Jürgen Klopp himself may even be a bit surprised by just how quickly he has managed to put his stamp on this Liverpool team. A record of four wins, three draws, and a loss may not appear anything to shout about; on paper at least. But the improvement in performances, the tactical astuteness, and the fully deserved, dominant victories at the home of last season’s top two teams, are a greater indication of just how far we have come in a short space of time. To put it into perspective: in over three years at the club, Brendan Rodgers managed only one away win against the ‘top four’ collection of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Manchester United. Klopp now has two in six weeks.
None of this means that it still won’t be a bumpy road of ups and downs until the dust settles on Klopp’s arrival and he truly gets to make this team his own, but the reassurance it has provided is invaluable. He’s simply an out-and-out football man. No over-complicating things or fixing things that aren’t broke; just stripping things down, getting his tactics across, and making all his players sing to his tune. Gegenpressing is the buzzword that is affiliated with Klopp’s style of play, but that wouldn’t be possible without his knack of getting each and every one of his players to be willing to bust a gut for him. And so when you’ve won 3-1 and 4-1 at the grounds of Chelsea and Man City respectively, the players know their energy spent isn’t in vain.
Just prior to sweeping aside the title favourites in their own back yard, we saw Man Utd and Chelsea steal narrow victories against two newly promoted teams, and Arsenal slip to a defeat against West Brom. Given that Klopp is used to the complete and utter dominance of a side like Bayern Munich, whose weekly wins seem to come as a standard, he must be rubbing his hands together with excitement at what he can bring to this league. There’s no seemingly immoveable club perched at the top of the table who we need to defy the odds to leapfrog.
Not that we can suddenly look down on the other teams patronisingly; we are as inconsistent as them, if not more so. But we are only just starting out on our new journey, and already we have demonstrated that we can outwit, outfight, and outplay the others on our good days. And the longer Klopp is here, the more good days we can expect. If the top four as we know it don’t make decent strides in the next couple of years, the league could be there for the taking. And there’s no reason why Liverpool, with Klopp at the helm, shouldn’t be the ones taking the initiative and seizing control of it.
Another trick up Klopp’s sleeve has been the way he has taken our current squad and turned certain underperformers into something akin to brand new signings. Under Rodgers, Roberto Firmino seemed to be getting the ‘Sakho treatment’ of being underplayed and unappreciated, but, thanks to Klopp, is now looking like the player we splashed out £29m for. Alberto Moreno has gone from a player only trusted to play as a winger or wing back, to the flying full back he showed himself to be at Sevilla. Emre Can, Adam Lallana, and Philippe Coutinho are showing the consistency they needed to develop in their game, and it’s hard to believe that Lucas Leiva was one match away from being sold just before the transfer window closed.
Sometimes a new manager does come in and briefly give a new lease of life to a club just on the change alone; a momentary breath of fresh air. We’ll certainly see another side of Klopp when he’s been here longer and we hit a sticky patch, which inevitably happens in football, and it will be interesting to see how he deals with it. Brendan Rodgers I feel suffered heavily, because he was good at maintaining confidence, but not developing it back from a low point. The signs are good for Klopp though, as he has the tactical awareness of a manager like Rafa Benitez, but the likeable man-management of one like Kenny Dalglish. Any rut we find ourselves in shouldn’t lead to the whirlwind downfall that began for us 15 months ago. The really top managers just simply do not allow that kind of collapse to happen, as even Dortmund’s substandard year last season contained a creditable revival in the league, the topping of their Champions League group, and a run that led them to the German cup final.
Jürgen Klopp must be feeling very confident about what he can achieve in the long term here at Liverpool. Leicester City currently top the Premier League table, and with respect to them, it’s more through the inadequacies of the other teams we expect to be leading the charge than their own upsurge. And if they’re the pinnacle of the teams we are looking to overtake, they certainly aren’t going to intimidate a man who casually brushed Bayern Munich out of his way en route to two Bundesliga titles.
By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)