What Would No Trophy For Jürgen Klopp Mean?

What do we all want from football? It’s the most important question we can ask, isn’t it? What do we actually expect from the game that we all love so much that we give up hours of our lives to watch? Think about it; a match lasts for 90 minutes plus stoppage and there are thirty-eight of them during the course of a season. If you only watched the club’s league fixtures and ignored cup games and European nights then you’d give up three thousand four hundred and twenty minutes a year, presuming you don’t want to include stoppage time nor the half-time interval. Add in an average of three minutes of stoppage time and the fifteen minutes between halves and you’re looking at four thousand one hundred and four minutes, or sixty-eight point four hours. That’s just shy of three days that you’ll have spent watching football. Not travelling to matches, not having a drink before or after the game and not talking about it, just watching games play out.

Are we really comfortable with saying that a season that ends without silverware has been a wasted one? Are we all happy to say that we’ve thrown away around three days out of our year for absolutely no reason? Does the fun we’ve had along the way, the moments celebrating goals or applauding excellent play truly count for nothing if we don’t get to see the captain lift a shiny thing? If so then I’ve got news for you; the fact is that Liverpool haven’t won a trophy since 2012. As a result we’ve wasted six seasons, or around eighteen days, on nothing. That’s without even adding in those cup runs that I’ve mentioned. I can’t even begin to figure out the maths on adding those games into the equation, but I would suggest that it probably moves the dial closer to a month of frivolous nothingness. Personally I feel as though life is too short to say that it’s nothing but a waste of time if success doesn’t come at the end of it. The question is, then, is Jürgen Klopp a failure if he doesn’t lift a trophy during his time at Anfield?

Opposition Fans Would Say So

Let’s be absolutely clear, no one sensible cares what supporters of other teams think about us. Are Manchester City supporters going to be crying themselves to sleep because of the fact that the rest of the Premier League think their club is bent and they’ve cheated their way to the titles that they’ve won since Sheikh Mansour arrived? I wouldn’t imagine so. Yet there’s also that bit of all of us that wants to protest when we read a fan of another team slagging our club off. Like family members who attack their own siblings but will defend them fiercely when they hear someone else say something horrible about them, Liverpool fans who say Dejan Lovren is a terrible defender will be quick to point out that he made it to the Champions League and World Cup finals last season if they overhear an Evertonian say the exact same thing.

Whilst it’s not exactly all that important what other people think, therefore, we all know that it would be much nicer to be able to point to Jürgen Klopp’s silverware when seeing someone say that all he does is give boss hugs. Football is, more than anything else, a tribal affair. There are certain things that bring us all together, with the mourning of the loss of the Leicester City owner recently and the widespread condemnation of the Premier League’s decision to reward Richard Scudamore with a £5 million golden handshake being two recent examples. The reality is, though, that it’s a competitive business and we all want to win. That’s why what other people think of our club and our manager matters. Being able to point to silverware in the cabinet is a crucial weapon in the war of partisanship. If he wins something then, in that sense at least, he’ll have succeeded.

So Would Some Of Our Supporters

Just as we shouldn’t really pay any mind to what opposition supporters think, no one whose opinion I respect cares a jot for the hot takes of some of the worst aspects of our own fanbase. When all is said and done, however, the thing we all want more than anything else is to be able to tell them to shut up and have facts on our side. We can point to all sorts of things that the manager has achieved during his time at the club, including getting to three cup finals and creating the most exciting attacking team since the 1980s, but without the actual silverware then the inevitable refrain of ‘but he hasn’t won anything’ will be thrown back in our faces.

There is nothing more irritating than smug supporters of your own club who should be behind the manager and players but instead seem to want to cut them down at every possible opportunity. The country has spent the past week or so watching Brexiteers saying how dreadful the deal is that Theresa May has thrashed out with the European Union without actually telling anyone what they’d have done differently. So too do Jürgen Klopp’s critics want to tell us all how much better other managers would’ve done, without even attempting to look at the context that greeted the German upon his arrival. Given the dreadful state of the club back in the tail-end of 2015, would Antonio Conte or Carlo Ancelotti really have done any better than him?

It Really IS About More Than Winning Trophies

Listen, I get that we all want to see this team win something; I’m totally on board with the idea of this excellent set of players being rewarded for their endeavours. Perhaps if Jürgen Klopp had come into Anfield and set about doing nothing except winning a trophy he’d have achieved exactly that by now. The manager had a much wider remit, however, and needed to essentially rebuild the club from the ground up. Let’s not forget just how bad the atmosphere was around the place when Brendan Rodgers was given his marching orders. There was a disconnect between the supporters and the players, much as there was between the much-vaunted transfer committee and the management structure. The players themselves seemed to have lost all hope, as evidenced by their 6-1 defeat to Stoke City in the final game of the 2014-2015 season.

The manager’s now-famous first message to the club’s supporters were that we needed to turn from doubters to believers and that’s because we had lost our way. I think many of us still weren’t over the heartbreak of missing out on the title in such cruel fashion in 2013-2014, meaning that we felt almost as if the club was cursed. The loss of Luis Suarez to Barcelona that summer and the fact that Mario Balotelli was our great hope up front meant that few of us were overly confident about what was to come. Klopp had to come in with a broom and shift all of that negativity at the same time as trying to overhaul a squad that was filled with deadwood. He had to do what Rodgers couldn’t manage and build the plane at the same time as flying it. The really mad thing is that he’s succeeded. Even if he doesn’t win a trophy, Jürgen Klopp has completely changed almost every aspect of the football club. That’s fairly successful even if nothing else is.

He May Unfairly Be Thought Of As A Failure

If the manager ends his Liverpool career without any silverware then there will be aspects of the footballing community that will declare him to have been a failure during his time in England. I honestly think that that would be a remarkably reductive way of thinking about what he’s done at Anfield. Let’s be honest, he’s made it to three finals, two of those with a squad that wasn’t even remotely his own. The simple reality is that al three times we’ve made it to the biggest game in those three different tournaments we just happen to have come up against teams that were either significantly better than us because of their bottomless pit of money, more experienced than is in that tournament or both. Sevilla might not have been a significantly better team than us back in 2016, but they’d won the Europa League at the last two teams of asking with the same manager in the dugout for both, so history was on their side.

The same was true of Real Madrid two years later, with Jürgen Klopp himself pointing out that Zinedine Zidane had been able to keep his squad of players relatively the same over the previous three years when they’d won the Champions League. The German had by that point at least created a squad that he was able to call his own, but it still lacked the experience of playing in Europe’s biggest competition, let alone of playing together for more than the campaign that it took to get there. As for Manchester City in the League Cup in 2016, we took the richest team in world football to the lottery of a penalty shoot-out and on another day may well have won it. Does the fact that they scored their penalties and we didn’t, Alberto Moreno had a brain fart and Sergio Ramos deliberately injured Mo Salah and got away with it really mean that Jürgen Klopp’s time at the club will have been a failure if we don’t win something shiny before he departs for pastures new?

He’s not Perfect, But He Deserves Respect

In my piece last week I wrote about how Jürgen Klopp has made some mistakes of late. His faith in players like Adam Lallana, Joel Matip and Daniel Sturridge when I don’t believe that any of them would get into another top four side’s team is a worry, for example. I also think that he should be actively going for Premier League referees until we start to get some fair decisions going our away, though I think we’re instead going to have to wait until the Video Assistant Referee is introduced next year before that happens. Yet he’s very obviously getting more right than he’s getting wrong, which is evidenced by the fact that we’re two points behind Manchester City in the Premier League and effectively joint-top of our Champions League group.

Given that there are just four pieces of silverware of any worth available during a season, I think it’s utterly ludicrous and remarkably disrespectful to suggest that a manager has failed if they don’t win one of them. Of course we all want a trophy in the cabinet and I think both the manager and his players deserve one. They’ve given us some unbelievable moments over the past couple of years, allowing us all to celebrate goals, excitement and thrilling attacking football. José Mourinho has done the opposite of that but he has won a trophy, so would supporters prefer that he was in charge rather than Jürgen Klopp? I for one would take the equivalent of three days worth of watching glorious football even if there was no trophy at the end of it than nothing but a dirge that was rewarded with a pot. I’m more than aware not everyone will agree, however…

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