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Klopp Might Not Be the Answer to Liverpool's Problems

Jurgen Klopp is the strong favourite to replace Brendan Rodgers as Liverpool boss, but there's no guarantee the German can bring the title back to Anfield. Nobody can make that promise.
October 5, 2015, 6:17pm
Photo by PA Images

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.

It's hard to feel all that sorry for Brendan Rodgers and the abrupt end to his tenure at Liverpool. His own declaration that he didn't feel under pressure two hours before being given the chop via telephone might sometimes lend itself to sympathy, but in this case it seemed to sum up the man, his hubris and ill-deserved confidence in his own abilities and aura. A decent chunk of the mourning came from fans of rival clubs who would no longer be able to suckle on the never-ending schadenfreude his personality and performances produced.

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It would have been a bold, if not particularly harsh move to sack Rodgers simply because the faith in his vision has expired. Liverpool are one of a handful of British clubs that like to think, with some justification, that they have something transcendental about them, and decisions like this are never supposed to be made lightly. The Henry reaction GIFs and Rodgers' own bullishness show that it was hardly a classic case where only a sacking will do – the dressing room had not been lost, nor was the team on the brink of a catastrophic failure.

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The only truly appalling facet of Rodgers' reign has been the signings, over which he has limited control (and even some of that reflects quite well on him – he didn't want Balotelli, who most people considered at the very least well worth the gamble at the time.) The fact he was such a ridiculous man has masked the fact that he has not done all that badly. The job is the sort of Sunderland-esque footballing Afghanistan where he'll likely look better thanks to the failures that inevitably bookend his reign, with Liverpool now just a fancier graveyard for managerial empires. But there is one reason that the sacking could appear a no-brainer – the potential availability of Jurgen Klopp.

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Sacking Brendan Rodgers to bring in Klopp seems something so obvious that it should be done without thought or consideration of the minor details, but it's easy to forget we're in uncharted territory here. The only team to have successfully made a bid for the top four and stayed there since they effectively broke away from the rest of the pack are Manchester City, who are something of a special case given that the TV deal and FFP have made sure that no team, let alone Liverpool, will ever have such a ludicrous advantage again. The fact is, there is a greater precedent for a League One club establishing itself as a top-half Europa League team than one going from fifth to fourth in the Premier League.

Liverpool, then, are asking a manager to come in and be tasked with the worst kind of challenge – one that doesn't look particularly impressive yet is still extremely difficult to achieve. And while Klopp might have taken Dortmund up a level he proved unable to keep them there, and since Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez were prised away after Liverpool had gotten into the top four, he won't be at any less of a disadvantage versus City than he was against Bayern Munich in Germany.

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Without Klopp having managed abroad, it's not possible to confidently state that he'll even be any better than Rodgers, let alone the man to win them the title. One season in the top four means one season out of it for one of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester City, all of whom have the means and mentality to go to drastic lengths the next season to ensure it doesn't happen again.

It might not be Klopp, of course. There are other managers out there who seem like far surer bets than Rodgers, Carlo Ancelotti among them. Yet while he might have the experience, this is a very different task. Much like Van Gaal, his record of titles is pretty poor when the teams he's managed are taken into consideration. He's someone to maintain an already-great team and get them challenging in the Champions League, not somebody to win the title with an unfancied team, or actually get them into Europe in the first place.

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The real question might well be what Liverpool have learned from the past few years. Rodgers was, more than anything, scuppered by the club's transfer policy, first the disastrous blowing of the family silver before his reign that left him with a poor, bloated squad full of hard-to-shift high-earners, and then the ones during his reign where the Suarez and Sterling money was squandered. Asking a manager to guide a team under a financial disadvantage to the title is already a big ask without also demanding he does it with Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren in defence.

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So, even in the unlikely situation that the fabled 'transfer committee' is replaced by some collection of men possessing basic competence – or common sense, or eyes – who should they choose?

Liverpool probably won't want to take too much advice from their friends at Old Trafford, who are after all the most recent example of falling out of the top four and quickly re-establishing themselves. Appointing a Van Gaal type of manager is probably not the way to go here. The Liverpool job is the very definition of a poisoned chalice – if following David Moyes was the Holy Grail, this is the one that kills the bad guy at the end of The Last Crusade. United in 2014 was a job following a disliked failure with a bottomless pit of cash and endless praise for succeeding – Liverpool in 2015 is a job with limited control, a limited budget, and where anything other than remarkable success is considered a disaster.

Whether Klopp, or even Ancelotti, consider that a challenge worth picking up remains to be seen. But while the former is almost certainly the better bet, it seems to have been forgotten just what a difficult and thankless task this can be. And if the final choice ends up lumbered with the same transfer committee that lumped on Lazar Markovic and Iago Aspas, they might as well just appoint John Aldridge and have done with it.

@callum_th