Soccer / analysis

Jurgen Klopp's House of Cards
If you google "Klopp's January Record" the first result you will find describes Liverpool's pursuit of a first Premier League title as looking "pretty unstoppable". The phrase which could have been written yesterday actually originates from an article first published on January 3rd 2019, mere hours before a then pivotal clash with Man City. Now, if Liverpool had won that game they would have extended their lead at the top of the table to 7 points, and from there, Klopp's side would, in all probability, have gone on to claim the Scouse Holy Grail. Of course, as we all well know, they didn't - on either front. It's worth remembering that, at the time the aforementioned article was published, the side in second place wasn't Man City, it was Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs. If this seems surprising now, it was perhaps just as surprising back then. Where Liverpool had invested heavily - and with surgical precision - Poch made do without so much as a squirt of Febreze to freshen up his playing staff (though, in fairness, that would risk suffocating them in a pressurised plume of lavender-scented toxicity). All because in the miserly Levy-lexicon continuity and stability were catchwords posing as pounds and pence. Fast forward 11 months or so and Liverpool have an even more commanding lead at the top of the table. While Spurs, by comparison, are further adrift than Robinson Crusoe and have quietly swapped continuity and stability for Jose Mourinho. On the night of the Champions League final, this would have seemed unthinkable. But should it have? Were there signs that Spurs had feet of clay all along? Judged against the gleaming renewal brassily symbolised by the "We're waiting for some sucker to fork out for naming rights" Stadium, there was something incongruous about the club's tiptoeing procrastination in the transfer market. More damagingly still, it exposed the true limit of the club's aspirations. Thereafter, no amount of playing the pauper could prevent the club's oxymoronic "half-ambition" from crystalising into something of a glass ceiling; against which the likes of Christian Eriksen were soon banging their heads - right up until they were too tired to care anymore. All of which brings us back to Liverpool, to ask whether, in the wake of a penny-pinching summer, the league's pacesetters could soon turn into Spurs. Right now, of course, everything is going swimmingly. The club's serene progress to the top of the table is, after all, echoed by performance metrics which suggest that Klopp's ever-evolving pressing model is trending towards some sort of footballing-apogee. What could possibly be better? Not much; provided that the aforementioned conclusion isn't built on sand. And, you know what? It just so happens that Liverpool's 2019/20 season may be a biblical parable in the making. You see, there is some cause to believe that the Merseysiders may be on the slippery slope of a protracted decline. Although hardly an intuitive assertion, the long term xGD (expected goal difference per game) trend does suggest that there may be something to it. Of course, all of this remains resolutely intangible; it is, so to speak, the dark matter of Liverpool's universe. However, just because we can't see something doesn't mean it's not there. Even the naked eye, however, can discern that Liverpool's victories have latterly been eked out with the asthmatic desperation of a midtable team with a 40-a-day habit. The routine may be efficient - 2-1 scorelines repeat so consistently that it is almost as if Klopp is playing a game of oneupmanship with the binary code - but does it now verge on the deadening? Liverpool's style is becoming, by degrees, more robotic than soulful, more colour-by-numbers than Velazquez, and more dead than alive. And as a result, winning displays are summed up in prosaic adjectives mined from a seam of the most fossilised form of thought; received wisdom. If perception truly is shaped by language, when will someone notice that Klopp's canary isn't singing anymore? Admittedly, such doom-mongering can easily be dismissed as a selective contrivance. But even if such a line of reasoning risks sensationalising mundane excellence into the cheapest of invented crises, the confected hype is redeemable for one thing; it challenges the prevailing orthodoxy. The primacy of results may be incontrovertible, but for how long can winning remain decoupled from underlying form? Not forever. Grinding out victories may be the "stuff of champions" but it is by no means an endlessly renewable resource. Eventually, the tables will turn, and when they do, The Reds will find themselves racing against the sword of Damocles in pursuit of the title. In seeking to delay the inevitable Klopp will almost certainly be looking for his backline to recover some of their old imperiousness. However, restoring what was a generational level of solidity may require a tactical rethink on his part. Up until this point, his VAR-inspired high line seems to have traded watertight defensive resilience for improved all-round game management without ever quite convincing of its worth. Indeed, in anyone's books, a record of 2 clean sheets over the opening 14 games marks a significant fall-off from last season's exemplary standards. Of course, it doesn't help that the attacking inclinations of Klopp's playmaking fullbacks are now the omniscient stuff of public record. Or that a tactical bridgehead to counter Liverpool's system seems to have, of late, coalesced around this realisation. Now, while it would be an exaggeration to claim that the Merseysiders had been "figured out", there is, nevertheless, a palpable sense that a Chris Wilder-led "figuring out" may be in motion. Moreover, staying ahead of the tactical curve is unlikely to be straightforward. Klopp faces into the busy festive period, all too aware, on one hand, that the physiological corollary of fixture congestion is fatigue. But unsure, on the other, about how his bench, which resembles an ersatz version of a particularly unstable IKEA flatpack, will cope when called upon. Another worry is that Klopp's Liverpool always tend to welcome the New Year in the stuttering fashion of well-oiled festive revellers. Cumulatively, this festive hamper of headaches invites the intriguing possibility that Klopp - with his eyes fixed on the Premier League - may treat the unwelcome distraction of the Club World Cup as a glorified winter break (or pre-winter break, winter break as the case may be). However, even if Klopp does decide to work the fixture list to his best advantage, he may still find himself wrestling with a veritable hydra of countervailing imponderables. For instance, Liverpool's pedigree as frontrunners remains at best unproven and at worst entirely unconvincing. During last season's agonising close call, no sooner had Liverpool built a potentially decisive lead than it evaporated into a tantalising deficit. Now, for a multitude of reasons, both internal and external, Liverpool's hand is much stronger this year than it was last, but, nevertheless, it is not so strong as to be impervious to the psychological slings and arrows which routinely ground egos during the Premier League run-in. Against this backdrop, Klopp has to ensure that his Liverpool side still looks to win the league rather than try not to lose it. That said, even the most yogic of mental buttressing doesn't bring any guarantees of success. Ultimately, the steeliest of minds are but smoke to the winds of time. Furthermore, as Klopp well knows from his stint at Dortmund, football is similarly transitory. One minute you can be on the verge of conquering Europe, the next you can be struggling in a relegation dogfight. It is this very capriciousness which affords us the imaginative licence to wonder whether we've already witnessed "peak" Liverpool. After all, from the top, the only way is down. The question, therefore, becomes whether, in the face of such pessimism, Klopp's policy of tactical regeneration can both compensate for a lack of meaningful transfer activity and insulate the club against decline. Despite providing impressive short term continuity, footballing precedent suggests it can't. Longevity is the holistic process of breaking yourself down rather than being broken down. It brooks no half measures and whatever way you look at it Adrian, Andy Lonergan, Harvey Elliot, and Sepp van den Berg are just that. Alex Ferguson's exceptionalism was based around fostering an ever-evolving symbiosis between tactical evolution and squad rejuvenation in order to continually disrupt cyclical decline. Klopp, however - perhaps sidetracked into expedient short-termism by the club's all-consuming Premier League imperative - seems at present to be following an altogether different trajectory. Nevertheless, although it may ultimately impede a full-blown dynastic renaissance, this season, at least, the lightning in a bottle approach looks set to bring deliverance to Anfield. In a field of hobbled horses, the Merseysiders certainly remain justifiable favourites to win a historic first Premier League. After all, they look "pretty unstoppable"!
0.00
17
5

Jurgen Klopp's House of Cards
If you google "Klopp's January Record" the first result you will find describes Liverpool's pursuit of a first Premier League title as looking "pretty unstoppable". The phrase which could have been written yesterday actually originates from an article first published on January 3rd 2019, mere hours before a then pivotal clash with Man City. Now, if Liverpool had won that game they would have extended their lead at the top of the table to 7 points, and from there, Klopp's side would, in all probability, have gone on to claim the Scouse Holy Grail. Of course, as we all well know, they didn't - on either front. It's worth remembering that, at the time the aforementioned article was published, the side in second place wasn't Man City, it was Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs. If this seems surprising now, it was perhaps just as surprising back then. Where Liverpool had invested heavily - and with surgical precision - Poch made do without so much as a squirt of Febreze to freshen up his playing staff (though, in fairness, that would risk suffocating them in a pressurised plume of lavender-scented toxicity). All because in the miserly Levy-lexicon continuity and stability were catchwords posing as pounds and pence. Fast forward 11 months or so and Liverpool have an even more commanding lead at the top of the table. While Spurs, by comparison, are further adrift than Robinson Crusoe and have quietly swapped continuity and stability for Jose Mourinho. On the night of the Champions League final, this would have seemed unthinkable. But should it have? Were there signs that Spurs had feet of clay all along? Judged against the gleaming renewal brassily symbolised by the "We're waiting for some sucker to fork out for naming rights" Stadium, there was something incongruous about the club's tiptoeing procrastination in the transfer market. More damagingly still, it exposed the true limit of the club's aspirations. Thereafter, no amount of playing the pauper could prevent the club's oxymoronic "half-ambition" from crystalising into something of a glass ceiling; against which the likes of Christian Eriksen were soon banging their heads - right up until they were too tired to care anymore. All of which brings us back to Liverpool, to ask whether, in the wake of a penny-pinching summer, the league's pacesetters could soon turn into Spurs. Right now, of course, everything is going swimmingly. The club's serene progress to the top of the table is, after all, echoed by performance metrics which suggest that Klopp's ever-evolving pressing model is trending towards some sort of footballing-apogee. What could possibly be better? Not much; provided that the aforementioned conclusion isn't built on sand. And, you know what? It just so happens that Liverpool's 2019/20 season may be a biblical parable in the making. You see, there is some cause to believe that the Merseysiders may be on the slippery slope of a protracted decline. Although hardly an intuitive assertion, the long term xGD (expected goal difference per game) trend does suggest that there may be something to it. Of course, all of this remains resolutely intangible; it is, so to speak, the dark matter of Liverpool's universe. However, just because we can't see something doesn't mean it's not there. Even the naked eye, however, can discern that Liverpool's victories have latterly been eked out with the asthmatic desperation of a midtable team with a 40-a-day habit. The routine may be efficient - 2-1 scorelines repeat so consistently that it is almost as if Klopp is playing a game of oneupmanship with the binary code - but does it now verge on the deadening? Liverpool's style is becoming, by degrees, more robotic than soulful, more colour-by-numbers than Velazquez, and more dead than alive. And as a result, winning displays are summed up in prosaic adjectives mined from a seam of the most fossilised form of thought; received wisdom. If perception truly is shaped by language, when will someone notice that Klopp's canary isn't singing anymore? Admittedly, such doom-mongering can easily be dismissed as a selective contrivance. But even if such a line of reasoning risks sensationalising mundane excellence into the cheapest of invented crises, the confected hype is redeemable for one thing; it challenges the prevailing orthodoxy. The primacy of results may be incontrovertible, but for how long can winning remain decoupled from underlying form? Not forever. Grinding out victories may be the "stuff of champions" but it is by no means an endlessly renewable resource. Eventually, the tables will turn, and when they do, The Reds will find themselves racing against the sword of Damocles in pursuit of the title. In seeking to delay the inevitable Klopp will almost certainly be looking for his backline to recover some of their old imperiousness. However, restoring what was a generational level of solidity may require a tactical rethink on his part. Up until this point, his VAR-inspired high line seems to have traded watertight defensive resilience for improved all-round game management without ever quite convincing of its worth. Indeed, in anyone's books, a record of 2 clean sheets over the opening 14 games marks a significant fall-off from last season's exemplary standards. Of course, it doesn't help that the attacking inclinations of Klopp's playmaking fullbacks are now the omniscient stuff of public record. Or that a tactical bridgehead to counter Liverpool's system seems to have, of late, coalesced around this realisation. Now, while it would be an exaggeration to claim that the Merseysiders had been "figured out", there is, nevertheless, a palpable sense that a Chris Wilder-led "figuring out" may be in motion. Moreover, staying ahead of the tactical curve is unlikely to be straightforward. Klopp faces into the busy festive period, all too aware, on one hand, that the physiological corollary of fixture congestion is fatigue. But unsure, on the other, about how his bench, which resembles an ersatz version of a particularly unstable IKEA flatpack, will cope when called upon. Another worry is that Klopp's Liverpool always tend to welcome the New Year in the stuttering fashion of well-oiled festive revellers. Cumulatively, this festive hamper of headaches invites the intriguing possibility that Klopp - with his eyes fixed on the Premier League - may treat the unwelcome distraction of the Club World Cup as a glorified winter break (or pre-winter break, winter break as the case may be). However, even if Klopp does decide to work the fixture list to his best advantage, he may still find himself wrestling with a veritable hydra of countervailing imponderables. For instance, Liverpool's pedigree as frontrunners remains at best unproven and at worst entirely unconvincing. During last season's agonising close call, no sooner had Liverpool built a potentially decisive lead than it evaporated into a tantalising deficit. Now, for a multitude of reasons, both internal and external, Liverpool's hand is much stronger this year than it was last, but, nevertheless, it is not so strong as to be impervious to the psychological slings and arrows which routinely ground egos during the Premier League run-in. Against this backdrop, Klopp has to ensure that his Liverpool side still looks to win the league rather than try not to lose it. That said, even the most yogic of mental buttressing doesn't bring any guarantees of success. Ultimately, the steeliest of minds are but smoke to the winds of time. Furthermore, as Klopp well knows from his stint at Dortmund, football is similarly transitory. One minute you can be on the verge of conquering Europe, the next you can be struggling in a relegation dogfight. It is this very capriciousness which affords us the imaginative licence to wonder whether we've already witnessed "peak" Liverpool. After all, from the top, the only way is down. The question, therefore, becomes whether, in the face of such pessimism, Klopp's policy of tactical regeneration can both compensate for a lack of meaningful transfer activity and insulate the club against decline. Despite providing impressive short term continuity, footballing precedent suggests it can't. Longevity is the holistic process of breaking yourself down rather than being broken down. It brooks no half measures and whatever way you look at it Adrian, Andy Lonergan, Harvey Elliot, and Sepp van den Berg are just that. Alex Ferguson's exceptionalism was based around fostering an ever-evolving symbiosis between tactical evolution and squad rejuvenation in order to continually disrupt cyclical decline. Klopp, however - perhaps sidetracked into expedient short-termism by the club's all-consuming Premier League imperative - seems at present to be following an altogether different trajectory. Nevertheless, although it may ultimately impede a full-blown dynastic renaissance, this season, at least, the lightning in a bottle approach looks set to bring deliverance to Anfield. In a field of hobbled horses, the Merseysiders certainly remain justifiable favourites to win a historic first Premier League. After all, they look "pretty unstoppable"!
0.00
17
5

Jurgen Klopp's House of Cards
If you google "Klopp's January Record" the first result you will find describes Liverpool's pursuit of a first Premier League title as looking "pretty unstoppable". The phrase which could have been written yesterday actually originates from an article first published on January 3rd 2019, mere hours before a then pivotal clash with Man City. Now, if Liverpool had won that game they would have extended their lead at the top of the table to 7 points, and from there, Klopp's side would, in all probability, have gone on to claim the Scouse Holy Grail. Of course, as we all well know, they didn't - on either front. It's worth remembering that, at the time the aforementioned article was published, the side in second place wasn't Man City, it was Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs. If this seems surprising now, it was perhaps just as surprising back then. Where Liverpool had invested heavily - and with surgical precision - Poch made do without so much as a squirt of Febreze to freshen up his playing staff (though, in fairness, that would risk suffocating them in a pressurised plume of lavender-scented toxicity). All because in the miserly Levy-lexicon continuity and stability were catchwords posing as pounds and pence. Fast forward 11 months or so and Liverpool have an even more commanding lead at the top of the table. While Spurs, by comparison, are further adrift than Robinson Crusoe and have quietly swapped continuity and stability for Jose Mourinho. On the night of the Champions League final, this would have seemed unthinkable. But should it have? Were there signs that Spurs had feet of clay all along? Judged against the gleaming renewal brassily symbolised by the "We're waiting for some sucker to fork out for naming rights" Stadium, there was something incongruous about the club's tiptoeing procrastination in the transfer market. More damagingly still, it exposed the true limit of the club's aspirations. Thereafter, no amount of playing the pauper could prevent the club's oxymoronic "half-ambition" from crystalising into something of a glass ceiling; against which the likes of Christian Eriksen were soon banging their heads - right up until they were too tired to care anymore. All of which brings us back to Liverpool, to ask whether, in the wake of a penny-pinching summer, the league's pacesetters could soon turn into Spurs. Right now, of course, everything is going swimmingly. The club's serene progress to the top of the table is, after all, echoed by performance metrics which suggest that Klopp's ever-evolving pressing model is trending towards some sort of footballing-apogee. What could possibly be better? Not much; provided that the aforementioned conclusion isn't built on sand. And, you know what? It just so happens that Liverpool's 2019/20 season may be a biblical parable in the making. You see, there is some cause to believe that the Merseysiders may be on the slippery slope of a protracted decline. Although hardly an intuitive assertion, the long term xGD (expected goal difference per game) trend does suggest that there may be something to it. Of course, all of this remains resolutely intangible; it is, so to speak, the dark matter of Liverpool's universe. However, just because we can't see something doesn't mean it's not there. Even the naked eye, however, can discern that Liverpool's victories have latterly been eked out with the asthmatic desperation of a midtable team with a 40-a-day habit. The routine may be efficient - 2-1 scorelines repeat so consistently that it is almost as if Klopp is playing a game of oneupmanship with the binary code - but does it now verge on the deadening? Liverpool's style is becoming, by degrees, more robotic than soulful, more colour-by-numbers than Velazquez, and more dead than alive. And as a result, winning displays are summed up in prosaic adjectives mined from a seam of the most fossilised form of thought; received wisdom. If perception truly is shaped by language, when will someone notice that Klopp's canary isn't singing anymore? Admittedly, such doom-mongering can easily be dismissed as a selective contrivance. But even if such a line of reasoning risks sensationalising mundane excellence into the cheapest of invented crises, the confected hype is redeemable for one thing; it challenges the prevailing orthodoxy. The primacy of results may be incontrovertible, but for how long can winning remain decoupled from underlying form? Not forever. Grinding out victories may be the "stuff of champions" but it is by no means an endlessly renewable resource. Eventually, the tables will turn, and when they do, The Reds will find themselves racing against the sword of Damocles in pursuit of the title. In seeking to delay the inevitable Klopp will almost certainly be looking for his backline to recover some of their old imperiousness. However, restoring what was a generational level of solidity may require a tactical rethink on his part. Up until this point, his VAR-inspired high line seems to have traded watertight defensive resilience for improved all-round game management without ever quite convincing of its worth. Indeed, in anyone's books, a record of 2 clean sheets over the opening 14 games marks a significant fall-off from last season's exemplary standards. Of course, it doesn't help that the attacking inclinations of Klopp's playmaking fullbacks are now the omniscient stuff of public record. Or that a tactical bridgehead to counter Liverpool's system seems to have, of late, coalesced around this realisation. Now, while it would be an exaggeration to claim that the Merseysiders had been "figured out", there is, nevertheless, a palpable sense that a Chris Wilder-led "figuring out" may be in motion. Moreover, staying ahead of the tactical curve is unlikely to be straightforward. Klopp faces into the busy festive period, all too aware, on one hand, that the physiological corollary of fixture congestion is fatigue. But unsure, on the other, about how his bench, which resembles an ersatz version of a particularly unstable IKEA flatpack, will cope when called upon. Another worry is that Klopp's Liverpool always tend to welcome the New Year in the stuttering fashion of well-oiled festive revellers. Cumulatively, this festive hamper of headaches invites the intriguing possibility that Klopp - with his eyes fixed on the Premier League - may treat the unwelcome distraction of the Club World Cup as a glorified winter break (or pre-winter break, winter break as the case may be). However, even if Klopp does decide to work the fixture list to his best advantage, he may still find himself wrestling with a veritable hydra of countervailing imponderables. For instance, Liverpool's pedigree as frontrunners remains at best unproven and at worst entirely unconvincing. During last season's agonising close call, no sooner had Liverpool built a potentially decisive lead than it evaporated into a tantalising deficit. Now, for a multitude of reasons, both internal and external, Liverpool's hand is much stronger this year than it was last, but, nevertheless, it is not so strong as to be impervious to the psychological slings and arrows which routinely ground egos during the Premier League run-in. Against this backdrop, Klopp has to ensure that his Liverpool side still looks to win the league rather than try not to lose it. That said, even the most yogic of mental buttressing doesn't bring any guarantees of success. Ultimately, the steeliest of minds are but smoke to the winds of time. Furthermore, as Klopp well knows from his stint at Dortmund, football is similarly transitory. One minute you can be on the verge of conquering Europe, the next you can be struggling in a relegation dogfight. It is this very capriciousness which affords us the imaginative licence to wonder whether we've already witnessed "peak" Liverpool. After all, from the top, the only way is down. The question, therefore, becomes whether, in the face of such pessimism, Klopp's policy of tactical regeneration can both compensate for a lack of meaningful transfer activity and insulate the club against decline. Despite providing impressive short term continuity, footballing precedent suggests it can't. Longevity is the holistic process of breaking yourself down rather than being broken down. It brooks no half measures and whatever way you look at it Adrian, Andy Lonergan, Harvey Elliot, and Sepp van den Berg are just that. Alex Ferguson's exceptionalism was based around fostering an ever-evolving symbiosis between tactical evolution and squad rejuvenation in order to continually disrupt cyclical decline. Klopp, however - perhaps sidetracked into expedient short-termism by the club's all-consuming Premier League imperative - seems at present to be following an altogether different trajectory. Nevertheless, although it may ultimately impede a full-blown dynastic renaissance, this season, at least, the lightning in a bottle approach looks set to bring deliverance to Anfield. In a field of hobbled horses, the Merseysiders certainly remain justifiable favourites to win a historic first Premier League. After all, they look "pretty unstoppable"!
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