Leadership is difficult. Sometimes it involves staying the course and trusting in a process that is bringing about change despite needing to refine it, tweak it, make it better. Some people will never have to make decisions under pressure where everyone is watching you, waiting for signs of hope or expecting immediate results. It may be a group of people involved, but often, there is a figurehead—an invdividual that shoulders the inevitable questions that the position demands. You must have answers, answers to any questions and problems that arise.
This is Jürgen Klopp’s lot as manager of Liverpool Football Club, Merseyside’s finest, a storied giant of the world’s most popular and beautiful game. His philosophy and his charisma make the former Borussia Dortmund trainer an ideal fit for a club with Liverpool’s traditions, but there is still work to do. Next month will mark two years of Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool, and in that time, two finals and a best first half season in the Premier League era ultimately resulted in no trophies. It did, however, restore faith in a red revival, ignite expectations, and bring Champions League football back to Anfield.
The two now intertwine ahead of a first Champions League away game in the group stages since drawing 2-2 with Ludogorets in November 2014, merely six months on from nearly winning a first league title 1990. Nearly three years have passed since then, and Moscow will be Sofia’s successor as Klopp’s players seek to follow an eventful three points against Leicester City—Klopp’s first at the King Power Stadium—with victory over Spartak Moscow.
Despite a first win since thrashing Arsenal last month, process and progress are starting to be questioned. Can Liverpool continue to move forward with such a large gap between the team’s offensive and defensive capabilities? Should Liverpool have moved on quicker from Virgil van Dijk to secure a better partner for Jöel Matip than Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan? Are Jordan Henderson and Emre Can truly reliable options at the base of the midfield three?
Talk of a crisis in September was utterly unfair and unhelpful, but that’s the nature of being Liverpool. For Klopp, though, Liverpool are doing well and need to keep the momentum going.
"People who are too negative don’t see it and people who are not really interested don’t see it," Klopp told the official site. "We have a lot of things to do, 100 per cent, but we all know we are on a good way. Yes, a few things are not fixed, which happens when you are not flying. The Man City game is a good moment to describe it; for half an hour we were the better side, we got the red card and then City started flying from this moment.
"Each team will have difficult moments in the season because no team will collect 120 points or something like this! Our learning process started again already in this season. We have 11 points and each point we’ve got so far we’ve deserved. We could have had one, two or three more – everybody knows that. It’s not the perfect season, but we have 11 points. The teams with the perfect season so far have 16, so that’s a five-point difference. It sounds like it’s everything is already decided!
"I said after the [Leicester] game that we know and we are responsible, we have to deliver results. If nobody asked, we’d only carry on working – keep on working, keep on working, keep on working, keep on working. But because everyone is asking, it’s always this kind of, ‘Stop, so 3-2… you are happy?’ Not 100 per cent, but 80 per cent. ‘You are 80 per cent happy?’ Yes – sorry about that.
"We are really in a good mood and in a good moment, we just have to deliver results – [starting with] the next one in Moscow."
This is clearly a direct message to fans who are becoming increasingly disgruntled with both process and progress, but it appears that only emphatic results will quell murmurs of discontent. Liverpool remain a glorious creature, one that continues to frustrate as much as it thrills. However, this team is not far away from ruthlessly dishing out a few heavy defeats that will steer the conversation to a different direction.
When such a time comes, one representing the many will be tasked with finding the right answers.