It’s been an intriguing watch, the resumption of the German Bundesliga. As have the pattern of its results.
Even without fans, the games have widely been intense and entertaining. The tempo has tended to be one befitting of the business end of the season in one of Europe’s best divisions. Though there is, of course, the inevitable difference in the soundtrack.
Instead of murmurs and chants from a packed-out crowd, we have the echo-laden thump of the ball. Instead of roars, boos, whistles and applause, we have instructions, encouragement and the odd rollicking from those involved either on the pitch or the socially-distanced benches.
An old friend. Just in very new, slightly plainer clothes. But it’s still football. Still our friend.
The story for Liverpool and their fellow Premier League clubs looks set to be similar as Project Restart steadily clicks through its first few gears while aiming for a mid-June return. Speaking to LFC TV last week, Jürgen Klopp provided a typically insightful take on the prospect for the Reds.
“The perfect package of football is a full-packed Anfield stadium, two really good teams, big fight, super goals, and at the end Liverpool wins. That’s the perfect matchday. So, a lot of these things are possible, but Anfield will not be packed for a while. So that’s what we have to accept.
“And, I know, football behind closed doors, of course it’s not the same, why do we have to mention it? We all love it when we have contact, when we get cheered up by the people, when they push us through the yards, and all that stuff — we love that. But we cannot have it. Why would you think always about something that you cannot have in the moment? Use the thing that you have in the moment.
“We have to do it, unfortunately, without the best boost in the world, and the best kick in your ass at the right moment in the world from the Anfield crowd. But that’s how it is. I never understand in life why you always want things you don’t have, you cannot have. In this moment, we cannot have that, so let’s take the rest and make the absolute best of it.”
One of the key stats to come out of the games in Germany since the May 16 restart is, indeed, the shortage of home wins. The figure currently stands at five home victories from a total of 25 matches and that has seen visiting teams net 49 times, compared to 33 goals from home sides.Embed from Getty Images
Of course, we’ll never know what impact crowds would have made on the outcome of these games. It is, however, relatively safe to say that we’d normally expect the proportion of home wins to be that bit higher. The absence of a crowd, for players, does represent one less source of motivation — or potential intimidation, depending on which side you are on. Yet the impact could also be very subtly different depending upon which part of the world you are in.
It seems to be something that Klopp picks up on, in his words above. The tempo, the habits and even the role of support can feel like it varies from country to country, and even club to club. “The best boost in the world, and the best kick in your ass at the right moment in the world,” is how the German describes some of the Anfield crowd’s work.
The 52-year-old has always been one who is swift to recognise the potential impact of those in the stands. You only need to look at and listen to the atmospheres he’s helped create first in Mainz, then at Borussia Dortmund, and now on Merseyside. Yet this feels like a particularly interesting use of words.
This reflects how Anfield — and many a British ground — can so often act as the most powerful of vibe-sensors and vibe-setters. The noise isn’t necessarily always as consistent as it may be, in places, abroad. It is, though, very much in tune. It engages. It sees. It hears. It feels. Then, regularly, it hones its contribution and its impact in relation to what it is witnessing on the pitch.Embed from Getty Images
For a home team, it is easy to imagine how much of a reassurance, how much of a safety net, this can be at its best. Though it can, inevitably, also be detrimental at its worst. Either way, this will be what teams in the Premier League, and beyond, look set to be without in the coming weeks and months.
As Klopp says, Liverpool should still look to “take the rest and make the absolute best of it”. There’s still the familiarity — of elements of the sights, the surroundings and even the logistics.
It’s not the same, but it’s still something. At Anfield, it will be admittedly more plastic-based but there will still be a sea of red, of sorts. ‘Red. The colour of desire’ – as a certain musical puts it. Those wearing Liverpool’s shade this term have already shown that they’re not short on the stuff.
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