Jurgen Klopp forgot the time he played Steven Caulker as a striker

Ryan Benson
Subscriber

There’s no one way to win – or draw – a football match. Some managers opt for a passing style that would appease the purists, a few employ gung-ho tactics and others look to press their opponents into submission. There are a whole range of different approaches and that versatility is one aspect which makes football so enthralling.

Jurgen Klopp is one of the managers to adopt a high-pressing system, combining that with vibrant attacking football which relies on the dynamism and movement of his usually interchangeable front three. And he has rightly received a lot of praise for his impact at Liverpool in a relatively short time.

But on Sunday, Klopp, supposedly the purveyor of all things honest and dignified in modern football, was rather bitter as things didn’t quite go his way in Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Manchester United.

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After going ahead in the first-half thanks to a James Milner penalty, Liverpool switched their approach in the match and looked to hit United on the counter, with the home side enjoying more of the ball. Liverpool were willing to sit back in numbers and soak up United’s pressure, while also hoping to hit them on the break.

United needed a new angle and Marouane Fellaini’s introduction in the second-half provided just that, as they subsequently began to play more direct. And Klopp was a little bitter about this at full-time.

How dare they. How dare Jose Mourinho make a tactical change in order to take the sting out of Liverpool’s play and exploit their weaknesses.

The alterations worked, as Fellaini was crucial to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s late equaliser. But Klopp, surely just irritated that his tactics were completely destroyed by simple route-one football, really seemed to have a problem with United’s direct play after the match.

“They play long balls in a wild game. We played the better football and had the better plan.”

Klopp, to Sky Sports.

He wasn’t done there, though. As Sky Sports reporter Geoff Shreeves continued to quiz the German, the latter interrupted him mid-sentence to stress “with the long balls”. And then in his post-match media conference…

“The ball was in the air for 25 minutes.”

Klopp

Klopp’s complaining smacks of someone making “holier than thou” comments simply because they ultimately didn’t get their own way. After all, it would be easier to sympathise with him if he wasn’t being entirely hypocritical.

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That’s right, when the two sides met in early 2016, football purist and route-one critic Jurgen Klopp played Steven Caulker – a Championship-level centre-back – as a striker. And he also did it against Arsenal.

It’s all well and good bemoaning the playing style or tactical alterations – which actually worked – of another manager if you can safely say you’ve never fallen foul of the same apparent sacred oath they have broken.

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But having the audacity to criticise a fellow manager’s approach when you’ve employed similar – if not even more desperate – tactics before is classless.

After all, United ultimately outfoxed Liverpool with their direct style at the end, so if anyone’s tactics need questioning it is Klopp’s.

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