Jürgen Klopp was right about rule change and Liverpool will hardly believe Man City reality
Liverpool has had to endure ridiculous claims that Jürgen Klopp is getting favorable treatment on his ‘farewell tour’, but the Man City truth speaks volumes.
If Jürgen Klopp returns to football after his sabbatical, what kind of landscape will he come back to find? If the Liverpool boss only takes a year out, perhaps little will have changed, but a longer stint away from the game could see seismic changes.
The 115 Premier League charges against Manchester City might have reached some sort of conclusion by then, for one thing. The verdict has the potential to not only reshape the perception of Klopp’s legacy at Liverpool, but also significantly alter the power dynamic at the top of European football moving forward, depending on the findings of the independent panel.
It seems likely that semi-automated offside technology will have become ubiquitous. The Premier League is currently among the hold-outs, but Klopp and plenty of others have been frustrated by lengthy checks — and Liverpool was on the receiving end of VAR’s darkest hour when the manual element of the process went pear-shaped and Luis Díaz was denied a legitimate goal against Spurs, although it’s worth noting that partial automation would not necessarily have prevented the ‘check complete’ confusion.
What about blue cards? Klopp has made it pretty clear that he is not in favor, but while they are only a proposal for now, they could theoretically make it to the elite level of the sport in the not-too-distant future. The Telegraph, who initially reported the story about blue cards being considered, said the following day that football’s lawmakers had been spooked by the public reaction and had since rowed back on the idea, at least for now.
Klopp expressed his gratitude that the sin-bin system was not in place for the game against Burnley. “Just imagine this game today, because we are in the middle of the blue card [discussion], that would’ve been the Wild West!” he said, via This is Anfield. “Honestly, the cards would’ve flown. For a moment there would’ve been seven players on the pitch because everybody has a sin bin with a blue card.”
It’s not clear that many of the bookings brandished in the game would have been converted to blue cards under the proposed new system, but Klopp’s wider point stands up. With the sanction in place, Liverpool’s season would have looked vastly different: the Reds would have clocked up 31 sin bins altogether, according to The Athletic.
That’s more than five hours’ worth of sin bins, with more than one blue card per game on average. Nine would have been dished out for dissent, with 22 coming as a result of tactical fouls.
This exposes the ludicrousness of the recent proposals; trials at grassroots level have used the sin bin exclusively for dissent, but it’s clear that tacking on the tactical foul element would have vastly greater consequences. That’s true for every side in the league, not just Liverpool.
The entire fabric of the sport would be altered by adopting the proposals, with full games of 11-vs-11 becoming a rarity. The consequences are not entirely predictable, but you can imagine these mismatched periods becoming tortuous affairs as managers set up to waste time and cling on until back to a full quota.
But one thing Liverpool will struggle to believe is just how disproportionately it would have been affected by blue cards had they been in place this season. Only Sheffield United — the team with the lowest average possession in the league, and therefore having far more time to commit fouls — would have seen more players sent to the sin bin.
Meanwhile, Manchester City is right at the other end of the spectrum. It would have picked up just three blue cards for dissent, and another 12 for tactical fouls, both league joint-lows.
To put that another way, Manchester City has been picking up yellow cards for dissent and tactical fouls far less often than Liverpool. The introduction of the blue card would make that a bigger problem, but even as things stand, it will surely come as a surprise to Klopp.
After all, Manchester City has Rodri, the master of the tactical foul. Admittedly, he is responsible for a big chunk of the sin bins Pep Guardiola’s side would have received, but he is not the only one prone to stopping counter-attacks.
The clever foul is baked into Guardiola’s playbook. He knows that on the rare occasion Manchester City loses control of the ball, it is vulnerable; the first port of call when that happens is to halt the opponent’s progress. Yet the numbers suggest that Liverpool commits these offenses almost twice as often.
The relative lack of bookings for dissent will also be hard for Liverpool to stomach. One of just three Man City yellow cards for this offence went to Erling Haaland, as he absolutely screamed into the referee’s face after a failure to play advantage as Jack Grealish bared down on goal against Spurs. Had there been any consistency, that would have yielded a ban like the one given to Virgil van Dijk after he made a scene against Newcastle, but that never materialized.
There’s no grand conspiracy, but after it was revealed recently that Liverpool has been the worst-affected by VAR errors this season, Klopp would be justified in feeling he has been fighting against a headwind as he looks to bow out on the highest of highs. With the blue card in play, it truly would have been the Wild West.