Boyhood Liverpool fan Sean Dyche admits he is puzzled by Jurgen Klopp’s comments on tackling - and ponders if the Reds have gone soft.
Klopp felt Burnley were “aggressive” after Joe Gomez was stretchered off in the first half of Liverpool’s 3-1 win at Turf Moor, following a sliding challenge from Ben Mee.
Mee won the ball cleanly, but Klopp said: “When players are sliding in like that it can get dangerous, because of the speed, and somebody has to say stop with these tackles.
“I said after the first challenge, I don’t know who did it, sliding tackle from six or seven yards, getting the ball, everybody likes it, I said to the ref ‘it’s no foul but please tell them you cannot do that’.
“But with six or seven yards and then (slide), these times are over. They are over.”
And Dyche, brought up on players of the likes of Tommy Smith and Graeme Souness as a youngster - who certainly weren’t afraid to mix it - wonders what that side would make of the simulation from Daniel Sturridge to win a free kick in a key area in the first half.
He said: “I was a little confused. I think he said something to the effect – I might have this wrong - that there was a sliding tackle from some distances that everyone liked, and it was a good tackle, but you’re not allowed to do it, even though everyone liked it.
“And then I (Klopp) went to see the referee, and everyone liked it, and it’s a fair tackle, but you shouldn’t do that tackle.
“I couldn’t make out what part of that was right and wrong.
“What I would say is this, and I think it’s important to register: there were some excellent tackles last night.
“I think the only one that was questionable was Bardo’s (Phil Bardsley) on (Alberto) Moreno, I think Ben Mee’s was a fantastic tackle.
“I imagine a player who seems to be an honest player, in Gomez, realised that.
“That was the message we got after. We send him our best if any injury has occurred, but it wasn’t from a bad tackle.
“He didn’t reference Daniel Sturridge’s cheating when he went down, nothing near him, and he got a free-kick for it.
“The point of bringing it up is this: I watched Liverpool as a kid, I was a Liverpool fan growing up in the 70s, and when I grew up watching them, they had a fantastic side, of skill, will demand and a physical edge.
“Now if that’s gone – or if suggestibility is saying you’re not allowed to make the tackles our lads made last night – and been replaced by cheating, I’m absolutely happy to be old fashioned.”
Diving is a bug bear for Dyche, who continued: “There’s no way I’d want to not see good proper professionals challenging in the manner that ours did last night, and replace it with cheating.
“There is too much cheating in the Premier League. I’ve said it time and time again.
“I can’t believe Jurgen Klopp or Liverpool fans would want cheating in the game, and sacrifice the good, honest challenges that were there last night – and I don’t believe they do.
“I don’t believe that’s the way football wants to be. Our lads went about their business terrifically last night and everyone else apart from the manager seemed to agree.
“The media said we went about it the right way, tried to take on the game, tried to win a football match. I didn’t see anything in it other than players trying to win a football match, and showing the will, courage and demand to try to win a football match against one of the top sides in the country.”
Asked whether managers have the right to ask for protection, Dyche accepted: “They have the right to do what they wish. I’m not saying Jurgen Klopp’s view is wrong. I’m just giving you my view.
“Of course, football managers can question whatever they want, but I don’t think they can reinvent the rules though.
“Unless I’ve lost my mind, the rules are that if you make a fair and honest challenge, and you’re in control of that challenge, than it’s just a fair and honest challenge.
“And the challenges last night, other than one, were in control, and to really high professional standards.
“These are professional athletes. These are people who can control their movement.
“Never more so than in the modern game. The amount of strength and conditioning, the amount of movement patterns they have in training, the amount of detail in terms of mobility and balance, are at an incredible level now. They can definitely control their actions.
“I thought our lads did that really well last night. Most footballers do. I don’t think many fans want to see tackling go out of game. I’d be amazed if many fans want to see tackling go out of the game. Especially fair tackling.”
And Dyche thinks his side - who haven’t had a player sent off for almost two years - could be more physical in their approach: “I think year on year we’ve been low on bookings and sendings off since I’ve been here, so we can’t be that physical, I don’t know how you judge that.
“We get the long ball thing. Last week, we had that against Newcastle. We had 478 passes against Newcastle. It’s nearly impossible to be just kicking it down the pitch when you have 478 passes, and we get accused of long ball. I’m more than happy for my players to mix the play. That’s not a problem.
“The perception against the fact is often different. The game is 22 high powered athletes playing football so it’s highly unlikely there won’t be physical contact. I still think fans prefer that to people diving all over the place. I have to make clear that we’re not talking about gamesmanship. Gamesmanship is clever play. It’s been there forever. I don’t mind that at all.
“I’m talking about blatant diving, as one of their players did last night, with no contact and got a free-kick. That can’t be right at any level. I would rather see physical football than cheating football. Definitely. I’d be amazed if there are fans out there who don’t agree.”
Is there a danger Burnley will get a reputation and influence referees, however?: “That’s up to them. It’s not up to me. I would say we haven’t been physical enough this season.
“Tackle count is down and blocking’s down. I don’t remember getting beaten by Man City and saying it’s a disgrace they’ve had 800 passes. We’ve got find a way of winning a game.
“We were way off the mark at Palace and were decent again last night. We have to do what we have to do to get results.”