Talk Of Liverpool FC’s ‘Mentality Monster’ Decline Is Greatly Overstated

As a dejected Jurgen Klopp walked purposefully towards the Liverpool FC fans high up in the stands of the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium at the end of a 1-0 defeat the contrast to how the two-legged tie against Real Madrid couldn’t have been starker.

Three weeks earlier Anfield roared as the Reds raced into a 2-0 lead thanks to Darwin Nunez and then Mohamed Salah.

The momentum felt unstoppable and conjured memories of past Champions League routs of Manchester City and Barcelona which had secured progress in previous years.

But inexplicably the team imploded.

The two-goal lead was surrendered before half-time and three goals shipped after that effectively putting the tie to bed.

“We gave all five goals away, all five,” rued Klopp after the game.

“In our situation, it is really important we see positive steps and the first half, besides the two goals we conceded, was pretty much the best we played all season,” he added.

In many ways the first half against Madrid was a microcosm of Liverpool FC’s season; flashes of brilliance followed by frustrating inconsistency.

After putting an incredible seven goals past Manchester United, they then lost 0-1 to Bournemouth, who let’s not forget the Reds had beaten 9-0 earlier in the year.

The issue and how it had hampered the club’s ability to compete at the top of the league was Klopp mused on in the wake of the loss at the Bernabeu.

“It’s a strange one,” he told reporters, “our recent two games were a sensational performance against Manchester United – which is a real good team – and then a really bad performance against Bournemouth, which is a good team as well, but we should not lose this kind of game.”

“It put us then under more pressure. If we could have three points then everybody really could have felt, or smelled, our breath. But [instead] there is a distance again because other teams won their games.”

Real Madrid’s victory means with around two and a half months left in the season Liverpool has no possibility of silverware.

The contrast to last season couldn’t be more pronounced, back then the club was within one game of completing a historic quadruple.

Instead, the team faces a battle to compete in the Champions League next year.

The scale of the challenge is clear to Klopp: “That’s a massive task for us, we all know that,” the German said.

“With the history we have in this competition, we start usually with the idea of winning it, to be honest. We reached the final a few times. We didn’t win the final that often, that’s true, but we were there three times in the last few years. It is the competition and we want to be part of it every year,” he added.

Death of the ‘mentality monster?’

During last season’s run-in, Klopp coined an expression about the Liverpool FC players’ mindset which captured the media’s imagination.

“We are mentality monsters,” he said in the wake of an FA Cup final victory versus Chelsea.

It was an apt description, the team had just prevailed in its second trophy-winning penalty shootout of the season, a clear demonstration of the side’s fortitude.

And with every hard-fought victory, often involving a comeback after having conceded a goal, the phrase rang more true.

Even though the season ultimately ended in disappointment, with near misses in both the Premier League and Champions League, there was a consensus this side had strength like few others.

But this season, where performances have been well under par, the ‘mentality monsters’ tag has been twisted against Klopp and his team.

‘Liverpool go from mentality monsters to hiding under the duvet’ screamed one of many headlines ‘How Klopp’s ‘mentality giants’ became also-rans in the space of five months’ cried another.

As ever, the judgments handed out by such articles spoke of a fundamental shift, evidence the strength of character had been shed.

“Were they the last great days of a magnificent dynasty? The passing of time has given it that sort of appearance,” the Daily Mail wrote of the mentality monsters run in.

“Of course, betting against Jurgen Klopp is only marginally less daft than burning your cash outright, and yet the current stink feels worse than at any other time since he found his feet at Anfield,” the paper added.

The most commonly presented solution to the so-called crisis has been a squad overhaul to replace aging stars. Huge figures have been quoted for big-name signings supposed to remedy the decline.

This talk ignores the far greater evidence suggesting this is not the end of an era, but a moment of transition.

An honest examination of the club’s major acquisitions of the past two years; Darwin Nunez, Cody Gakpo, Ibrahima Konaté and Luis Diaz suggests there is plenty to be positive about.

All have demonstrated the potential to reach the levels of legendary players like Sadio Mane or Virgil Van Dijk, they simply aren’t quite there yet and playing in a side that’s not fully settled.

Teams in terminal decline do not destroy sides like Manchester United 7-0 or earn victories against Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.

There is also the considerable mitigation of a season disrupted by a World Cup and which has followed an exhaustive season where the club played more games than any other.

If we find Liverpool in a similar state in a year, then maybe we can talk about the death of the mentality monsters, until then let’s give Jurgen Klopp the benefit of the doubt.

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