Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has often cut a despondent figure this season – now is the time to get angry.
The dejection in Jurgen Klopp’s voice during his pre-match press conference at the Etihad was a tone that has become all too familiar.
For what feels like the umpteenth time this calendar year alone, the Liverpool boss cut a despondent figure in front of the media after a sorry performance on the pitch. Having seen his side suffer their ninth defeat of the season – and their eighth away from Anfield – Klopp did little to hide just how low his mood was.
We were rather lucky they only scored one more (at 3-1),” he conceded as he tried to assess just what had gone wrong in a horrible second period that saw his Liverpool team collapse at the first sign of trouble.
Asked about his thoughts on referee Simon Hooper’s decision not to send off Rodri for hauling back Cody Gakpo by the shoulders just moments after he had been booked for a waistlock on Diogo Jota, the Reds manager’s response was a surprising one.
Rather than rage, criticise or bemoan the call to keep City with a full complement of players, a Klopp instead reflected: “I’m not sure we would have won today against 10 men, to be honest.”
Klopp, as one of the more emotional coaches in the top flight, has never been one to hide his true feelings or put on a front for the cameras, but his defeatist replies after that 4-1 loss to City are indicative of the wider mood that has seemingly spread through the squad at Liverpool.
Rather than rail against their fate, the team’s lack of fight when confronted with a setback has been one of their few consistent traits of a dismal campaign.
For a side once renowned as the ‘mentality monsters’ – a phrase first coined by Klopp after that now iconic fightback against Barcelona in a Champions League semi-final nearly four years ago – Liverpool’s character has come to be defined as one that does not handle disappointments in the right way.
Where once eyes were narrowed and chests were puffed out, now heads drop and shoulders slump. It feels like Liverpool have spent the entire season largely feeling sorry for themselves.
Results like the 9-0 obliteration of Bournemouth in August, the 7-0 mauling of Manchester United last month and the 7-1 dismantling of Rangers in the Champions League back in October all point to a side who can still devastate when they take flight with a fair wind, but all too often the response to finding themselves in unwanted positions has been pitiful.
Defeats at Manchester City can happen to any side but the abject manner of the second-half crumbling will have rankled for the 2000-odd away fans at the Etihad.
Where is the fight, the aggression or the anger at it all? The gloom-ridden press conferences of Klopp in the immediate aftermath of poor results suggest wounds are being licked more often than they should be.
“I told the boys there is nothing from my side to say tonight,” he added at the Etihad. “Everything is obvious. Everybody needs to think about it himself. And tomorrow we have to talk about it, but that is nothing for now.”
To his credit, Virgil van Dijk once more fronted up to the media, post-match, saying: “If you’re losing the way we lost, then definitely there will be some hard talking.”
Asked about what surely must have been entirely direct discussions between he and his players at the AXA Centre on Sunday, Klopp said on Monday: “Over the season we spoke about everything pretty much 100% on one specific point, just because on the table it is clear, you have to. You cannot just close your eyes and hope it gets better.”
Any inquests that took place after the debacle of the second-half at City should rightly have been frank ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Chelsea and maybe there is something to be said for the longer-term strategy of keeping any terse frustrations in house, but there appears, on the surface, to be a lack of fire in the bellies or flaring of nostrils for a Liverpool squad who are looking increasingly downtrodden by events of a forgettable, painful campaign.
Some home truths perhaps need to be told and now is the time for Klopp and his players to strike up an angry, defiant attitude to it all, starting at now managerless Chelsea on Tuesday night.