The Reds host Tottenham on Sunday in an important fixture for the top-four battle, as they bid to qualify for the Champions League for a second consecutive season. But a trophy has so far eluded Klopp during his two-and-a-half years at Anfield and, although they remain in the Champions League, the recent FA Cup loss to West Brom ended their hope of domestic silverware this term.
The question has to be: ‘Is OK good enough for Liverpool?’
Liverpool were beaten in the finals of the League Cup and Europa League in Klopp’s first season in charge, and former Reds midfielder Hamann says the jury is still out on his fellow German’s tenure as boss.
“They’ve had some outstanding games – if you go back one or two years when they had those wins away to City and Chelsea, they were outstanding performances,” Hamann tells FourFourTwo. “But if you look at the tenure of a manager, you look at the points average and the cup competitions, and I’ve got to say he’s done OK – nothing more. The question has to be: ‘Is OK good enough for Liverpool?
“I don’t think the fans will put up with mediocrity for an awful lot longer. In his tenure there have been two cup finals lost, a semi-final lost against Southampton over two legs, and Liverpool is about winning.
“I’m not sure what the owners want and what their targets are, whether being in the Champions League is good enough for them. All I know is that for the fans it isn’t, and I think the club has to be very careful how long the fans will put up with it after the defeats they’ve had recently.
“Fans don’t turn quickly in Liverpool but when they do, they do – and this is why the game against Spurs is doubly important. First and foremost it will be important not to lose that game, and if they can beat a direct opponent, that would be a huge boost. But also in terms of the atmosphere around the club after recent results, that game is probably worth more than three points.
“In Jurgen Klopp’s first press conference as Liverpool manager, he said: ‘If I don’t win a trophy in the four years I signed for, I won’t be here at the end of it.’ We are near enough three years in now, he obviously extended his contract so things have changed a little bit, but Liverpool is about winning.
“He’s got to win a trophy. At the start of the season, I said that probably this year or next year, he had to do that. I think that the Champions League is hard to win this year, but next year they’ve got to win a trophy – full stop.”
I always say that good teams find a way to win and average teams find a way not to win, or to lose
Hamann helped Liverpool win two FA Cups, two League Cups, the UEFA Cup and the Champions League during seven years at Anfield between 1999 and 2006. He believes the current team lack the winning mentality they had in those days.
“He’s got to instil a mentality which wins games when the chips are down,” the 44-year-old says. “Liverpool’s problem has been that they’ve been in finals and semi-finals over the last 10 years, but I always say that good teams find a way to win and average teams find a way not to.
Premier League challenge
“That has been the common theme and that hasn’t changed with Klopp – it was part of the reason he came in. He’s lost two finals and a semi-final, and they’ve lost to Wolves and to West Brom in the FA Cup. It’s simply not good enough because it’s hard to compete over 38 games with Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, so the cup competitions are their best chance.
“Going back to my time, we gained a lot of confidence from these cup competitions. We ended up winning one or two and that gave us the confidence to win the UEFA Cup and in the end the Champions League, because the more often you’re in these situations, you find out about players if you see belief and you see trust.
“I think the team lacks belief and I don’t blame them in a way, because they’ve just been losing too many crunch games. They beat [Manchester] City recently in one of the most fantastic games, so they know that in a one-off match they can do it. But that was a league game. They need to do it in a knockout game and it comes down to mentality and mental strength – and not only the last two seasons, I think it’s been a problem for the last decade.
“When the chips are down, that team has always found a way to lose games, and that’s not Liverpool.”