Three successive draws at the start of Jürgen Klopp’s reign at Liverpool may not have been what we dreamed of when he was appointed, but – in the gaffers own words – football isn’t a fairy tale. What’s more, I really don’t think there were many LFC fans at all who genuinely expected things to improve instantly. The German certainly brought a buzz and excitement back among the supporters when he joined, but I think a lot of the media and pundits mistook our excitement for a deluded belief that all our problems were immediately over.
But we aren’t quite as fickle as these others would like to believe, and the truth is that our excitement is based on what the next few years might hold, not the next few games. We understand that this isn’t an easy job, and a manager like Pep Guardiola could have come in and also struggled to get us winning again straight away.
Probably the main reason for this is quite simple: the squad of players just isn’t all that great. Certainly not as good as a team should be given the money and time spent on it in Brendan Rodgers’ tenure. Since the summer, opinion seems to have been split on whether Rodgers was inadequately coaching a group of quality players, or if it was the players who were the problem and they just weren’t as good as they were hyped up to be. I maintained that the latter was true, and while Klopp may get an extra five or ten percent out of them with his motivational and tactical flair, I don’t think we’ll see major changes in our performances until we improve on some of our weaker links.
The blame still has to fall on Rodgers for not bringing in the right calibre of players for himself to work with. Maybe he was too optimistic in how much he thought he could develop some of them. Maybe he prioritised the wrong qualities. Maybe he put too much importance on players with Premier League experience. But looking through our squad, there’s only a handful of players I think warrant their place in our side, and the majority of the others I feel we could quite easily upgrade on. Someone like Simon Mignolet has shown he has talent, but is he really the best goalkeeper we could possibly have? Is Martin Skrtel really good enough to still be one of the first names on our team sheet? Does it not show how devoid of quality and leadership our squad is that James Milner came straight in and was made vice-captain? And then himself has gone on to thoroughly underwhelm for us?
It’s no secret that one of our biggest issues is our weakness in the transfer market. Part of the delight at the appointment of Klopp is the pedigree he brings when it comes to signing players. He has a history of identifying unknown, unheard of players, signing them for low prices, and then turning them into superstars. This is perhaps the attribute we have most desperately craved in our manager/staff, given that Liverpool’s stature as a club is one that currently does not consistently attract the top bracket players, such as Diego Costa, Alexis Sanchez etc. It became a bit of a cliché that ‘Liverpool don’t sign stars, we make them’. But that was in reference to the likes of Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Fernando Torres, and Luis Suarez. Brendan Rodgers failed in this regard to continue the trend, and his biggest signings were mainly average players signed at inflated prices, who had too much pressure and too little quality to be ‘made into a star’.
I’ve already read some ridiculous comments making reference to how LFC fans would have been up in arms if Rodgers was still in charge getting these current results. I don’t need to explain why that is such a ludicrous statement, but it goes to show the ignorance that a lot of people have when they assess the expectations of Liverpool supporters. The deal wasn’t that we sack Rodgers, appoint Klopp, and then challenge for the league this season. A lot of fans were even hesitant when Klopp said he hoped to win the league within four years, as we don’t want to be getting too ahead of ourselves. We are, for the most part, a grounded bunch, and we know it’s going to take more than three games, or three months, or one transfer window, to completely transform us.
We could finish this season fifth and trophyless, and most fans would accept that it’s part of the rebuilding process and one step further towards improvement. But you can guarantee that certain pundits would be asking ‘Well why is it one rule for Rodgers, but another rule for Klopp?’ There seems to be an eagerness to condemn any fans who want their manager replaced due to having the club’s best interests at heart. I have all the patience in the world with a manager who I believe has us on the right tracks, but there is a difference between that, and been told to blindly believe that a manager will get things right in time, when all the evidence suggests otherwise.
Klopp’s first win may not come in the next game. It may not come in the game after that. But we didn’t need someone whose only job was to come in and remind our current players how to play well and win games. As, in spite of everything, I actually think Rodgers is a pretty decent coach and would have been capable of that himself. We made the decision to change things because what we were in dire need of was a manager. Someone who, over a number of years, can instil class and quality on this club from top to bottom. Rodgers didn’t have what it takes to do that, but Jürgen Klopp certainly does. However long we need to wait for him to get it right, will be time well spent in the end.
By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)