By Hani Na’eem – @hani_eem
“The funny thing about that [outside reaction after Liverpool dropped points in games against West Ham and Leicester] is that I didn’t read it; I didn’t watch it, but I still know it.” – Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool’s manager has offered his assessment of his team’s latest results and their task for the remainder of the season.
The key word after Klopp’s Bournemouth press conference is perhaps familiarity. Reds boss said that it’s completely normal and predictable to have nervy patches during different stages of a Premier League title race.
“You cannot come through with passing around stuff like that,” Klopp said, adding that champions would have to fight and go through these moments with passion and desire.
Another familiar side that we’re witnessing at the moment is the public’s fast-changing perspectives of the team’s chances after each game.
It is perhaps only natural that Liverpool fans will have their doubts re-ignited after each slip up their team makes along the way. After all, the team hasn’t won a league title for 29 years. Many haven’t seen Liverpool lift the trophy in their lifetimes – the last one came in 1990.
The view on the pitch, thankfully, is different. The players know the job that they have to do – they have been doing it quite well since the start of this season after all.
In an article published on the Guardian, former Liverpool players Steve McManaman, Michael Owen, Alan Kennedy, Robbie Fowler, and Jason McAteer all brushed off the idea that players feel the pressure as perceived by the public.
They talk of a feeling of excitement about being involved in such high-stakes matches – a feeling shared by Klopp himself as he urged fans to ‘fasten seatbelts’.
Going back to the notion of familiarity, then, Liverpool players find themselves in a path they have trodden previously. “That’s what we did last year in a pretty similar situation,” Klopp said of the job at his players’ hands.
Liverpool managed to secure a Champions League spot last season despite having a very thin squad and a relentless Chelsea chase. Of course, people would be quick to point out the different magnitude a title race provides, but the fact remains that the players’ task was the same: try to win each remaining game.
This time around, the stakes are higher, but the circumstances are familiar. Liverpool have to deal with momentum-disrupting injuries and have to rely on their higher work rate.
During their Champions League run last season, Liverpool arguably had less quality than some of their opponents. That was their challenge, not dealing with pressure.
This is a point that Steve McManaman addressed in the Guardian article. The former Liverpool player said it wasn’t pressure that led to Liverpool’s throwing their lead in the 1996-97 season.
The job is clear for Jurgen Klopp and his players, then. Naturally, it would be wise for the fans to embrace their team’s challenge for the remaining part of the season and enjoy the rest of the journey.