Arise, the normal one
Without a doubt, the British press has found a new darling. In his own words, Klopp is ‘The Normal One.’ However he is surrounded by a very unnormal level of hype. According to the BBC this week, the former Dortmund manager going out for a beer in Liverpool was a newsworthy story.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/liverpool/11932710/Jurgen-Klopps-Liverpool-press-conference-live.html I have no doubt that Klopp is genuine in his love for the game and his passion for people, but I can’t say I’m looking forward to the constant fawning of the media at the donning of every baseball cap and the passing of every cheeky wink.
Having said that, I’m delighted that he’s made it to the Premier League. He comes into a viper’s nest of managers, using press conferences to snipe at one another, like the child in the playground who believes the teachers have it in for them but not their peers. Klopp’s post-match interview at White Hart Lane however brought an unbridled joy at being involved once more in the game he loves; a sight seldom seen from fellow managers. “I love doing what I do” he claimed, showing the sheer joy and enthusiasm that will make it hard for many neutrals to begrudge his Liverpool team success. It may be early days, but players weren’t reduced to tools who could fit into a system in the post-match press conference, they were given personality. Of the lesser-spotted Divock Origi, Klopp claimed, “We are going to have a lot of fun with this player.” Hardly words you would expect of a player who toiled fruitlessly on loan at Lille last year. It is very early days for the German, plying his trade in England for the first time, but you can’t help but think he is unlikely to engage in the childish tit for tat that we have become so accustomed to on these shores. Good luck Jurgen, and may you stay out of the clutches of the playground tacticians.
Talking of which, Jose Mourinho launched the 575th round of his ongoing bout with Arsene Wenger, this week. The long and short of it is, Jose is surprised that the FA hasn’t given him an electronic tag for the number of times it has fined him over the years. There’s only so much more I can write about this. Let’s just hope that Chelsea find form soon and he doesn’t have to keep trawling the depths for these deflection techniques.
Meanwhile, on the other side of London, the post-match conferences at Selhurst Park delivered surprisingly emotional fare. And no, I’m not talking about Alan Pardew reading the riot act about a thoroughly deserved red card for Dwight Gayle. The real drama came from Slaven Bilic’s interview following the final whistle. Now, I’m still trying to convince myself that this was not the case, but I’m pretty sure that Slaven Bilic was welling up, on the verge of tears, when he recounted the late winners his side scored against Palace.http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/34493683 The Croatian composed himself to say that the victory was his ‘proudest moment’ with West Ham, because of the style with which his team played and secured the three points. Maybe he was still reeling from Carl Jenkinson’s second, yes second, goal of the season that set the Hammers on their way, but Bilic is clearly revelling in the emotion that is often tied so intimately with West Ham’s fortunes. In the same vein as Klopp, the West Ham boss thrives on the human side of the game, the highs and lows that all of us are subjected to on a weekly basis. But the key question remains; will his side be able to maintain this momentum in the Premier League or will they falter in the second half of the season, as he did with Besiktas. As commendable as it is, naked emotion is to be much admired but if it is not matched with tactical astuteness and a dose of pragmatism, it will not be enough to significantly change the fortunes of a club.
On the subject of pragmatism, it would be remiss of me not to mention Louis van Gaal this week, after the Dutchman proclaimed that his Manchester United side could think ‘about title aspirations’ if they emerge victorious over Manchester City next weekend. The Dutchman is steadily growing in confidence as he realises that the rest of the Premier League is, on the whole, not up to much, and he can start to get bullish. At the start of the season, a top three finish would have been satisfactory according to van Gaal, yet the weaknesses shown by all of the big clubs at some point this campaign have got his dander up. Doubtless, if his charges get taught a lesson by City next weekend, third will be back on the table as the zenith for the men from Old Trafford, but at least Louis is affording himself a little time to dream. After all, it’s not as if he’s been able to afford much else over the past few transfer windows…
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892