January 06, 2016

Horse 2054 - Klopp A Hiding To Nothing

When Rafael Benitez was fired by Real Madrid this week, most of the football world went into cries of 'why?' because here was a manager who was doing all right and yet has found himself in the employment queue for no real discernible reason. It's not that Benitez has done poorly, it's just that Real Madrid are demanding success immediately and without excuse.
Such is the cutthroat nature of football these days. The boards of football clubs who end up making financial decisions based around expected revenues and hoped for successes, find it easier to hold managers and players responsible and because their horizons have narrowed, the allotted time that managers and players are given to chase silverware in, has also narrowed.
This isn't new to Rafael Benitez though. He's already been fired by an equally insane club in England - Liverpool. That insanity continues.

When Jürgen Klopp joined Liverpool in October last year, he replaced Brendan Rogers who in the grand scheme of managers had done all right. At a record of 85 wins from 166 matches and a win rate of 51.20%, he actually had a better record than Bill Shankly, who is so revered by the club that the gates on the northern side of the Anfield Stadium are named after him and his statue stands on the southern side. Shankly at 393 wins from 753 matches, had a win rate of 52.19%. The difference between Shankly, Rogers and Klopp though, was that Shankly was given time to settle in, to build and develop a side.
When Bill Shankly joined Liverpool in 1959, they hadn't won the First Division in 12 years. It wasn't until 1964 that he finally took the reds to their next title. Six years is a long time to be given to build a squad and enough time to develop players through the academy and find players through your scouting network. Rogers was in the job for a mere 39 months before he was shown the door and Klopp who has arrived with seemingly a sense of expectation that he can turn the club around in the space of a 20p piece, has immediately met with the enormity of the task at hand. In contrast, Shankly was given a whole five years before he won a title at Liverpool. It's worth remembering that it took Alex Ferguson seven years to finally get a league title at Manchester United.

The problem that I've seen consistently with Liverpool since the end of Kenny Dalglish's management in 1991 is that the board will not back a manager with either the level of support or funding that they require. Managers have frequently said that they want to go looking for someone to fulfill a role and they've consistently been denied the ability to chase them.
On the other side of the coin, as money has flowed into the game, the club is either unwilling or afraid to take a gamble and promote players out of their under-21 and under-19 squads to the degree which they probably need to.
With a little over half of the 2015-16 season over and Liverpool being 12 points behind league leaders Arsenal, this season is a statistical write-off. The only target worth pursuing in the league is third place. Fourth place isn't safe enough to ensure a Champions' League berth and trying for anything higher is pointless. The other option is to ignore the Champions' League altogether and to spend the next five months bedding in new players who have come up through the ranks, so that they can attack next season properly.

Unlike Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea who have been bankrolled with oil money from the backs of the Russian peasantry, or Manchester United which is owned by American billionaires, Liverpool is owned by the disinterested Fenway Sports Group. These other clubs have the ability to spend their way out of a hole but Liverpool in comparison is only allowed to scour the bargain basement bins.
Before Jürgen Klopp became the manager at Liverpool, he previous job was at Borussia Dortmund where he took them to two Bundesliga titles in 2011 and '12, the DFB-Pokal in 2012 and to two Champions' League Finals which they both lost. Unlike the job at Liverpool, managing a club in Germany means that you only really have to fight with Bayern Munich and possibly Bayer Leverkusen. It also means that you are pretty well much guaranteed a Champions' League spot. That's not the case in England.

If Klopp does achieve what no manager has done in more than a quarter of a century and win a league title managing Liverpool, he's likely to get his own addition to the stadium somewhere. Liverpool being Liverpool though, are just as likely to continue their impatient demand for success and set Klopp up to fail. Managing Liverpool is possibly the most poisoned chalice in the world of football management. It's a job which every manager wants because of the name but realises that it's probably an impossible task to do.
The insanity continues continuing.

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