Premier League: Liverpool-Tottenham clash an advert for Jurgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino’s strong managerial processes

  • 1

While rarely talked about in the press, video analysis is one of the tedious aspects of the otherwise seemingly glamourous job of the manager. Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool’s video analyst Peter Krawietz sit through countless hours of rival match footage in the days leading up to a fixture. Akin to finding needles in a haystack, very particular passages of play are sifted for and patterns that appear first by an improvised, collaborative movement that seemed to have worked well (lead to a goal scoring opportunity), and later enforced by habit and routine.
In life and in football, success at the highest level rarely hinges on day-to-day motivation but habit. Klopp abides by that rule. Starting with Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham on Sunday night, the gregarious German is looking down at the last stretch of the 2018-19 Premier League marathon not with despair, but with a smile.
Premier League: Liverpool-Tottenham clash an advert for Jurgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettinos strong managerial processesFile image of Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino (R) and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp (L). Getty Images
Speaking in the pre-match press conference, Klopp confessed the sheer joy he finds in the process of doing his homework: “Sometimes analysing opponents is a treat. It is enjoyable to sit down and watch Tottenham matches especially if you like good football. Even when they don’t win, they always manage to come up with good moments, in fact, sometimes they have so many good moments it is hard to work out how they lost the game.”
Picking up on these moments, Klopp’s charges not only have the responsibility at Anfield to choreograph off-the-ball movements in order to nullify but also counter in the most entertainingly-effective way possible. Especially with the title race in the balance with a one-point gap between them and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, Liverpool have little option but to try and win the game with as many goals as possible in an attempt to chip away at Manchester City’s goal difference (60, 8 better than Liverpool’s tally of 52). While this may be a telling factor when the season winds down, it’s not at the forefront of Klopp’s thought: “You score when you score, I don’t tell the boys to go out there and score six because it is disrespectful. I’m happy if we just score the first goal and then the second.”
Klopp, quite reasonably, is fully aware of the task at hand, mingling pragmatism with praise for the threat Tottenham possess: “Harry (Kane) is a difficult opponent to mark, as with all world-class teams, you cannot let your strategy to be focused solely on one player. Do that and Christian Eriksen will be shooting from outside the box, Dele Alli will sneak in with a header or Son Heung-Min will ghost inside the box.”
Unlike fretting Liverpool fans, the German manager is relishing the challenge: “That’s part of what I like about Tottenham, they have multiple focal points, and they have a player like Érik Lamela to come off the bench. Tottenham have quality running through the team, an outstanding goalkeeper, full-backs that can give you many different opportunities, fantastic centre-backs, and a great midfield. Then you come to the front line.”
Students of football history will point out that Liverpool managers in the past have perfected the art of what is called “tossing the toffee.” It involves giving unsolicited praise to a rival team, manager or player to place the pressure squarely on them to perform on the day. The term was made famous by serial-winner Bob Paisley. Former great Kenny Dalglish recalls an occasion when manager Paisley, considered a giant in the game, went out of his way to heap adulation on a young Gordon Strachan, Aberdeen’s star player and holding midfielder ahead of a crucial European Cup first-leg tie.