FootballPremier League

“Typical Liverpool” means something entirely different under Jurgen Klopp

March 6, 2020

HOW many times have you heard a football fan, of any persuasion, describe a situation around their club as “typical”? Typical City. Typical Everton. Typical Liverpool.

Once upon a time not so long ago ‘typical Liverpool’ could easily have meant any one of a string of seemingly oft-experienced disappointments. Losing finals? A League Cup final, a Europa League final, a Champions League final. Typical Liverpool. Typical Jürgen Klopp, even.

Finishing off the pace in the league? Typical Liverpool. Raising hopes and failing to deliver? Typical Liverpool. Predicting it would finally be the year that league came home. And it wasn’t. Again. Typical Liverpool. Stadium plans that didn’t come to fruition, transfers rumours that remained just that, star players picked off by clubs higher up the food chain? Typical Liverpool.

The Reds of the present day have just lost the third of three away games on the spin in all competitions for the first time since November 2014, when the team was under the command of Brendan Rodgers. The quick-fire triple whammy in a season of non-stop highs is NOT typical Liverpool. 

Instead, typical Liverpool has been transformed since Rodgers departed. Typical Liverpool is no longer a depressing spiral of disappointments punctuated by highs before returning to type. Instead, for the best part of two and a half years under Klopp, typical Liverpool has been a winning Liverpool, a focused Liverpool, a steely determined Liverpool that spoiled us rotten and left us devoid of recent experience of disappointment.

So when that disappointment arrives, when it hits in the Premier League for the first time after 44 games and over a year’s worth of football, it’s a shock to the system. How did that happen? What’s this? This isn’t typical Liverpool.

That the 3-0 defeat to Watford is bolted onto a narrow defeat at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of a Champions League tie that is still very much alive, and an FA Cup exit at Chelsea, is understandable in the nature of the continual boom/bust, search for a crisis, reporting and discussion of the game. 

But is it really fair? Is it the sign of something ‘typical’, even in the short term? It’s human nature to seek out patterns, and look for explanations for something unexpected. It’s also part of the media game to uncover a crisis and ramp up the haters. But are the three losses really as interconnected as some make out?

Against Atletico, it’s Liverpool’s strongest 11 that goes out there to do battle. A scruffy, fortunate goal gives the Spanish side the lead inside four minutes. They muster only one further shot on target. Liverpool create chances, and both Mo Salah and Jordan Henderson should probably do better.

Diego Simeone continually tried to ramp up the crowd. The manager looked like a man who thought it was their big chance. His side poured everything into it, playing at maximum intensity throughout, and won only 1-0. And now for Anfield.

Watford, meanwhile. For all the talk of a Liverpool off day, and it was, Watford were excellent. The crowd was up, big players put in big performances, their work rate was through the roof and the Reds, as a collective, didn’t function. A terrible day. Yes. A typical one? No. It was the first defeat by three goals or more since the 2017 4-1 defeat by Tottenham – a full stop on the old Liverpool and the start of a fresh paragraph for the new one.

And so to Chelsea midweek. A goalkeeping howler by Adrian at one end, a string of saves at the other from Kepa Arrizabalaga, who was supposedly short on confidence. A Liverpool side you’ll never see in the Premier League or the Champions League was ultimately beaten. But it could have been different. It was hardly a walkover. It was hardly a sign to lump on Manchester City for the league.

Liverpool have been typically brilliant at bouncing back from setbacks under Klopp. Think of the defeat in the Champions League final to Real Madrid. Think a 97-point near on perfect league campaign that doesn’t result in a title. Think about the first leg of the Barcelona tie.

All of those moments could have killed another football team’s collective mojo. Including past incarnations of Liverpool. This Liverpool, though, takes desire from disappointments. It makes the obstacle the way. Klopp has turned adversity to advantage over and over. Typical Liverpool when he arrived was a squad feeling sorry for itself. That was mentally weak. That was defeated too easily. 

It’s why fans walked away from the now infamous Crystal Palace game. They’d seen it too many times and belief was running low. Compare that to now. Klopp’s Liverpool side will soon achieve what no other Liverpool side has managed in 30 years – the title.

It will follow the European Cup, the Super Cup and the Club World Cup into the Anfield trophy room. Another piece of silverware for this incredible Klopp side? That’s typical Liverpool right now. We should enjoy it while it lasts.