While Barcelona have been basking in their glory for a few seasons now and are deemed to be best worldwide, there is a team to which every Liverpool manager, player and supporter ought to take a very good and deep look at and say: this is the way we want to get back to the top! The team in question is non-other than Borussia Dortmund!
A brief summary of that this club went through in the past decade! Following their last Bundesliga triumph in the 2001/02 season, poor financial management led to a heavy debt load and the forced sale of their Westfalenstadion ground. In 2005, the club nearly reached bankruptcy when its share prices plummeted 80%, while the players had to bear the brunt by taking a pay-cut of 20%. Selling naming rights for the leased with by-back option stadium and the sale of rising stars Rosicky and Odonkor brought some financial stability and somehow the club avoided being wiped off the sporting map and relegation. In 2008, the appointment of Jürgen Klopp as the club’s new manager turned things around!
I feel the need to stress that Klopp was appointed in 2008 and we have just concluded the 2011-2012 season meaning he had been in charge for 4 years….yes FOUR YEARS! In his first season, Klopp finished 6th in the Bundesliga and beat Bayern in the final of the DFB Super Cup. The following season the climbed one notch to finish 5th making a return to European football.
Klopp is considered a visionary of the game and his concept football is fundamentally based on the mental aspect. Rather than sticking to one single plan, the approach is to adjust the formation in line with the demands of the game and opposition at hand (something we have been awfully lacking at Liverpool). The basic tactical frame would remain same, but the players will swap positions according to the situation. A game plan, in which the team is expected to take the decisions, create accordingly, make adjustments in accordance with the situation; to support each other and to co-create and remain synchronized in both offensive and defensive duties.
One example of Klopp’s unparalleled ability as a strategist was his implementation of an unfamiliar 4-3-2-1 strategy against his former club Mainz in the 2010/11 season. The team had only 45 minutes to get accustomed to the strategy, which was adopted to counter the fast pressing football of Mainz with an even more pressing football by giving no room for movement in the middle of the park for the Mainz players. The team showed a solid maturity in grasping the concept of 4-3-2-1 and they inflicted the then pacesetters Mainz an unexpected 2-0 defeat. It was not only one of the pinnacles the team had reached under Klopp, but most importantly also a reminder of even greater things to come.
Another ‘secret’ of Klopp’s success is the adoption of the Life Kinetic concept – exercises in the movement and coordination of the body. The final and main ingredient in this winning formula is that Borussia Dortmund is not built around one single player! Klopp based his project on a team with an average age of 23. The first two years of failure (as in not winning the Bundesliga……) helped Klopp understand the weaknesses in his system and he made adjustments to make his defense stronger, with every player contributing collectively to defend. Strikers Lewandowski and Barrios formed a formidable attacking partnership, midfielders like Sahin (8 goals), Kagawa (12 goals), Großkreutz (9 goals) and Götze (8 goals) and pitched in as second strikers contributing to the ever growing success of his formula. The midfield quintet proved to be quick, fluid and interchangeable forcing the opposition to keep guessing the strategy.
Needless to remind anyone that Borussia Dortmund have, for the past two seasons, not only played the most intense hi-pressure football in Europe, but they have clinched back-to-back Bundesliga titles and also trashed Bayern Munich in the German Cup final!
The analogies here are vast and various. Brendan Rodgers has this vision. He has this ability and concept to do ‘something different’! Klopp considers his first two seasons as failure because he did not win the Bundesliga, but those two years threw the foundations for a formation of a formidable squad that has outplayed, outgunned and outshone the mighty and often untouchable Bayern Munich!
Rodgers needs to shape the squad to make sure he had the right players for the task. He did this on a low budget at Swansea, and there is no reason why he cannot do this with the significant backing of FSG and a club like Liverpool! Some players will not be up to it! Some of them will not be able to adapt! Other will not have the characteristics to suit the concept and these, alas, will have to look at pastures new. This is a new concept and needs time to be implemented: we should always keep this present in our thoughts.
My personal expectations are to see the Reds play a positive, intense game. I want the Reds to ‘improve’ their game first and foremost. I want the Reds to embrace this concept because if they do, we would be looking at exciting and successful times ahead. Managers like Klopp, Guardiola, Zeman and Rodgers are part of a special breed! We have the honour of having one of them managing our great Club!
p.s. The gist of this piece of writing was taken from an article published online by Arnav Bose in 2011. There was no intention of simply copying his work, but I did find his writing relevant to our cause and to the situation LFC finds itself in today!