Rome was not built in a day. Any long-standing success is, usually, the product of a carefully planned and executed strategy and, unfortunately for some, the phrase rings true in the world of football. Liverpool Football Club’s reputation alongside other European giants is not a result of recent results, it is the deserved product of a past decorated with titles and success which have generated a worldwide fan base and solid foundation upon which to build and rebuild. This foundation has allowed Liverpool to withstand the tenures of the likes of Hodgson and emerge unscathed, remaining an attractive suitor to the best investors and one of the worlds most peculiar yet brilliant managers in Jurgen Klopp.
Although success can be greatly accelerated with a influx of capital from abroad, this method has its drawbacks – a fan base replaced by wealthier, but apathetic, tourists, the attraction of players motivated at times by money more than the badge and, perhaps most importantly, a feeling that your club has, to the detriment of teams without the same opportunity, essentially cheated.
This is the quick fix, adopted by teams such as Manchester City, Chelsea and Monaco. However Liverpool, as a club boasting one of the most esteemed reputations around, have chosen a different route. Selecting Jurgen Klopp to manage Liverpool was a decision made to help steer the reds to success via training, development and carefully selected transfers – a process that takes time but, if done correctly, reaps rewards.
When Klopp took the reigns in Dortmund almost a decade ago he inherited a side that had just finished 13th under Thomas Doll. The following season, their season included a domestic cup and sixth place finish and, considering Liverpool were a penalty shoot-out away from a domestic cup and a final away from a European trophy, Klopp’s debut seasons at both clubs are fairly similar. His next season in Dortmund saw no trophies and a fifth placed finish – before two back to back Bundesliga wins and a Champions League Final appearance – Klopp’s methodology will take time to work, but work it will.
The summer transfer window highlighted Klopp’s approach – his ruthlessness in ridding Liverpool of players considered to be surplus of requirements to fund summer acquisitions was a testament to his honest, direct and savvy approach to the market, in particular. This approach has endeared him to fans – his flamboyance on the touchline, merged with an exciting brand of football and never say die attitude, has resulted in a new atmosphere – one of togetherness and excitement of what the future might bring.
In short, Klopp has progressed well in his first year at Liverpool. Without spending an abundance of money, he has produced a competitive squad and winning mentality – a platform upon which to build. Though success, if defined solely by league position, is yet to come, it is worth remembering Klopp is yet to complete a full Premier League season – patience is of paramount importance.
It is not only Klopp’s methods that require patience, however. Liverpool’s captain, Jordan Henderson, has again found himself under the spotlight after a slow start to the season, in the eyes of some. The 26 year old has often had to deal with an uncertain future, though – it was only four seasons ago that he was offered to Fulham in a bid to sign Clint Dempsey, after all. Two seasons on, the ex-Sunderland man was chosen to succeed Steven Gerrard as captain which, clearly, demonstrates an innate ability to prove himself and turn things around.
Furthermore, whilst easy to castigate, it is worth understanding Henderson’s situation. He has recently returned from an entire season on the sidelines, had to adapt to a deeper position and has been forced to do so within a vastly changed assortment of personnel. Adapting takes time, however Liverpool’s number 14 has still completed the most tackles and passes in the Premier League thus far – hardly a poor return. The criticism Henderson faces is a consequence of fans looking for a scapegoat on which all blame can be attributed to, not a result of his performances.
Strangely, certain sections of the Anfield faithful are compliant with Klopp’s need for patience, but not Henderson’s. Given that their captain has previously demonstrated dexterity in a Liverpool shirt but the bulk of their manager’s adroitness comes from abroad, this is particularly confounding. Henderson has all the qualities to re-find his energetic, technically astute and tactically aware performances of 2013/14, he must simply be allowed to do so.
That Klopp has earned the faith of the fans is a result of an understanding of the situation the German inherited at Anfield, a solid (but not perfect) start at Liverpool and a track record demonstrating competence in improving fortunes – all qualities Jordan Henderson has, at some point, demonstrated in a red shirt.
Liverpool fans have taken the time to appreciate the situation their manager has taken-up and, as a result, have for the time being shelved expectations – the same courtesy should be paid to their captain, too.
Patience is a virtue but, in this case, a requirement – Liverpool fans must keep faith in Klopp, his methods and his players, success will follow.