I’ve penned many words about the Arsenal strategy of building towards a world where Manchester City aren’t where they are now. We know they have a least two swords of damocles hanging over their head. One is Pep exiting. The second is the charges. What we maybe didn’t expect was Klopp’s rebuild to have impact as fast as it has. The hope was that when City aren’t about, it’s a fairer fight with Liverpool.
It was quite clear this past summer that Arsenal didn’t have eyes on the prize this season, they were thinking about what’s to come in the next 5 years. Instead of adding more experience to an inexperienced squad, they aged down, and moved on players that we’d have to change up. The thinking, I believe, was to wait until those above us declined so we could move in on their lofty position as top dogs.
Well, today, Jurgen Klopp was the first shoe to drop. He announced his retirement from Liverpool early, presumably so he could do a victory lap for the next 5 months, knowing he has a pretty decent chance of at least one trophy.
But there’s a bigger picture here people aren’t seeing.
Klopp is being very strategic about his exit. Why? Because he knows what’s coming and amongst all the ONE LAST DANCE romanticism, he’s a realist.
Liverpool are a Europa League team at the moment and had to engage in a mini-rebuild last summer. People seem to think that’s the job complete. Ignoring the fact that their best centre-back ever, their best keeper and their best winger are all in their 30s now and need upgrading. Those guys are the game winners, and they’re the reason Liverpool are who they are this season.
To replace them is a near-impossible job. Even armed with £300m, you’re probably looking at a 1 in 3 hit rate at best. I’m not even sure the players are available to replace those three right now. They were generational. Klopp doesn’t have another 5 years in him to go through the process of getting Liverpool back up to City levels.
It’s well-publicised that the American ownership group want to sell out to a nation-state that can fund the rebuild. I wrote a couple of seasons ago that selling a club as massive as Liverpool would take a long time. Well, we’re in 2024 and there are still no concrete buyers. What does that mean for Liverpool? Well, it means there will not be the money needed to rebuild to the levels Klopp would demand.
I’m already reading people saying that Klopp has left the next manager in a great position to challenge for years ahead and I’m just not sure about that. As I said above, they have 3 worldies leaving very soon, and they are also having one of those slightly deceptive seasons where everything is going right for them. Ferguson left United in good shape, until he didn’t. I think Liverpool might be living in that world post-Klopp, and I think he knows that. The foundations aren’t as strong as many like to believe.
So what does this mean for the rest of this season?
If you are an old romantic, you’d imagine the players are going to have a private meeting and demand that everyone puts it in for the gaffer. One last chance for the boys. A royal send-off for a legend!
Except, that rarely happens in real life.
Alex Ferguson, one of the most dominant managers of the last 50 years, announced he was leaving United early, and the response was so bad that he had to postpone the date.
Arsene Wenger announced early. Fans were saying things like ‘I think this will bring the squad and fans together.’ It did not. It was a flatulent end to the season. It had all the romance of a fart in an Uber.
There are very few cases of nice send-offs because the nature of leadership in sports is delicate.
Players that don’t like the coach don’t need to put effort in.
Players that have been with the coach 7 years now don’t feel as committed. Their agents get in their ears. They are thinking about retirement moves.
Coaches that bow down to Lord Klopp now find themselves in uncertain times. Who stays? Who goes? Who has to work the politics game? The unease at people who have known for 5+ years they can rely on their job, now have to start thinking about the next move.
Now every bad result will be threaded through the lens of the coach leaving. Every press conference will have questions about Xabi Alonso. The club that has boasted ruthless stability now has none. The owners want out, the manager has quit, and the future of the great institution has a question mark against it.
Net / Net: This is probably a fairly decent thing for Arsenal.
Liverpool has to get so many things right in a very different environment to be a threat over the next 3 years.
Then you have City. I’m not sure Pep G will telegraph his exit. But it is highly unlikely he’ll still be there in 2 years time.
When the two beasts of an era are out at their clubs, a changing of the guard can happen, and I can’t see past Arsenal to be right in the mix for that.
We have a young squad that is still a way off peak, we’ll hopefully have a manager who has committed, and we’ll have a lot more experience as a squad. Namely, we’ll be able to manage Champions League and League runs together.
The key to a bright future is getting the summer right. The striker needs to be able to get 20 goals. The wingers need to be respectable back-up. The full backs are going to need to be able to last a season. Get this summer right, and anything is possible.
Ok, short post today. Let me know what you think in the comments! x