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'THIS MEANS MORE'

Is Liverpool’s greatest strength also their biggest weakness?

Few fan bases are as emotionally invested in their club as those by the Mersey, but is that always a good thing?

“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?


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More Liverpudlian than German these days

Getty Images
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More Liverpudlian than German these days

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?

Carefully selected wording

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Carefully selected wording

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?

A defining moment in Premier League history

Getty Images - Getty
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A defining moment in Premier League history

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.

Jon Flanagan made 23 league appearances in 2013/14

PA:Empics Sport
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Jon Flanagan made 23 league appearances in 2013/14

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.

When we said biblical support…

Action Images - Reuters
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When we said biblical support…

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.”

He’s got a point…

Hulton Archive - Getty
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He’s got a point…

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.

The right man for the job

Reuters
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The right man for the job

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.

The front three have slightly different roles this season

REUTERS
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The front three have slightly different roles this season

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?

Player of the Year in waiting?

Reuters
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Player of the Year in waiting?

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?

2005 scenes

Reuters
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2005 scenes

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.


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