I’ve criticised Jurgen Klopp quite often this season, in all honesty.
I like the guy, I think he’s pretty much everything I want in terms of how I’d like a Liverpool manager to act and conduct himself, he ‘gets it’.
Part of that, is probably what makes me criticise him more than I should. I want him to be perfect, so every minor – and major – blemish is under the microscope.
Sometimes he selects players I don’t think he should, or makes substitutions at the wrong time, or doesn’t buy centre-back’s and I feel like all I’m doing is criticising him.
So, after another convincing Premier League win, some praise for big Jurg is definitely required.
The 4-1 debacle against Tottenham at Wembley was amongst Klopp’s worst days as Liverpool manager, but the way he and his squad have responded has been admirable.
In the league there have been wins and goals, lots of them. To be precise, five wins combined with one draw, 19 goals across those matches – more than three a game!
There were more goals in Europe and despite the Sevilla comeback, Liverpool now go into the Spartak Moscow game on Wednesday full of confidence with the chance to top the group in their hands.
Klopp has played no small part in that. Liverpool are back to the vibrant, devastating football that we’ve come to love, with Mo Salah leading the charge.
Many have spoken of Salah’s development since leaving Chelsea a few years back, but perhaps it’s Klopp’s development that deserves some credit.
Criticised last season for being predictable with his team selection and driving players into the ground with a lack of rotation, the German has wised up to such issues and is giving his squad a platform for success.
17 different players were started in the last three games, two away at tricky grounds and one at home to the Champions. Liverpool picked up seven of a possible nine points.
Three different formations were demonstrated, a shift in tactical flexibility making it nearly impossible for the opposition to know how the Reds are going to set up. Chelsea were nearly beaten with the 4-3-3, a switch to 4-4-2 did for Stoke before the Reds went to the Seaside and dispatched Brighton 5-1 with three at the back – two of them midfielders!
Credit to Klopp for not taking the easy option. Given Joe Gomez was struck down with illness, it’s fair to suggest that he’d have started in the three man defence alongside Can and Lovren was he fully fit.
Klopp could have easily changed to a back four upon hearing the Gomez news, but decided that the system he put out was more important than the individuals, gambling on using Gini Wijnaldum at left centre-back, a decision that paid off handsomely. Had Pep Guardiola done such, we may not have stopped hearing about it for weeks.
Putting Gini Wijnaldum at centre-back (it still seems bizarre to type) aside, Liverpool again dispatched a side that they’re expected to beat with a level of routineness that’s scarcely been associated with the Reds for a number of years.
Results against the top dogs around them have waned a little but there’s a feeling that Liverpool still have big performances in them, one that we may need to see on Wednesday to get over the line into the Champions League last 16.
But this cluster of wins has been all about seeing off those teams you’re expected to leave in the rear view mirror, and it’s come about thanks to a marked improvement from the Liverpool manager.