‘I will leave the Club at the end of the season’. The eleven worst words, to paraphrase Kenwright. Everyone’s shocked by this – especially given what Klopp has managed to build in the last few months.
Bascombe wrote a piece in which he said almost flippantly (but no less true for that) that the players were essentially ‘too good, too soon’, and that’s why the manager felt he could leave now. Imagine Diaz’s goal had stood against Spurs?! He’d be gone already!
Klopp has asked for the rest of the campaign not to be about him – good luck with that one, Jürgen! Everything will inevitably be couched in a ‘his last’ narrative. His last Title run-in. His last head-to-head with Guardiola. His last game at Anfield. His last final. But far from being a bad thing, it could well give us that extra couple of per cent which could be so crucial as we battle on four fronts.
Looking back on the last few weeks, since beating Burnley on Boxing Day, makes for pleasant viewing. In the League, for starters, we’ve got six points out of six, scored eight and conceded just two. It was important to win at Anfield again after the two draws against United and Arsenal. What we do at Anfield in the rest of the season will go a long way to deciding where the Title goes. We’ve got 26 points from 30 so far; 22-24 from the remaining nine games should give us every chance of being in with a shout of the Title. The ‘six-pointer’ against City is already looming, already massive.
Some of the football we played against Newcastle and then against Bournemouth was sparkling. Goals galore and defensively really solid. The second-best attack and the best defence adds up to the best goal difference. The front five are now up to 55 for the season and will go close to 100. The team is up to 79 and will go through the 100 barrier sometime in early March and could hit 130 or more by the end of the season.
We’ve done this before and not got the rewards we deserved in terms of trophies, so there are no guarantees, but with those numbers, we are going to be in contention – and the supporters likely on valium – for the rest of Klopp’s reign.
Not only have we kicked on in the League, we’ve done it while also progressing in the Cups. Arsenal away was particularly satisfying, because it was them and because of the manner in which we won. And January has also seen another final under Klopp – his third League Cup final to go with three European Cup finals, an FA Cup final, a Europa League final and a World Club Championship final. People may belittle the League Cup but every August we only get four shots at a trophy and should – to the extent it’s possible – go for them all.
This competition, just like the Europa League and FA Cup, has been vital in terms of blooding new players and in so doing rotating the squad. That, in turn, has helped us in the League as the frenetic rhythm of Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday is no longer a factor.
We’ve played 33 games in all competitions and 16 players have played in 20 games or more! Kostas, Matip, Quansah and Kelleher are all in double figures. This is a luxury we didn’t have before and will continue to be vital, even more so than in the first half of the season as the games will come thick and fast. Speaking of what awaits, well it’s going to be tense and intense – in four competitions.
If we go all the way in the FA Cup and the Europa League, there is a maximum of 30 games remaining. I know, only 30 more games – at best – with Jürgen at the helm… The intensity will really ramp up in Feburuary and March. Three League games, the League Cup final and a possible FA Cup 5th round tie before our very own version of March Madness with – take a deep breath – four League games, a possible FA Cup quarter-final, a two-legged Europa League tie and, as if that wasn’t enough, an international break. It’s exhausting even thinking about it.
We are well-equipped though, given the depth of the squad and its freshness which is down to the rotation referenced earlier and really good in-game management.
The run-in was always going to be full-on – there is no other way with Klopp and his teams. But this week’s news has upped the emotion and intensity a notch or two. Hopefully that’ll will translate itself into a rabid Anfield until the end of the season and allow us to give the manager the send-off he so richly deserves.