“We are Liverpool, this means more.”
Those are the words accompanying the mural of Jurgen Klopp located in the trendy Baltic Triangle area of the city.
And it’s true, it does mean more to them, doesn’t it?
Dozens of English clubs boast passionate fan bases, but few, if any, are as emotionally invested as those who follow Liverpool.
The football club is as much a part of the city’s identity as anything else.
And while this connection undoubtedly works in the Reds’ favour, could it also be their biggest weakness?
In 2013/14, Liverpool’s best chance to win the Premier League slipped through their fingers.
Slipped being the optimum word, as many consider Steven Gerrard’s faulty footwork the catalyst for the capitulation.
Brendan Rodgers’ side also squandered a three-goal lead at Selhurst Park, conceding thrice in the final 11 minutes of normal time to leave Luis Suarez an inconsolable mess of tears.
Down the pub, you’d say they ‘bottled it’, but perhaps they were victims of their own emotional momentum?
Liverpool were like a runaway train that season.
In Suarez they had a world-class goalscorer, and in Sturridge, a worthy accomplice.
Gerrard was the talisman, Martin Skrtel was the rock, and Raheem Sterling provided the refreshment of youthful exuberance.
Overall though, the squad did not measure up to previous title-winning contingents.
There was a sense many of the players were being dragged along by an overwhelming emotional swell — the positive effect of Merseyside’s fervant nature.
However, runaway trains are destined to derail.
Liverpool began the Premier League era as English football’s most successful club.
Season by season, Sir Alex Ferguson chipped away at their lead until eventually, in 2011, Man United took the crown.
This agonising power shift hurt the Anfield faithful.
Not to mention the strain of the enlarging monkey on the club’s back, having never won a league title in the Premier League era.
When Liverpool establish themselves as genuine title contenders, it’s understandable the fans release pent-up frustration in the form of fanatical, biblical support.
And while this inspires the players, it also produces immense pressure as an unfortunate by-product.
The ‘bottlejob’ of 2014 felt like something giving way.
It would have been almost impossible for the players to think of football as just a job, or just a sport, knowing what it would mean to the fans and city.
After all, it was legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly who said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death.
“I am very much disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
This season, Liverpool have yet another golden opportunity to win a Premier League title.
Jurgen Klopp’s troops have a four-point lead over Man City, defending champions of serious pedigree.
It is has been well documented that in the last ten years, only two teams have failed to win the league after leading at Christmas — Liverpool (08/09) and Liverpool (13/14).
So, is tempering emotion the secret to breaking the hoodoo?
Klopp will certainly want Anfield to remain an intimidating venue, and he will never be able to suppress his own explosive celebrations.
However, the German coach has endeavoured to maintain composure in recent press conferences.
Prior to the Man City game, he called Pep Guardiola’s team the ‘world’s best side’.
Many attributed this quote to mind games, but it also served to rein in any fans, pundits or media outlets intent on turning this current Liverpool team into another runaway train.
Klopp’s tactics this season are also evidence of a more measured approach.
He’s traded some of the blood-and-thunder of last season for a smattering of pragmatism.
Whereas before Liverpool appeared desperate to score seven goals a game, now they appear content with two-goal leads that allow them to conserve energy.
That’s not to say they don’t set out to blow teams away — there is just a broader consideration of the grand scheme.
They still have the heavy metal music in the record bag, we only hear it when Klopp deems it necessary.
Virgil van Dijk, oasis of calm, is an invaluable asset to Klopp’s title charge.
The Liverpool side of 2013/14 lacked an unflappable, cold-hearted competitor.
Gerrard was an inspirational captain, but, having been on the club’s books since he was a 9-year-old, how could he not get caught up in the hype?
There’s plenty to be said for the ‘THIS DOES NOT F*CKING SLIP’ approach, but perhaps what Liverpool need is someone to say ‘we’ve got this’ in a monosyllabic tone?
The balance is fine and the stakes are high.
Emotion fuels Liverpool, the players feed off it and it makes them greater than the sum of their parts, plenty of which are world-class in their own right.
However, they don’t want to boil over, because even the very best players in the world are susceptible to pressure.
If Klopp can keep a lid on things, there could be an almighty release at the end of the season.
Can you imagine the celebrations if they win it?
Keeping emotions in check is difficult for football fans of all clubs.
For Liverpool fans, it’s almost impossible.
However, in Klopp – an impassioned, hot-blooded heart-on-sleeve character himself – they have the perfect man to harness such energy in the right way and steer them home when the seas get choppy.
And they will get choppy.
- A letter of appreciation to Cesc Fabregas as Mr Reinvention reinvents himself once again
- This Lionel Messi pass is, well, it’s… it’s… too good for words
- A tireless playmaker? Why Bernardo Silva is the most 2019 player in the world