EVER since Jurgen Klopp’s big news, there has been loads of talk about incentive — and it will be the same again on Sunday at the Emirates.
Well, I certainly won’t argue with those saying it plays a major part when Arsenal and Liverpool meet — just probably not in the way most think.
Because whatever the driving force there is to win the Premier League for Klopp in his last season — and I’ll come back to that — the motivation for Arsenal is even greater.
If the Gunners lose to the leaders, they really can forget about the title. They would be eight points behind Liverpool and the gap would be too large.
Even at this stage, they could forget about a serious challenge for another season.
See what I mean now about who has the biggest incentive?
Not that I actually go along with the idea that sending Klopp back to Germany as a title winner is the biggest motivation for anyone in the Liverpool dressing room in any case.
Take it from me, the players won’t be sitting around saying, ‘We’ve got to win it for the gaffer’ as much as people might think.
First, they will want to do it for themselves, believe me. For the club, the fans and the manager as well, for sure — but for themselves above everything else.
They were motivated to win the league at the start of the season and they won’t be any more so now Klopp’s announced he is off.
Plenty of great managers have left Liverpool before. Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Kenny Dalglish… and the story has always stayed the same. Titles, titles, titles.
So although the next man in has a difficult job, it is also a brilliant one. Managing one of the biggest clubs in the world but one that has been up there all season, not just now.
Klopp leaving means the start of another era. But whether it’s Xabi Alonso, Roberto De Zerbi or whoever, the story stays the same.
The main thing for the players is proving they should be part of it, because there are bound to be changes. If not, everyone would be saying it is still Klopp’s team.
That’s why I think people got the wrong end of the stick with what Virgil van Dijk meant when he said he didn’t know if he’d still be part of things next season.
There was no hidden message in his words. He genuinely didn’t, and doesn’t, know — any more than any of them do.
It certainly wasn’t a warning that he was about to go as well.
The new manager might come in and say, ‘I don’t fancy him’ or, ‘I want a player who can do something else’.
I understand the old ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ brigade but one or two changes are definite, so every player will be determined to show it shouldn’t be them.
When you talk of an incentive at Anfield, that’s the greatest of all and there is no doubt Liverpool are in this race all the way to the finishing post.
But Arsenal are determined they’ll still be there come the final furlong, which means getting on Sunday.
I can just about see them edging it, even though I would not put my house on it. But it should be a cracker.
So how do the Gunners beat a team that gave Chelsea a going-over in midweek, although Mauricio Pochettino’s lot were as poor as Liverpool were brilliant?
Well, for me it will be down to the wide men, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, who can cause problems for anyone.
Whether Klopp goes with Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold from the off is a key decision. Both have had a few minutes off the bench but are they fit enough to start?
It’s a huge call, as well as young Conor Bradley has done at right-back.
But it’s not just about Saka and Martinelli.
Martin Odegaard is a technically fantastic player and Arsenal are a lot stronger at the back these days.
I know Liverpool won at the Emirates in the FA Cup but they got battered that day and nicked it near the end.
Arsenal had a couple of setbacks against Fulham and West Ham but they’re a good team, believe me.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Klopp’s smile slipped a bit on Sunday afternoon.