A welcome dose of bluntness in a world of anodyne responses, or the discourteous belittling of a man simply doing his job? The matter in question is Jurgen Klopp's tetchy post-match interview with Sky Sports' Geoff Shreeves, and your answer will unavoidably be shaped by your sentiment towards Liverpool Football Club and their outstanding manager. Welcome back petty controversy, oh how we have missed you.
"You ask me? Why you ask me if we had decent chances?," Klopp said after his team's 4-0 defeat an Manchester City. In response to a later question, he added: "If you want to lead this story in the direction that we weren't here with our focus on that game then do it. You have asked the second time about attitude. I liked my team... I said that and I thought it was clear."
Fatally trivial though this episode may be, it does give us pause to consider the post-match interview as a vehicle for entertainment, interactions between much-loved stars and the media and what fans - who are the audience being indirectly addressed - desire from these brief moments of communication.
It is plain to see why broadcasters covet flash interviews soon after the final whistle. Questions in pre-match interviews are restricted to line-and-length subjects such as team news and tactics (which managers never reveal). All outcomes are still possible, managers are optimistic, everyone is relaxed and these few minutes of filler generally pass without incident. Post-match interviews, on the other hand, are crucibles for anger, perceived injustice, ludicrous excuses and wild conspiracy theories. Pre-match interviews are the 7pm pleasantries over gin and tonics; post-match interviews the meandering arguments over port and nuts at the close of play.
They have blessed us with some of the most memorable off-pitch rants of the Premier League era: Ron Atkinson hurling his headphones at an unsuspecting Sky Sports runner; Kenny Dalglish writhing in the face of Shreeves' (excellent) interrogation after Luis Suarez refused Patrice Evra's hand; Sir Alex Ferguson describing a question as "absolute b-------" on air; Harry Redknapp's "I'm not a wheeler-dealer, f--- off" chipiness, and that's before we start on Jose Mourinho, who commands his own volume.
"I saw a brilliant attitude. I saw boys who were fighting with all their effort." 💪— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) July 2, 2020
Listen to Jurgen Klopp's thoughts following Liverpool's heavy defeat to Manchester City 👇 pic.twitter.com/gkgyA3uxRb
Even on Match of the Day, avuncular types such as Roy Hodgson and Arsene Wenger have snapped. The former Arsenal manager was needlessly terse with Jacqui Oatley after a home draw with Wolves, while Hodgson once demanded an interview be restarted, employing a phrase well-honed on the streets of his native south London: "Now let's not take the p--- here."
When writing about managers' media strategy it is impossible to ignore the influence of Ferguson, who took the view that every big match began in his press conference. Ferguson was undoubtedly a master communicator and won almost all of those famous 'mind games', but there is a risk of assuming the word of every manager is loaded with cunning and political significance. Mourinho has received the benefit of the doubt in this regard, with every outburst attributed to 'deflection' tactics in service of a greater masterplan. Often, these frissons of emotion are simply what happens when obsessive perfectionists - high on adrenaline - lose their rag; more impetuous than Machiavellian.
Klopp is another emotional, heart-on-sleeve, sort who was ticked off by suggestions Liverpool had not taken the game seriously. He had a point. Had Liverpool approached the game slackly, it would have shown in the early stages when they were more than competitive and unfortunate not to score. The whole issue of Liverpool's celebrations has been subject to some bizarre mental contortions: one moment they had shown iron discipline in pursuit of future success, the next (four goals down) their players had apparently been carrying on like Oliver Reed off the wagon.
As it was, Liverpool were perhaps lacking a few percentage points of that mysterious 'edge' you need to maximise performance, and were picked apart by a technically impeccable attacking force. Klopp took his frustration out on Shreeves, and he will not be the last player or coach to do that. Indeed, it could be a developing theme. Borussia Dortmund's superstar striker Erling Haaland gave an 11-word interview in May, not that a laconic teenager is earth-shattering news. What was interesting, however, was how many sought to defend Haaland from accusations of rudeness, stating either that his curtness showed individuality or that the interviewer deserved short shrift.
It helps your cause to be one of the most talented players in Europe, which brings us to the heart of the matter. To clumsily transport a phrase from the social sciences, there is a power imbalance in these interviews. A player or manager has millions of the club's fans in their corner, particularly on social media, while their opposite number is one man with a microphone earning a crust. Bringing 'the media' down a peg or two might give fans the ephemeral thrill of sticking it to the man, but in these scenarios the player or manager in question is the man.
It would be egregiously lofty to claim a reporter is speaking truth to power or afflicting the comfortable by asking a football coach questions, but they do provide scrutiny and revealing answers in a way frivolous in-house content struggles to match. Or to put it less nobly, cringeworthy and difficult watches like Klopp and Shreeves' exchange that nevertheless prove irresistible.