I am, unfortunately, kind of in shape when it comes to writing off a great football manager and his club too hastily.
When Manchester United lost to Benfica and was knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage in 2005, I said it was time for Sir Alex Ferguson to say goodbye to Old Trafford.
That has not aged well. He has only won one more Champions League and five more League titles.
So forgive me if I don’t write a lament for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool yet.
Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool are having a bad time, but writing it off is silly
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson had his doubts in 2005, but went on to win five more titles and the Champions League
Of course they lost a home game in the league for the first time in almost four years when they were beaten 1-0 by Burnley on Thursday night at Anfield, but had there been fans in the stadium I think she would have received a standing ovation for to mark the end of that record, no virtual boo and brickbats.
No one – at least no one with a shred of common sense – has ventured that Klopp’s time is up at the club that has built him back into a European powerhouse, but when he said on Friday that his requests to sign a new center-back had been denied . , some supporters turned the dismay they feel at the club’s recent poor form into a rage against Liverpool owners, Fenway Sports Group.
Six points behind Manchester United in the title race will do so after the recent dominance enjoyed by Klopp’s side, but perhaps it is time for a little perspective.
Klopp left the field on Thursday to console his players after the shocking defeat to Burnley
Liverpool have reached the Champions League final and won once in two of the past three seasons. Last year they ground their rivals to a pulp when they won their first league title in 30 years.
And yes, now they are six points behind the top and some are starting to tell how it all went wrong for Klopp at Borussia Dortmund after six years on the track there and even Klopp says Liverpool should forget to keep the title for the moment and focus on the club being locked in a battle to finish in the top four.
True, but it is also true that this season is only halfway through and, largely due to the unique circumstances imposed on clubs and players by the pandemic, it is already one of the most volatile peak seasons we have had. ever seen. There have been many twists and turns and there will be many more.
It is far too early to write Liverpool for the title this season. To suggest that this team has somehow entered terminal decline because it is going through some fragmentary form of form is the fanciful delusion of those who have become jealous of their triumphs.
Liverpool has problems to deal with, but a team with that manager and their class does not settle down and disappears. It’s no surprise they aren’t quite the same team as last season.
Virgil van Dijk’s loss has not only been huge for his defense, but also for his all-round play
They lost their best player, Virgil van Dijk, five games in this campaign. It is immediately acknowledged that he made a huge difference to the party when he was contracted from Southampton, so it is hardly rocket science to accept that his absence was also a major blow.
Of course, Liverpool is not alone in living without its best player. Kevin de Bruyne has just been banned from Manchester City’s title challenge for the next six weeks. It happens.
But Liverpool’s loss of their top three central halves – Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip – for much of this season is unlucky. Missing Van Dijk is key. His absence affects the entire balance of the team. He is a brilliant defender but also a great passer of the ball.
His range and accuracy help feed Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson to the flanks. It is no coincidence that their shape is also dramatically submerged without Van Dijk on the side.
Then add the fact that Fabinho and sometimes Jordan Henderson have moved from midfield to defense to try to close these gaps and that has taken away another strong point of the champion.
Injuries have taken a massive blow, including the shift of star player Fabinho from midfield
So Liverpool has been reduced. And they will keep getting smaller until their best defenders return. That does not mean that there are indications of systemic failure at the club.
Yes, buying a new center-back in this transfer window would have helped, but these are tough times, and those of us who have been critical of other teams’ lavish spending during the coronavirus crisis have to accept that Liverpool may not be bursting out a good look. FSG did not become bad owners overnight.
It looks like Klopp and Liverpool will have to make do with what they have. They will have to try to win the title without center backs. And yes, as Jamie Carragher pointed out last week, they will have to evolve too.
They’ve had the same front three for four years and they’ve been unstoppable, but nothing lasts forever. Diogo Jota has been brought in to challenge them. Again, it’s an accident he gets hurt.
Klopp and Liverpool therefore face a huge challenge to keep the title. It is a task that is difficult enough in a normal season. And maybe the hill is too steep to climb. Manchester City are a brilliant team. Manchester United has made a big leap forward. Leicester is formidable under Brendan Rodgers.
But don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s over for Liverpool. Don’t think the walls will collapse. Don’t think Klopp won’t turn this around sooner or later. Experience shows that he deserves a way, far more credit than that.
The pressure is on Klopp right now, but the German has all the experience to turn things around
What a joke you are, Djokovic
The fact that Novak Djokovic has a leading voice in representing the best male tennis players in the world during the coronavirus crisis feels like a bad joke.
The only way he has distinguished himself since the start of the pandemic was by leading the Adria Tour last summer, which turned into a superspreader event.
He followed that up last week by issuing a list of ‘demands’ for the treatment of tennis players trying to prepare for the Australian Open next month, which went down like a cold sick in Melbourne.
When controversial Australian Nick Kyrgios calls someone a ‘resource’ and people nod in agreement, the men’s tennis may need to realize that Djokovic may not be the best person to represent it.
Novak Djokovic has drawn up a list of ‘requirements’ from his hotel room at the Australian Open
Biden’s inauguration brings back memories
If sport is your thing, you not only read newspapers backwards, but navigate your way through history with different signposts.
So when Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the US last week, it was certainly moving, but my main thought was that it meant it was just over 12 years ago that President Obama was elected, which meant it was 12 years since I was in New York to meet Joe Calzaghe Roy Jones Jr.
Great performance that, by Calzaghe. He has been difficult to follow
Welsh star Joe Calzaghe played a masterful performance when he played Roy Jones Jr. in 2008