The Blog

Liverpool Are a Club Torn Between Their Past and Their Future

It might chafe at Liverpool fans to hear it, but they could do a lot worse than to look to Spurs as a guiding light. The Reds have done the 'overhaul' part of the job over and over again, but they've never stuck around long enough to put in the 'patience' part of the equation.

Some things in this world are impossible to ever fully understand. Love is one, laughter is another, and at the risk of turning this short list into an exercise in alliteration, Liverpool FC are a third.

Without delving too deep into the club's history, it's fair to say that the last 20 years or so have been something of a comedown, particularly the last decade. From where the club were - winning 10 titles in 15 years - things have taken a downward turn as they struggle to qualify for even Europe's second-rate competition.

Jurgen Klopp finds himself in a position at Anfield which is almost unique among managers in England. It's acknowledged that he was left a very poor squad by Brendan Rodgers, and fans understand that the rebuilding process will be a long one which might not see immediate results.

At the same time, it's taken as a disaster when they play badly - which is often, thanks to the aforementioned 'very poor squad'. Even against teams who are challenging for the title, anything less than a win is a disappointment.

The cognitive dissonance is bizarre. The fan reaction is ultimately no more than a sideshow - but it's a particularly distracting one, although it should be pointed out that the majority of Reds fans are generally understanding, sensible sorts.

In a wacky and inconsistent season, Liverpool might take the crown for unpredictability. It's no wonder they're expected to put up a fight against big teams, because they've thrashed Manchester City twice this season. It's no wonder they're acknowledged to be below par, they've been hammered by Newcastle and Watford. It's like there are two teams within the same squad, Good Liverpool and Bad Liverpool.

Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to Sunday afternoon at St Mary's. Good Liverpool and Bad Liverpool, both on show in one match. Good Liverpool screamed in front early on, with Sturridge and Coutinho showing why they're considered two of the most fearsome forwards in the country on their day. Then at half-time, Jurgen Klopp took the interesting step of substituting all 11 of his players and replacing them with vastly inferior clones. Plus Martin Skrtel.

The Reds were just horrible in the second half. There was a hint of what was to come when Skrtel gave away a penalty just four minutes after coming on, Simon Mignolet bailing him out by saving the spot-kick. A whole quarter of an hour passed as Liverpool wobbled on the edge of the cliff, teetering on the brink...and then just threw themselves off headfirst. It would be harsh to say that a 3-2 defeat flattered them, but the match was only going one way once the slide started.

The match put every part of the current Liverpool team on display for the world to see. The good and the bad. Their devastating attacking potential which can go blunt at a moment's notice. The defence which veers wildly between being unbreachable and essentially not existing.

There's a sense that Liverpool don't exactly know what's expected of them at the moment. They're expected to struggle away to Southampton because of their weak defence and inconsistent forwards, but they're also expected to cruise to victory because, well, they're Liverpool and they've spent hundreds of millions on their squad.

The duel expectations extend far beyond single games. Was Klopp brought in to galvanise the squad and take them to immediate success, or is he there as a slow and steady long-term man? Are they expected to challenge for the top four, or struggle to make qualify for the Europa League?

At the moment, the answer seems to be 'a little bit of all of those'. It's confused thinking, and it can't be doing good things for morale beneath the surface. The ray of hope for the club is Klopp, strong-minded enough to pull in his own, singular direction through the confusion and popular enough not to get booted for it.

This season is, essentially, a write-off. Sweeping changes are likely (not to mention necessary) in the summer, and we've seen what sweeping change does to a team. Given that, next season will be a struggle of almighty proportions by 'Liverpool standards', and the worst thing that fans could do is panic and demand further change.

It might chafe at Liverpool fans to hear it, but they could do a lot worse than to look to Spurs as a guiding light. The Reds have done the 'overhaul' part of the job over and over again, but they've never stuck around long enough to put in the 'patience' part of the equation.

The club's legacy has lasted 25 years without a title. It won't kill it to spend a couple of seasons in the wilderness to come back stronger.

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