Liverpool supporters’ expectations as the season has kicked off

Talking to Liverpool Echo (August 29, 2016), Jürgen Klopp says his Liverpool side remain ‘on a good way’ this season, despite taking just four points from their opening three games. A stunning opening weekend win at Arsenal and a hard-fought draw with Tottenham has been tempered by the capitulation to Burnley at Turf Moor.

Against Burnley we saw we can play a team like this and not each team will have two moments with a goal. (Then) you lose your nerves a little after the goal in the second minute, we missed a lot of opportunities for us to do it much better. In this game 90% was good, then one pass alone in the box. I saw it analysed afterwards ten times, I saw it and I thought: ‘I cannot believe it.’ That’s what we have to work on and we did it. We must keep our natural strength, this high pressure defending, counter attacking football, all that stuff. To bring everything on the pitch in each game is a challenge.”

For Klopp, it is the result against Burnley which still troubles him, a week after he saw his side downed by the newly-promoted side.

We won at Arsenal, took a point from Tottenham and I’m pretty sure they’re still strong and not too many teams will take a point from here and we could have won the game. The thing that disturbs in this judgement is no points from Burnley.”

Yes, I shall not be the last person to admit I was gutted after we didn’t manage to beat Tottenham at White Hart Lane. We only got one point, and had goal opportunites enough to score plenty, with Philippe Coutinho missing a big chance from right in front of Michel Vorm in the Spurs goal. Daniel Sturridge would easily have slotted that ball home after less than five minutes of football played. We had several other opportunites. After 25 minutes, Coutinho chose to shoot when he could have made an easy pass into the box for Adam Lallana to shoot from a better position. James Milner’s penalty goal saw Liverpool deservedly secure a half time lead.

With a bit of luck, Joël Matip would have scored on a header after a James Milner corner kick seven inutes into the second half. I’m not going to claim Adam Lallana was onside when Gini Wijnaldum played him free to make a brilliant assist for Sadio Mané, whose goal was disallowed. Maybe a very close call, but nothing much to complain about, really.

Tottenham had a few goal opportunities, not too many, but their shooting was lousy. Both Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen could have managed to hit the target, but missed. Erik Lamela came close to scoring after 62 minutes, but Simon Mignolet saved his freekick shot. Toby Alderweireld came very close to scoring on a header after a corner kick one minute later, but Mignolet’s save was very good. I was laughing: “Are these angry Liverpool fans going to stop complaing now that Mignolet has made two crucial saves here, and also saved a penalty kick against Arsenal at Emirates?” Not so. 

Oh, not at all. After 71 minutes of play, James Milner was out of position as Eric Dier could easily send a ball into the box in front of Mignolet. Two Liverpool players – Lallana and Matip – could have cleared that ball, but failed to do so. Danny Rose came in from the left side where Nathaniel Clyne could have been, but wasn’t. Simon Mignolet rushed out to meet him, and Rose slotted the ball in behind him. 1-1, and everyone says Simon Mignolet is to blame for letting that simple shot get past him and into the net. No way that was the goalkeeper’s mistake, but the moaning fans of Liverpool who hate Mignolet whatever he might do instantly went completely crazy on Twitter. It certainly wasn’t the “completely composed finish” that the TV commentator made it out to be, but a very big and costly Simon Mignolet mistake. I was a fool for saying otherwise. I gave up. Didn’t say another word, thinking to myself all these fans were delirious.

End of story? Well, I don’t know. In the dying minutes of the game both Gini Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana could have scored, but didn’t. Tottenham Hotspur were lucky not to lose this match, but we can only blame ourselves for not winning, with all the goal opportunities created but not converted. Scapegoat number 1: Simon Mignolet. As always. But also Jürgen Klopp for not giving Liverpool’s best striker Daniel Sturridge more than three minutes as a substitute.

Now what? Liverpool fans.

In an article for The Tomkins Times website written August 28, 2016, Paul Tomkins writes: “The build-up to the [Tottenham] game – in my brief forays onto social media – had been about dread; indeed, ever since the defeat at Burnley there had been almost nothing but dread. (…) I felt the dread of a certain section of the fanbase that exists in a permanent state of anger, and how they can be hard to get away from, and the noise they make. I felt the dread of knowing that unless the Reds win, and win in style, the anger of those disappointed will get ugly.”

Tomkins adds: “But here’s the kicker: the only time you’ll get a happy fanbase is when the Reds play really well and win by a large margin. Play poorly and draw or lose: moan. Play well and lose: moan. Play poorly and win: moan. That doesn’t leave a lot of scope for happiness and joy.What drives me insane is that every game now is “must win”. It used to be a rare phrase; now anything less than a victory in every single game is a disaster. It’s must-win at the start of the season, must-win in the middle, and must-win at the end. This level of pressure and expectation is only going to lead to angst.”

Other social media outlets were quick to cite Paul Tomkins and discussed these spot on sentences of his:

“I think that when fans of a certain disposition craved Klopp – when they hounded John Henry with every tweet – they were actually just wanting his Dortmund team, and his Dortmund success. They didn’t want the process where his Dortmund side went from average to outstanding over two-to-three years, probably because they didn’t even notice it – unless they were keen Bundesliga aficionados. They just saw the exciting team Dortmund had become and thought “want that”. Sure, but how did Klopp make it?”

How many of Borussia Dortmund players have we been linked to in terms of transfers in ever since December 2015? We’ve been linked to players such as Marco Reus, Ilkay Gündogan, Mario Götze and then some. Robert Lewandowski, too. Christian Pulisic as of now.

Another interesting point: How many fans were disappointed when Sadio Mané was signed and called him a below average player while Mario Götze who didn’t live up to German journalists’ expectations in Euro 2016 still was the player everyone wanted?

Jürgen Klopp wasn’t too happy with the one point we got at White Hart Lane.

“We still could have done better even at Tottenham so I don’t feel that we played the perfect game and only got one point. There were other situations where we should have been more clear in passing situations, especially around the goal. In the end, there was one player completely free in our box. So, there were a lot of mistakes until this can happen. We made all these mistakes, if all the mistakes we forced from Tottenham had the same result we would have won 3-1, maybe 4-1. But it was not like this so unfortunately we have to go on.”

Immediately after we had lost 0-2 at Turf Moor, I swiftly received a Facebook personal message from a Liverpool fan in Indonesia. “Klopp out!” the young lad wrote. I just laughed. Simple as that. The young Liverpool fan went on: “No, I mean it! I don’t like his tactics. He’s not a Liverpool manager at all!”

 I never gave the Indonesian lad another answer. I was simply shaking my head as I was thinking social media has become one great mad hatters’ place to vent their frustration in life. As if football is the only thing that matters in the world. And as if all hope is lost as we see rival clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United winning all three opening games while Liverpool gets four points out of the nine we could have managed to collect.

I wish I knew exactly what to say, but I believe Paul Tomkins has said it all: “Play well and draw: moan.” Only to add: “What drives me insane is that every game now is “must win”. It used to be a rare phrase; now anything less than a victory in every single game is a disaster.”

A supporter in a Facebook group gives his verdict on Paul Tomkins’ idea: “What gets me is the need to win right away, there was a manager, he came and he took three years to get us promoted, he worked hard to find the right team and one season he did and in 1962, they went on to become a force to be reckoned with until King Kenny left, the expectation of instant success means we have had five or more managers in the same tenure Bill Shankly had 14 years he started our glory years when King Kenny left they ended. Let the manager build a team that can be consistent and win for us. Time will tell.”

The months of September and October will see Liverpool’s fighting for 21 Premier League points. We are going to meet Leicester, Chelsea, Hull, Swansea, Manchester United, West Bromwich and Crystal Palace. We can win every single of these games, but we can also lose many of them. We can get draws here and there, lose two or three and win the rest. What remains for some supporters of Liverpool F.C. is one thing only: the Premier League title. I agree, but I do not expect it to happen this season. I hope it will, but I know I will be disappointed if we only scrape through to a top four finish with four victories towards the very end of the season. What is more, I know all Liverpool supporters will feel gutted if something like April and May 2014 repeats itself, and Liverpool ends up as number two having challenged for the title all the way towards the end.

All Liverpool needs is that Premier League title. I want that title as soon as possible, but I also have grown used to being patient and know we have a world class manager with a clear head and a plan for the future. Yes, both for the near and the not-so-near future. The big problem might be the fans’ attitude as too many years now has passed since our club last won the league title. May 1990 is a very long time for a football club like Liverpool. But we do not need a new manager as soon as we get a bit disappointed with the results we get. Such a way of thinking is plain stupid. There really is nothing else to call it, is there?

Written by @magneleokarlsen

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