There have been few managers in the EPL that have moved in the past few year that I’ve wanted to replace Wenger. LVG, Jose, Pardew, Mancini , Pulis were all completely odious. Koeman, Laudrup, Martinez were all quite affable but not quite at the necessary level of success. Around Europe, I would have obviously taken one of the greats, like Guardiola or Simeone or even Carlo, but they would be just out of Arsenal’s league. Not one of them met my three main criteria: likeable, successful, and obtainable.
Except for Klopp.
He was the hot next door neighbor that, even though you’re happily-enough married, you can’t help but imagine running away with. We could gallivant across Europe winning things and drinking beer, playing heavy metal football. But instead who is he with? Liverpool, the sporting equivalent of the high school football captain who never left his hometown and now works at a kiosk in the mall. Liverpool still drives a 1984 Pontiac Firebird with “cool” bird decal on the hood and Van Halen’s “Jump” blasting through his rattly, aftermarket speakers.
Klopp was perfect. He was successful, winning two Bundesliga titles, a German Cup, and a Champions League final appearance. He was gettable, as Alexis Sanchez proves, anything Liverpool want in the market, we can have. And he was infinitely likable character.
Ever since we faced his BVB side in the Champions League in 2011, I was enamored of his shock-and-awe style of football. His press conferences were always enjoyable and he never really came off as a prick. A cut of his top 10 celebrations reveals his passion, as does everyone’s favorite gif of him threatening to eat the fourth official against Napoli in the Champions League.
But now he’s Liverpool’s manager.
One of the blessings and curses of being an Arsenal fan is that we never have had to really consider thinking about a new manager. Taking Wenger out of the mix, the average Premier League Manager’s tenure is roughly 14 months, paling in comparison to Arsene’s 19 years.
Even in his darkest times, losing in the League Cup Final to relegated Birmingham, dropping out of the title race after leading for so long in 2008 and 2014, worst starts to Premier League campaigns in history, it never seemed like Arsene would resign (I wouldn’t be surprised if he signs an extension after his contract runs out in 2017).
As with all things Arsenal, there’s an underlying element of status quo. We may have highs, winning the FA Cup twice, leading the league in January, but they’re never too high. During my time as a fan we’ve never won the league. We also never get too low. Always in top four, always get out of our Champions League group (we’ll see this year), and we always top Spurs.
A new manager would be an exciting high that I’ve never experienced. A new style, new staff, that new manager bounce in results, the new recruits in the next transfer window. That sounds amazing.
That’s why I’m jealous of Liverpool. Klopp has a new, exciting style that, I think, will ultimately bring Liverpool to the Champions League places again.
You know what else is probably very exciting? A relegation battle.
Not saying that Liverpool will be facing one, just that there are exciting parts to the game of football that I have zero desire to experience.
So the obvious flip side of all of this excitement is the very painful process of bedding in a new manager. Four seasons with Brendan and the seemingly snap judgement nature of his dismissal will lead to a state of turmoil at the club for what will probably be months. The counter-pressing style that Klopp plays relies heavily on tactical awareness and coordination that the team doesn’t currently have. It is the exact opposite of the death-by-football, retain possession approach of Rodgers and requires much higher fitness levels.
There’s also no preseason or winter break in which to instill his philosophy. It was after the winter break last season that BVB came back, after being bottom, to a very respectable Europa League spot.
Liverpool’s squad will offer Klopp a lot of different players to choose from but not a single player that without-a-doubt deserves a place in the squad. Coutinho can pull off a moment of magic but also can be wasteful or go missing, Mignolet has had a poor season so far, neither Ings, nor Benteke has staked a claim to the starting striker spot. Do Skrtel, Milner, and Lucas have the legs to run all game? Henderson and Sturridge are the two standout players in the squad but both are injured or injury-prone.
On top of this, Klopp’s first five EPL matches are Spurs(A), Southampton (H), Chelsea (A), Crystal Palace (H), and Manchester City (A), with a trip to Ukraine in there for good measure and a midweek match every week.
It’s possible that Klopp could get zero wins from his first five matches. Spurs have three wins out of four, including smashing City. Southampton just beat Chelsea and Swansea. Chelsea will have to have turned the ship around at this point. Palace are fourth and City are top. This is not the easiest run of fixtures to step into.
With all of the ex-Scousers in the media, how long before the pitchforks are out? It’s certainly going to be talked about ad nauseam. I believe he’ll be given a lot of deference but people will also expect to see results and relatively quickly. It did take him a while to build up Dortmand. His first two seasons saw him finish sixth and fifth in the Bundesliga, results that will not be acceptable in the EPL.
I really envy Liverpool for getting Klopp; I think he’s a stellar manager who is also a super likeable human being as well. But I don’t envy the uncertainty that the fans and the club are about to face but I do think that he can return them to the title hunt, if given the time.