Risk underestimating Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool, at your own peril
It’s been almost a year since Jürgen Klopp was appointed at Liverpool football club. Whilst supporters instantly fell for his charisma, charm and wit, I’ve always felt an air of scepticism over the clubs future success under his tenure. Supporters fear the financial power of the clubs nearest rivals and the draw that money has to attract established talent. Crucially however Jürgen Klopp doesn’t share that same doubt. He’s a manager that believes in his own ability and that of his players. Whilst he understands the demands and expectations of supporters, he won’t bow to the pressure to spend, where he feels unnecessary. In his mind it’s crucial to concentrate on developing the players at his disposal, to maximise his teams performance. If this is done successfully, then the clubs fate is entirely in his own hands, he doesn’t want, nor need to rely on the failings of rivals to achieve his goals.
This season has started exceptionally well. 3 points vs Arsenal, Leicester and Chelsea, plus a point away at Spurs is outstanding. The loss, which in the context of the other results seems astounding, was away vs Burnley. A goal conceded within 2 minutes set the narrative, which allowed Burnley to sit deep, get 10 men behind the ball and contain Liverpool’s attack. It was an off game, but understandably raised concerns over the teams ability to break an organised defensive side. This weekends game vs Hull, should show how far this team has come in a short space of time. The approach to this type of game and style of opponent must change. The players must show the patience required to breakdown difficult opposition. Supporters too must show the same resolve and trust that the team will make that crucial breakthrough and not grow impatient, if the game isn’t going to plan.
Jürgen Klopp has the upmost respect for all opponents, but doesn’t fear them. His brand of football may appear simple on the surface, but it’s driven by incredibly hard work from his technical team and the players themselves. The team may not have the discipline of a Jose Mourinho side or the tactical complexity of a Pep Guardiola system, but it’s work rate, determination and drive is unparalleled in the Premier League. You only simply have to look at the transformation of Adam Lallana, to see the work Klopp has done on the training ground. The much maligned England international, could barely complete 60 minutes when Jürgen joined, he’s now one of the fittest players in the Premier League and he’s not alone. Conditioning is king for Klopp and it’s paying dividends on the pitch.
Jürgen Klopp truly is a rarity in modern football. A manager who doesn’t hide or mask his flaws, but openly embraces them. He’s acutely aware of his strengths and what he offers this club, whilst being humble enough to seek help and assistance from others, more capable in other areas. Football is a collaborative sport, not just from the players or coaches, but the supporters too. Everyone plays a part, yes some more significantly than others, but every voice, every clap and every song can lift a player and have an impact in the outcome of a game. Jürgen is acutely aware of the strength of the twelfth man, both home and away. The travelling Kop are famed for their excellent support. But it’s now about filling the newly developed and expanded Anfield, with that same confidence and belief to make that cauldron of noise the opposition fears to visit.
The supporters crave attractive, open attacking football and they’re getting this, week in, week out. On paper, it’s only Manchester City that can boost such an array of exciting attacking players in their squad. It’s not just on paper but in practise that Liverpool supporters are allowed to boast however. The quality of Sturridge, Firmino, Coutinho, Mane and Origi is evident for all to see. The movement, ingenuity, pressing, creativity, raw pace, power and clinical ability of the attack, will strike fear into the heart of any and all on-comers. The goals will undoubtedly flow, but it’s the balance of the team and in particular the midfield, which gives me great hope of a successful campaign.
With the introduction of Lloris Karius and Joel Matip, I have more faith that the defence will improve, not only in it’s primary function, but as as a means to set the tempo and start attacks. Their composure and confidence on the ball is infectious and has already started to pay dividends. The midfield, who I’ve doubted many times, has been transformed. Jordan Henderson is playing with his head high, showing the ability many doubted he once had, or feared he’d lost. Georginio Wijnaldum too, is a revelation. His intelligence, pace and engine is crucial in both boxes. With Emre Can back, I see no signs to fear, that the control and balance in midfield won’t continue to improve and dominate matches.
Whilst, I’m clearly optimistic I accept it’s not going to be perfect campaign. Of course the league is competitive and the very nature of the game is unpredictable. Liverpool will and can on occasion afford to drop points, but must learn to punish the sides we’re expected to beat. Whilst a loss for supporters hurts, we’ve become hardened to disappointment and failure in recent seasons. Jürgen Klopp is a proven winner, who crave’s success, so there is nobody that won’t feel the pain of defeat more than him. Last season’s final defeats hurt, but this teams mentality has changed. Nobody wants to feel sorry for themselves, they want to improve and never be in that position again.
A Jürgen Klopp side will fight for every point, but should we fall short you’ll never hear excuses, just an honest view that his team weren’t good enough and a fair explanation why. Long gone is the blame culture, which created animosity and fractures in the dressing room. Klopp respects his players, offering praise and protection, but with this comes a certain expectation and demand. Any mistakes that are made, Klopp will use as a training tool. Any chance missed, he’ll work with the players to develop the composure required to punish the opposition, the next time the opportunity arises. You can see these improvements game on game, that’s why the increased time offered this season on the training ground, is a potential game changer.
It’s high time all supporters fully embrace this team, which barely resembles the one Klopp inherited. For far too long I’ve felt the need to remind sections of the fanbase that Brendan Rodgers is no longer at the club. Whilst I wish Rodgers no bad wishes, I feel no need to discuss him now in the current context of the club. His era is over and the man that replaced him is different in almost every single way. Klopp has a clearly defended plan, not just for each game, but each period of the season and further still. He has a plan to lead this club, kicking and screaming to glory.
Jürgen Klopp believes he can make this team compete for all honours this season and who am I to doubt him. He treats each game with the upmost respect. Win, loss or draw he’s never truly satisfied with the result and understands that lessons must be learn’t and continual improvements must be made. He’s constantly striving to develop, instilling his knowledge and experience to his players, never resting until it sticks. Liverpool may be a work in progress, but for the first time in a long time, there is a clear and well defined path to success. A path, that I feel will lead to glory far quicker than most except.