🔴 EOTK Insider Opinion: Critics of Klopp's post-Burnley comments either missed the game or the nuance 🤷♂️
Klopp's become a target for critique once more after giving his verdict on the refereeing of Liverpool's clash with Burnley
Jurgen Klopp remains something of a misunderstood figure in the estimations of pundits.
Last season when he complained about the fixture schedule - a point a few of his fellow managers in the English top-flight concurred on - he was met with little in the way of support.
This time around, the German was left baffled by the lack of protection afforded to his players during Liverpool’s meeting with Sean Dyche’s hands-on Burnley outfit.
The Reds emerged from a 2-0 victory with three points and no further injuries to report, despite seeing the likes of Harvey Elliott, Joel Matip and Diogo Jota battered left, right and centre.
Given the club’s recent injury history, some might say they were lucky to leave Anfield with only Andy Robertson remaining on the sidelines.
Understandably, Klopp was far from happy with the lenient approach taken by Mike Dean at L4.
“I think it all started when we changed the rules 20 years ago to protect the player, you have no influence if you’re in the air, I don’t think it is right,” the 54-year-old said.
“You want to let the game flow but we have these situations, the second goal from Brentford must be a foul. You can’t link the arm of the goalie.
“There’s one message, let the game flow, no one knows exactly what that means. I’m not sure.
“I like decisions that favour the offensive team, that's fine. But we have to stick to protecting the players. We cannot deny that. If you like that sort of thing, watch wrestling.”
Much of the criticisms aimed against the handball law, not to mention with the general application of VAR last term, revolved around consistency and a lack of clarity.
If these were thought to be genuine concerns last year, one has to wonder why Klopp’s comments around officiating leniency haven’t been taken as seriously.
“Burnley is never a team where it’s flying or whatever,” Klopp added.
“We had to be ready for a proper fight which we were today in a proper game with challenges from Barnes, Wood, Virgil, Joel.
“I’m not sure we’re going in the right direction, it’s too dangerous.”
Much in the same theme as the 2020/21 campaign, the former Dortmund boss has continued to highlight player safety in discussions around the game.
Nonetheless, pundits took an opportunity to accuse the manager of “mind games” and over-sensitivity.
“When I saw the comments I thought it was a misprint. The game becoming too physical? The game is in danger of becoming hilarious,” Garth Crooks wrote for BBC Sport.
“If anything we had gone too far the other way with constant whistle blowing for fouls and we forgot that end-to-end game of football that is the Premier League - it's been a welcome addition to me,” Jermaine Jenas told BBC Radio 5 Live.
The pundit had earlier claimed, in agreement with Gary Lineker’s suggestion on Match of the Day, that Klopp was already thinking ahead to the clash with Chelsea and hoping to influence officials’ minds.
Has football suddenly lost all nuance?
Why must it be one or the other? Penalising soft fouls or letting challenges bordering on rugby tackles go unpunished?
The argument will be that ignoring such challenges kept the game flowing but what about Burnley’s wrestling manoeuvres screamed football exactly?
It’s not a choice between overbearing referees and free-flowing football. We can have both a relatively clean game with proper challenges and football that’s easy on the eye, surely?
After all, Klopp wasn’t calling for an end to leniency, in fact, quite the opposite.
Anyone who heard the German’s passionate exclamation after a superb move precipitated a third goal for Liverpool against Hoffenheim back in 2017 will know that the Reds’ boss lives and breathes free-flowing football.
Jurgen doesn’t see officiating as black or white - he just wants to see a bit of nuance when it comes to those kinds of heavy-handed challenges that were a frequent feature of our clash with Burnley.
At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves one simple question: would the sport suffer if these kinds of tackles (if they can be judged as such) were stamped out?
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