Graham Ruthven: Real doubt surrounds Klopp’s ability to get Liverpool over the line

Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool team look burdened by expectation as they chase their first league title in 29 years

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Jurgen Klopp really had nothing complain about, but that didn’t stop him confronting Kevin Friend after the full time whistle on Monday night. Liverpool’s opener came from an inexplicable offside (or non-offside) call, with the Premier League leaders presented with one last scoring chance in stoppage despite, once again, a player of theirs being offside. Klopp, though, claimed his team had been wronged.

“We had good moments, coming through the channels and scored the goal, which I’ve now been told is offside – his explains a little bit the second half, because I think the referee knew at half-time,” the German complained. “He knew it for sure at half-time, and then you saw a lot of strange situations. They were not decisive but just rhythm breakers. That obviously didn’t help us.”

How much help did Klopp want? Did he want the officials to literally throw the ball into the West Ham net for him? That’s essentially what they did with Liverpool’s first goal. Did he want another?

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Rather than focusing his ire on the officials, who were poor, but in favour of Liverpool, Klopp should perhaps look inwards. His team deserved nothing more than a point at the London Stadium, with West Ham more than holding their own against the Reds. This was arguably Liverpool’s worst performance of the season, not that Klopp seemed willing to accept this.

The comments made by Klopp after the draw away to West Ham, which came just days after Liverpool dropped points at home to Leicester City, illustrated a man buckling under the pressure. The German has refused to answer questions on that subject, but his behaviour and remarks after the full time whistle on Monday provided more insight than any press-conference answer could have.

Is it possible that Klopp is unravelling? We’ve only just crossed into February and already it seems that the German coach, and his Liverpool team by extension, are starting to tighten up. There are still 13 games of the Premier League season still to play and yet the Anfield side are approaching each fixture like it’s coming down the home stretch.

Of course, having a focussed group of players is generally a good thing, but Liverpool look burdened with the expectations they have placed on themselves. Holding such a commanding lead at the top of the table so early in the season might actually be retrospectively looked back upon as the moment the downward spiral started.

This certainly isn’t the first time that Klopp’s ability to lead from the front has been questioned. Since the German’s appointment back in 2015, Liverpool have lost 53 points from winning positions.

That’s more than any other top flight team in Europe in the same time-frame.

The Reds scored early against Leicester and West Ham, and yet both times they allowed that lead to slip.

Klopp won back-to-back Bundesliga titles as Borussia Dortmund manager, but the last of those triumphs came nearly seven years ago. Since then, he has contested seven cup finals, including a League Cup final, a Europa League final and a Champions League final as Liverpool boss, and lost them all. There are doubts over Klopp’s ability to get his side over the line.

Liverpool hold a three-point lead at the top of the Premier League before City travel to Goodison Park tonight.

Granted, it’s something they would have gladly accepted as a scenario at the start of the season and they are still in an extremely strong position to win the title, their first league championship in 29 years.

However, Monday night’s draw at West Ham gave away a lot about the true mindset of Klopp and his Liverpool players right now.

Good or bad, what happens over the coming weeks and months could come to define an era at Anfield.

Klopp is showing the signs of a man who knows that all too well.

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What do you think?