ROBBIE FOWLER COLUMN: I’m looking at Klopp vs Guardiola, and I can see so many similarities with Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger… without the naked hostility of course!
This is a statement contest, as big as they will get in deciding the destination of the title… two modern giants going toe to toe.
I’m talking about Liverpool and Manchester City of course, but I could equally be talking about the two managers, who must now surely be recognised as the current best in the world and already perhaps among the greats.
I’m looking at Klopp v Guardiola, and I can see so many similarities with Ferguson and Wenger… without the naked hostility of course!
It’s trite and simplistic to compare Klopp with Fergie and Guardiola to Wenger, but there are constants.
Management is about systems, tactical knowledge, technical expertise, yes.
But it’s also about motivation and inspiration, the man-management side of it is still so important.
Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Both have it but Klopp is a master just as Ferguson was in my day.
He really knew how to get the best out of his players, and I must admit I was always a bit envious of that.
You kind of wish you played for one of the great managers… even if he was at a club you hated!
And I can guarantee there will be so many top-class players now who would love to play for Klopp. I’m thinking Kylian Mbappe, for a start.
He gets the best out of players –knows what works with them, knows how to improve them, knows how to use their talents to the full.
That’s what you want as a player. Guardiola is slightly more Wenger. Don’t get me wrong, Klopp and Ferguson are and were great tacticians.
No way could you win what they have without having that technical side. I think both are underrated in that respect, despite their huge reputations generally.
But Guardiola is almost clinical in his thinking, so defined in his approach that sometimes he can appear to lack the human side. I don’t doubt the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic believe that, and many other players too.
Yet he is a genius, no doubt.
Like Wenger, he has ideas on the game that take him beyond most mortals, things that if not ground-breaking, are wider in vision than most coaches can manage.
So different personalities, but the same traits. They are different.
They are special. More special than the Special One. They are at the summit of the game, and it will be a pleasure to watch them go up against each other again. Guardiola said this weekend he believes Klopp has made him a better manager, and I know Jurgen reciprocates that.
Speaking to him, he has real admiration for his rival.
They bring the best from each other. You look at their record head to head, and it’s nine wins apiece. It’s almost as though one wins a game, then the other goes away and comes up with a new plan to hit back.
That’s why it will be mouth-watering today.
Of course the title won’t be decided in this game, no chance, we’re a million miles away from that.
But I say it’s a statement game because the winner will be sending out a huge message.
They are the two best teams of this era. Chelsea may dispute that, but over the past three or four years, no doubt they are head and shoulders above. I can’t see that changing this season.
So what will we get? It will be pulsating for a start. So intense you won’t be able to breathe – even in the stands. That is a guarantee.
If either side is not hyper intense, they’ll be blown away – just as City were in their remarkable Champions League quarter-final in 2018.
Then we’ll have two managers with tactical intelligence, no doubt coming up with nuance that will make this game different from the others. That could mean it is thrilling, or perhaps stilted, as a couple have been.
Either way, it will be fascinating. And decisive. The two managers have competed against each other 21 times and there have only been three draws. Think about it, that’s a remarkable statistic because when teams are so close they almost always draw.
So who will win? I’m putting my Liverpool allegiance aside, honest!
But I can see there being a deciding factor. The Kop.
They have been away for so long, and the thing they have missed the most are games like this.
The atmosphere at Anfield will be madness. It will be off the scale.
That for me can be the deciding factor.
City are a brilliant team. They demolished Chelsea, they are the team to beat this season. Obviously.
But it doesn’t matter how brilliant you are, when the explosions are going off in 3D all around, it can melt even the tungsten mind.
So I’m backing the Kop to make the biggest statement of all. And if they do, then you just know Pep will be even more motivated to respond with something special afterwards.