Ridiculed in some quarters, praised in others, Jurgen Klopp’s decision to gather all his players around him, in front of the famous Kop, to celebrate a 2-2 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion has divided the football community.
Football is an emotional game which prompts instant reactions; one that makes hindsight worthless. Statistics, player movement and individual contributions can all be analysed post-match; so too can emotion. However, while technical ability can be improved, it is harder to change the nature of a person.
Klopp is an emotional manager. He is a manager that wears his heart on his sleeves. A manager that loves to hug his players, celebrate goals and, well, shout expletives if things go against his team.
There is no doubting that Klopp is a great coach and motivator. However, we witnessed on Sunday that he is also prone to moments of pure unadulterated natural passion.
During the match, Klopp became increasingly irritated by the way in which his opponents had gone about their business at Anfield. Prior to parading his players in front of the Kop to acknowledge the Liverpool support, the German clashed angrily with Baggies boss Tony Pulis and his assistant Mark O’Connor.
His reaction on Sunday was not about revelling in a point at home to West Bromwich Albion. It was about building a rapport with the fans and restoring Anfield as a fortress.
Since his arrival Klopp has spoken about many times about the fans; he has expressed his love of the Kop, he has being videoed learning ‘scouse”, he has even criticised them, doing so after they left early during the 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace in November.
He is building a relationship with them and getting them behind the team. Many observers have commented, including Les Lawson chairman of the Liverpool Supporters’ Club Merseyside Branch, about the poor atmosphere that has existed at Anfield for some time. This was Klopp’s way of helping to remove that.
Ultimately, of course, results will define Klopp’s tenure but the Reds needs the fans behind them if they are to make teams fearful of coming to Anfield.
West Brom joined a list that has included Norwich, West Ham and Crystal Palace in coming to Anfield and leaving with a result – in the case of the Hammers and the Eagles, all three points.
While it would appear that Liverpool have quickly mastered the art of beating bigger names on the road, as exemplified by their wins at Chelsea and Manchester City, dropping points at home to perceived smaller teams won’t lead to titles.
Klopp knows this, the players know this, and the fans know this. By aligning the three together and building a strong relationship – a real team – Liverpool will go about making Anfield a fearful venue again.
It was also not the first time he had done it and it won’t be the last.
Thanking fans is a German custom. Klopp performed the same act with his former club, Borussia Dortmund, on a number of occasions at the Westfalenstadion’s ‘Yellow Wall’. It worked. Borussia Dortmund under Klopp lost just 14 games at home since the 2011/12 season.
On Sunday, for large parts of the game, Liverpool played like a Brendan Rodgers team. Plenty of possession and loads of shots but without real penetration. However, had this game been played earlier in the season Liverpool would not have come from 2-1 down to grab a point.
That is the Klopp difference.
There is no doubt Liverpool are improving. If even the master of inspiring a goal deep in injury time, Sir Alex Ferguson, is fearful of the impact Klopp can make, then the Reds are clearly on to something.