Do Reds need a new project - or pragmatism? KRISTIAN WALSH LOOKS AT WHETHER LIVERPOOL WOULD BE BEST WITH A LONG-TERM VISION OR SHORT-TERM DESIRE.
IFE can be binary. Good or evil, right or wrong, Eastenders or Coronation Street.
LNo surprise this is reflected in football, then. Pass or shoot, keep or sell, stay or go.
But there is one dilemma most clubs with designs of success must deal with.
Pragmatism or project. Two buzzwords in the modern game, admittedly. Sometimes, they don't actually mean anything, and are simply spurted out by men in suits to feign intelligence and knowledge.
But for this Liverpool, the Liverpool of 2015, it is a very real choice that has to be made.
Pragmatism would entail the club's owners, FSG, deciding to achieve their goals at any cost. Appoint a manager who deals in the short-term and can get as much from the squad in the shortest way possible. Get the results now, and think of the potential consequences later. Jose Mourinho, or even Carlo Ancelotti, could be considered pragmatic choices.
A project, however, would be just that. It was what Brendan Rodgers took on in 2012. It is about transition, potential. It is a process, a continuous edging towards the eventual goal, and doing it with both eyes fixated on the future. It is, very much, the overriding manner in which Rodgers and Liverpool operated over the past three years.
Liverpool are confident of appointing a manager who doesn't really fit into either, somehow.
Jurgen Klopp comes with the experience of managing - and succeeding - with the project of rebuilding Borussia Dortmund from scratch, turning prospects into world-beaters. He also comes with the pragmatism, however, of being a proven winner, with a number of trophies, and a coach who has the potential to yield instant results. It will be fascinating to see if the German is expected to juggle both. If he is to be handed a three-year deal, as expected, then it points to a little bit of both, given his capabilities. Rodgers, of course, was handed a similar contract, with his remit much more focused on the project.
Which fork in the road should Liverpool take under Klopp? An ideal scenario sees both immediate results and also moves towards the long-term vision. But, to quote the previous incumbent, it would be like building an aircraft while in flight.
Here are the positives and negatives to focusing on either pragmatism or the project.
Pragmatism pros A quick solution: For Liverpool, there seems to be no better time for moving back into the top four - or even challenging for the title. Chelsea's start has been so awful, Jose Mourinho is close to resorting to hand-puppets to distract us from just how bad it has been.
Elsewhere, Manchester United were simply the best of a bad bunch when beating the Reds at Old Trafford in September, Arsenal can be fragile and even Manchester City were stumbling before Newcastle.
Extracting the best out of the players right here, right now, could set up a stronger foundation for the future.
More attractive to players: It is wrong to correlate pragmatism with success. Appointing Sam Allardyce and launching balls into the air would not equate to many trophies. However, if a team is playing well and showing obvious signs of immediate progress, it would make the club more attractive to potential signings.
It is a lot harder to sell the idea of something that might happen, rather than something that is already happening. Players, established ones at that, will see it as an opportunity to be a part of a successful team.
Give supporters what they want: The Kop can be an understandable bunch, granted. But game after game of OK performances, with two steps forward and two steps back, can rightly frustrate. When paying big money for tickets, it's hard to see the bigger picture.
An attempt at instant success, however, would lift the crowd.
Pragmatism cons Disregards the future: Several clubs over the past decade demonstrate what happens if the future is not contemplated. Run players into the ground, do everything - financially - to achieve objectives and, if it comes up short, ruin could await.
It creates problems both on and off the pitch. The pressure increases on the club to deliver, and that could lead to desperation in trying to chase objectives.
No real plan: What happens when pragmatism goes wrong? A team can always play the way a manager wants to, but there is no underlying structure. If that manager leaves, the next could come in and want completely different players who play a totally different style. No long-term plan is harmful for a club. Even if a pragmatic approach is successful, nothing lasts forever - and the club would not be prepared for that eventuality.
No way back: Once a club adopts a short-term approach, it is hard to change into a more longterm outlook.
Players, ageing ones at that, are on bigger contracts and would have to be removed; that would take time.
The club would also have a reputation of being rooted in the present. In a sport that is always moving, it is dangerous.
Project pros Long-term stability: By creating a platform at the club, with ideals to uphold, it ensures everybody at the club - in theory - recognises what it is necessary to do. It means players will be signed with a certain style in mind, and that those brought up through the youth system develop in the proper way.
This holistic approach - if applied properly - ensures the club has a coherent vision. It should make them stronger for it, and lead to more sustained success in the future.
LIVE the best news Value: With an eye forever .co.
on the future, that will affect transfer strategy, to a degree. Younger players with plenty of potential will be sought. That, ultimately, can be risky - but it also offers the prospect of finding a few superstars of tomorrow for small fees.
The problem, perhaps, comes when they are eventually sold for a massive fee years later. But, though uncovering young talent is never easy, it can be much cheaper than purchasing a ready-made star.
Attractive to players: Much like how pragmatism will attract a certain calibre of player, so too will a club that believes in the long-term. If a coach and club gain a reputation for extracting potential and making players better, youngsters will want to learn their trade there.
In truth, it is a much safer bet - money-wise, at least - than big contracts for short-term hits.
LFC Project cons Missed opportunities: A project cannot, necessarily, be sped up. If creating a squad bit by bit, waiting for it to mature, it becomes harder to adapt to circumstance. If teams above are struggling, it is difficult to change from a team founded reDS wire liverpoolecho uk/lfc on "What if?" into instant winners. That can lead to frustration. A spot in the top four, or even better, could pass by.
Reputation: Taking a long-term view is not always regarded as a positive. It can lead to the reputation of nearly men, of a team who will always be just below the required quality to succeed.
Unfair, perhaps. Rodgers' side in 2013-14, and Klopp's wonderful work at Dortmund, show that it can be done and that players will be attracted to "the project". But it will also rule a fair few out, too, who do not want to spend years building up a side from the start.
Lingering sense of doom: A bit dramatic, granted, but looking towards the future can always feel slightly hopeless - especially at Liverpool. The brass ring will always be in sight, but also out of reach.
The work under FSG of signing players who could become even better at Anfield worked so well in 2013-14.
And then, within 12 months, both Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling left. Bought for around PS23m combined, the pair yielded returns of five times that amount. Nothing can ever be complete when building a team like this, as Klopp himself discovered at Dortmund as Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowksi moved to Bayern.
If not implemented properly, nothing is forever on the pitch.
The ideal scenario sees both immediate results and also moves towards a long-term vision. But it would be like building an aircraft while in flight