertaining thoughts of suicide? Kill yourself and win a prize? Kill yourself and everyone loves and remembers you?

What is happening now, with the abuse of black footballers on social media, is contagion, too.

The more it is publicised the more impact it seems to be having on some very sick minds. Decisions will soon have to be made.

Between 1984 and 1987 there was a growing spate of suicides on the Vienna subway network. One track even became known as ‘the suicide line’ due to the frequency. A working group, the Austrian Association for Suicide Prevention, developed media guidelines and initiated discussions which culminated in an agreement to abstain from reporting on cases of suicide.

Newcastle and Wales icon Gary Speed tragically committed suicide at the age of 42 in 2011

By the end of 1987, the rate had fallen by 75 per cent, a drop sustained for the next five years.

Those who campaign against racism talk of highlighting the issue by ensuring instances of abuse on social media are publicised and stay central to the debate. Yet it isn’t going away. If anything, it is getting worse.

Nobody wants to silence black voices, or to tell black footballers to simply block or ignore, but the present approach is failing.

The social media giants have already announced they will continue to support online anonymity and will not introduce verification to identify those who perpetrate abuse.

The intention is to focus on moderation and closing accounts. Yet this is hopeless too. The complexities of verification are well known, particularly in countries that do not value freedom of speech, but it is far harder to reopen a verified account, once closed, because it requires official forms of identification.

At the moment, Sausageface48 can abuse Anthony Martial and, if closed down, reopen immediately as Moggymush21 and carry on as before.

And when that little circle of viciousness is reported in headlines, the anonymous user behind it knows he has been noticed. Meanwhile, a like-minded creep is noting the effect and fancying some of the dirty fame.

And that’s contagion. 

Let the Roy story end in harmony

Since three points for a win was introduced in 1981-82, no top-flight teams have ever been as far adrift at this stage in the season as Fulham, West Bromwich and Sheffield United.

After 23 games, the largest gap had been the four points that separated Ipswich, followed by Birmingham and West Brom, from Aston Villa in 1985-86. The most common gap is a single point (16 out of 40 seasons), followed by two points (10 times), zero points (eight times) and three points (four times).

The seven points between Fulham and Newcastle, after this weekend, is a massive outlier. So why is there talk of sacking Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace? They are not going down. Why not let the manager depart with a little dignity? 

With a handshake and a thank you for all his work across the past four seasons? Isn’t he worth that? Isn’t that preferable to a gratuitous sacking with a replacement — Eddie Howe seems favourite — appointed amid an air of crisis?

If Palace are worried Howe will be employed elsewhere, and a decision on renewing Hodgson’s contract has already been made, that conversation can take place, with guarantees offered, to ensure the transition goes smoothly. Howe can begin his planning, Hodgson can look to the next stage of his career, if he wishes for one at 73.

Why is there talk of sacking Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace? They are not going down

There is not enough measured transference of power in football, not enough fair exchange. Hodgson has been good for Palace, who were in disarray when he arrived in 2017, but Palace have been good for Hodgson, whose previous job was a disappointing spell in charge of England. 

He has a mid-table squad and has kept them largely mid-table. That is what he has done in his last two club jobs. There is no boom or bust with Hodgson — not since getting Fulham to the Europa League final in 2010 — and solid jobs are sometimes overplayed as grand achievements, but Palace have never been relegation candidates on his watch, and they were when he came.

Neither side has reason to feel bitter, so let this end harmoniously.

To sack him would be crass and unnecessary.

Not so marvellous bantz from Marine

More news from the hilarious world of bantz. After Tottenham lost 5-4 to Everton in the FA Cup, the official Twitter account of Marine, the Northern Premier League Division One (North West) club they defeated in the third round, sent out a post in which Everton players replaced the faces of Marvel superheroes, The Avengers. ‘Thanks Everton,’ said Marine.

It was then pointed out that Tottenham supporters raised more than £300,000 for Marine, and that the club made further donations of shirts and kit to be raffled off at a later date. Tottenham treated Marine with nothing but graciousness and respect.

Why such bitterness? Chastened, Marine apologised. It used to be said that sarcasm was the lowest form of wit. It isn’t. It’s bantz.

Willis injury cannot be repeated

Jack Willis is not the first player to be seriously injured by being rolled out of the ruck, but the screams that echoed around Twickenham as his trapped leg contorted, audible with no crowd present, should focus minds and ensure he is the last. 

More than ever, rugby needs to be trusted on issues of personal safety. Banning crocodile rolls would be a start. 

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