Six foot four, grizzly, often found near benches. The majority of the population, when given that description, would think of a certain park custodian with an affinity for stealing picnic baskets: Yogi Bear. In the world of football, though, one’s mind drifts towards only one man, Jurgen Klopp.
Charismatic and always looking to share a laugh, it’s been just over 2 years since the lofty German became Anfield’s own custodian, a catalyst for the changes which have resulted in the Liverpool we have the privilege of watching today.
What is it that sets Klopp apart from his peers? Just like his counterpart on the forest, how is he smarter than the average manager?
Coincidentally, the answer lies with another type of Yogi whom Klopp shares characteristics with. The German’s flexibility in playing staff has allowed for tactical variation based on the opponent.
Liverpool’s newly found squad depth has been one of the pillars on which their title push is founded. However, amidst what would have been classed as a defensive crisis in recent history, a light is now shone upon the clever transfer business conducted which has resulted in a former crisis now being referred to as an inconvenience.
Injuries to Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander Arnold will now result in a makeshift back four in the coming match against Crystal Palace which will most likely include James Milner and Fabinho.
In contrast to Brendan Rodgers’ reign at the helm, a loss of four first-team defenders will not have a crippling effect on the side.
Fabinho’s first audition at centre half, whilst not perfect, was largely excellent, with the standout moment being an intelligent block on a Pascal Gross shot from inside the penalty area. James Milner is no stranger to the full-back role having played the majority of the 2016/17 campaign at left-back.
The squad now possesses two types of players: those who can play multiple positions at a high level and those that are in the conversation for best in their position throughout the league.
Virgil Van Dijk is the best centre half in the league, possibly Europe. The same could be said of Andy Robertson, with Trent Alexander Arnold looking destined to join his teammates in the coming years. And whilst, Alisson is competing with the likes of David De Gea, his footwork is so neat, he’d surely fancy a crack at playing in central midfield.
When it comes to midfield and attack, it almost feels as though Klopp could throw their names in a hat, choose 6 players and come up with a system which will prove decisive against most teams.
Flexibility in the front two-thirds has resulted in Klopp choosing to employ a 4-2-3-1 formation against teams he feels will deploy a low block, which has proved to be one of the teams staple along with the traditional 4-3-3.
Mo Salah’s transition from wide forward to a pure striker has been seamless. Naturally, Roberto Firmino suits the number 10 role having effectively played there last season as a false nine.
Klopp’s midfield makeup largely dictates the team’s intent, choosing the likes of Xheridan Shaqiri or Naby Keita to be the ‘fourth attacker against non-pressing teams and a more industrious unit in the crunch clashes.
In Keita, although through limited minutes, we can see a player who embodies Klopp’s philosophy, and thus his ability to do almost everything has seen the Guinean feature in no less than 5 different positions so far for the Reds.
Looking forward to any business that Michael Edwards and co may look to push through, the player profile looks to be the same, with Timo Werner touted as the next big signing at Anfield. Whoever comes through the Shankly gates will be of the understanding that from now on, Liverpool with their immense flexibility, will not be predictable.