Pep Guardiola’s unusual Liverpool obsession and the way Jurgen Klopp rises above it
Liverpool tackle Man Metropolis on Sunday in a conflict between two sides with the identical ambitions, but additionally two managers with very completely different approaches.
I’ve no thought if Man Metropolis‘s workforce coach has curtains on board, however in the event you see one close to the entrance twitching because it snakes down Anfield Highway on Sunday then that’s the place Pep Guardiola is sat.
On the subject of Liverpool FC, the Man Metropolis supervisor is a basic curtain-twitcher; a voyeur who spends his time watching the Reds and fretting about them. He simply can’t assist himself.
In March 2018, with the Amazon Prime cameras filming, he was pacing across the away dressing room at Goodison Park whereas his gamers warmed up on the pitch earlier than a vital Premier League sport.
Maybe Guardiola was affected by a contact of Evertonianism—in incurable affliction that sees suffers obsess about ‘the pink shite’—on account of his environment, but it surely was Liverpool Soccer Membership that was occupying the Metropolis supervisor’s thoughts.
“The forwards for Liverpool are so good,” he mused in Spanish. “Sorry?” replied a stunned member of employees. “These three up entrance. They scare me. They’re harmful. I’ve a sense that Salah will play as striker.”
What adopted was an in depth tactical dialogue in regards to the positioning of Salah and Firmino, and if Metropolis’s full-backs might deal with Liverpool’s full-backs, in Everton‘s dressing room, a full 4 days earlier than Guardiola’s facet have been due at Anfield for the primary leg of the Champions League quarter-final.
A lot for the cliched ‘one sport at a time, we solely deal with what’s in entrance of us’ soundbites, eh?
It didn’t do them a lot good, both. Metropolis have been 3-Zero down by half-time—Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane doing the harm within the opening 31 minutes—and only for good measure the Reds beat them 2-1 within the second leg on the Etihad too.
Since then, Guardiola has frequently chuntered away about Liverpool.
Generally he praises us, calling the Reds one in every of “the most effective two sides I’ve confronted” final season and “an opponent who’re unstoppable” final month, however now that his workforce are due at Anfield the main target has modified.
After Metropolis got here again to beat Southampton 2-1 final weekend, Guardiola was requested by Match of the Day if he knew what had occurred with Liverpool at Villa Park (for as soon as either side performed at 3pm on a Saturday).
“I’m positive the gamers knew on the pitch with what was taking place within the stadium,” stated the interviewer. “All people gave the impression to be tuned with what was taking place within the Aston Villa-Liverpool sport as effectively. How conscious the place you with what was taking place elsewhere?”
“No, it isn’t our enterprise,” he started to answer, making an attempt to feign indifference earlier than the true Guardiola emerged one second later.
“We arrive within the locker room and it was 1-1 and after 2-1, and it has occurred many occasions, what Liverpool has performed, within the final years.
“It’s as a result of he’s a particular expertise. Generally he’s diving, typically it’s this expertise to attain unbelievable objectives within the final minute.”
Cling on a minute there Josep outdated boy, no person requested you about Sadio Mane.
But within the blink of an eye fixed he went from saying Liverpool’s result’s “not our enterprise” to magically realizing who scored the successful aim and, in a pure stroke of coincidence, set the agenda to diving on a day when Mane simply occurred to be (harshly) booked for simulation. What luck!
He can faux all he likes to not care, but it surely wouldn’t shock me if Guardiola had despatched a employees member to Villa Park to look at the Reds and was getting a reside commentary on a hidden earpiece.
Both that or he subscribed to our aim alerts on his telephone.
Guardiola blatantly knew precisely what had occurred at Villa Park as quickly because it occurred and swiftly scrambled to make use of it to kick off some pre-match thoughts video games, directed in the direction of referee Michael Oliver, eight days earlier than he was due at Anfield and with a Champions League match in Italy to play first.
In one other coincidence, Mane is Liverpool’s in-form ahead and main goalscorer this season, plus a member of the entrance three that “scare” the less-than-subtle Metropolis supervisor.
You don’t want x-ray specs to see by way of him, though I absolutely anticipate them to be launched by VAR to rule objectives out for an offside malleus or incus.
Final season it was Salah getting focused with the ‘diving’ jibes as a result of groups couldn’t cease him, now Guardiola is making an attempt the identical tactic on Mane; chuck some mud, hope it sticks.
It’s the identical with the sensationalised ‘Metropolis concern new bus assault’ headlines that emerged on Friday following a social media publish calling for Liverpool supporters to greet our workforce bus (there was no point out of theirs) on Anfield Highway earlier than the sport.
Inevitably that was spun to deal with the incident earlier than the 2018 Champions League sport at Anfield when the Metropolis bus was inexcusably struck with flying objects, whereas each different incident-free coach greeting on the Annie Highway (together with the one earlier than Liverpool vs. Metropolis throughout the 2013/14 Premier League title run-in) was conveniently ignored.
Once more, the message from Manchester—even when it’s subliminal—is evident: ‘Look what Metropolis are up in opposition to at Anfield, Liverpool supporters are hooligans and their gamers are cheats’.
Victims of all of it, anybody?
After all which means that photographers and journalist will now be lining Anfield Highway themselves on Sunday on the lookout for the slightest little bit of hostility.
If anybody wearing pink as a lot as farts inside 20 foot of the Metropolis coach we’ll all be studying ‘Guardiola gassed’ headlines to suit the narrative.
Fortunately, Jurgen Klopp responded brilliantly to Guardiola’s obsessive tendencies along with his “I promise to not point out tactical fouls,” quip, a verbal counter-attack of the best order.
He additionally accused Guardiola of being fixated with the Reds with out utilizing that exact F phrase.
“Once I got here into the interview after the sport [at Villa] I actually had no clue what the opposite Premier League outcomes have been. That’s the reality,” he stated.
“I didn’t ask anyone, It was 45 minutes after the sport once I heard the outcomes of the opposite video games.
“Once I come into the dressing room I don’t say: ’What’s the results of the opposite video games?’. I needed to communicate to gamers, I needed to communicate to lots of people after which I went into interviews. I didn’t suppose for one second in regards to the different video games.
“Then, after the interviews: ‘how did the opposite groups play?’. Then somebody advised me Metropolis received within the 86th minute and all this occurred. I don’t perceive a majority of these issues. My mind just isn’t large enough to consider one other workforce as effectively.”
It’s that sort of angle from the Liverpool supervisor that convinces me that each he and his gamers will brush apart all of Guardiola’s pre-match posturing to deal with what they should do on Sunday; particularly, get caught into and win a match that isn’t a title decider, however may have a major bearing on the 2019/20 Premier League title race consequence.
No matter occurs, on and off the pitch, it received’t cease Pep Guardiola from speaking about Liverpool afterwards.
His Anfield obsession is ingrained and can stay for so long as the Reds are a risk to his goals and ambitions. Which implies it should by no means, ever go away.
Chris McLoughlin writes for This Is Anfield every week; he’s additionally senior author for the Official LFC Matchday Programme and LFC Journal. You possibly can order each right here.