When an orchestra plays behind the conductor, it has the room to produce a more expressive sound and with Jurgen Klopp holding the baton at Liverpool, his team is music to our ears.
A lot of talk of quadruples being floated all of a sudden, predominantly by people on the outside of Liverpool Football Club, and across the media. Par for the course, I suppose, if you’re Jurgen Klopp, you’ve just won the League Cup and you still have a vested interest in all three of the other competitions your players are involved in.
There is a fine line between lowering expectations and tempering them, and Klopp is a master of the latter.
It always used to be said of Roy Hodgson that he made a very healthy living out of lowering expectations, of making mediocrity an achievement. Set the bar low and when you clear it, despite having clipped it with your trailing foot, then you have attained your goal.
Klopp propagates his own version of this, where he sets the bar very high and then tries to diffuse the situation by saying that he and his team will see what they can do about it. Here comes your man, he is a master at cranking up the mood music but normalising the expanding landscape.
Expectation lowered for those on the outside looking in, from where they are the recipients of the most spectacular sucker punch. For examples of this, see Gary Neville’s comments a couple of days ago about how he admitted he had been wrong to write off Klopp and his team, plus that often recycled list of BBC Sport football talking heads and their predictions for the season ahead, back in August.
Everything Klopp’s Liverpool does is extraordinary, but his players remain grounded. The complex parts of the game that they so astonishingly pull off with such apparent ease stem from them doing the basics exceptionally well.
Liverpool are a football club where the throttle is set to full all the time; even when they are idling along, it always feels like they will hit the accelerator whenever the need arises.
There is a little bit of the Black Francis about the concept. Lead member of the wonderful musical entity, Pixies, he was recently asked in an interview how he managed to look after his voice and his throat given the vocals he so often rips of his mouth, in the name of his own artistic output.
These are strained and punishing songs that demand much of the singer’s voice. Francis spoke of a tactic he had learned from an opera singer, in which you can create the illusion of taking your voice box to its very limits, while in reality you only stretch it to around 70% of its capabilities.
In footballing terms, Klopp does a bit of this from time to time. Excellence on the surface that is cleverly managed internally, saving something in the tank for the next massive gig, whether that’s an important three points in the Premier League, a big European occasion, a domestic cup final, or headline act at Glastonbury on Sunday night.
Ten changes were made against Norwich City from the team that took to the pitch at Wembley to win the League Cup final, but you’d never have known it, not with the manner in which those on duty linked.
A few weeks ago, I spoke of the importance of Liverpool’s spine, but when push comes to shove, Klopp can construct multiple spines with what is quite possibly the strongest squad the club has ever had.
On Sunday afternoon, that spine was Caoimhin Kelleher, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, and Sadio Mane, while on Wednesday evening it was Alisson, Ibrahima Konate, Jordan Henderson, and Divock Origi. It will be a combination of the two when we face the visit of West Ham United on Saturday. We are spoilt for choice.
Liverpool did enough to get past Norwich and into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, and despite the visitors’ late endeavours to make an unexpected match of it there was never a genuine sense of peril about the situation.
Our continued presence in the competition will be dependent upon the variables of the luck of the draw and just what tasks Klopp and his players are faced with either side of the game. The FA Cup is certainly there to win though.
Takumi Minamino was the standout hero from the periphery in this one, with two well-taken goals and an assured performance, the first brilliantly set up by a marvellous bit of Origi subtlety.
It’s all set up for us to draw Southampton away, and for Taki to throw out some match-winning shapes against the team he spent time with on loan last season.
But next up comes a huge league game against one of only the two teams to inflict a domestic defeat on us so far this season, and one that will likely be a battle of attrition as there is no way that David Moyes will come to Anfield with notions of expansive football.
It will be a game that we will need to own, one which we will need to dictate. Win it, and Liverpool will reduce the gap to three points again just as the Manchester derby breaths down Pep Guardiola’s neck.
This weekend is the type of weekend upon which title races pivot in the most decisive of ways. In terms of atmosphere, Anfield was a bit subdued on Wednesday night, but we will need to raise our voices and do our part on Saturday.