Jurgen Klopp has intimated that he intends to approach Liverpool’s FA Cup replay with Exeter in exactly the same manner as the first game at St James Park. But if he expects the same mish-mash of fringe players and youngsters to suddenly dictate proceedings now they’re back on home soil, he might be in for a nasty shock.
The German coach was clearly irked by certain aspects of the Reds’ performance down in Devon and believes the result will take care of itself if next time his troops execute the game plan better. But it’s possible the three-times German Cup finalist might be underestimating the depth of quality in this country, where a team from three divisions below can be far more competitive in a knockout scenario.
There’s evidently something charming and unique about Klopp in his manner and the way he motivates his own players but there are gaps in his knowledge on the finer points of English football. He’s learning on the job and making plenty of mistakes along the way. This one might just prove to be his most embarrassing.
Klopp’s gegenpressing philosophy, when successful, has been spectacular but results on the whole during his three months on Merseyside have been rather underwhelming, his cause not helped by the lack of pre-season conditioning and compounded by a punishing winter schedule. And we can rest assured these variables will be factored into Paul Tisdale’s strategy.
Tisdale is one of the shrewdest tacticians outside of the top two divisions, not a trailblazer by any stretch but pragmatic and innovative in his ability to negate many deficiencies. Even by League Two standards, Exeter’s resources are modest but the 43-year-old has a knack of making sure games are played on his terms and for years he’s been a reliable source of profits for underdog backers.
Against a strong Liverpool side playing to anything like an acceptable standard, the Tisdale factor would be imperceptible. But if Klopp sends out a similar team to the first game, then Tisdale and his spine of thirty-something seasoned pros can frustrate the Reds and the pressure might just force a crucial mistake out of somebody not quite ready for the responsibility of pulling on a Liverpool shirt.
Back the Grecians to qualify at 13/2 and don’t be afraid to take a stab on them doing the job inside 90 minutes at 12/1 as well. If Klopp changes his mind after Sunday’s defeat to Manchester United, taking the view that the FA Cup is suddenly a more realistic prospect than a top-four finish in the Premier League, then all you’ve done is back two outcomes at the correct price.
But if the German sticks to his guns and adopts a wholesale rotation policy, you could be getting some serious value.
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