By Adam Washbrook
Liverpool have come quite some way in the seven months of Jurgen Klopp’s tenure – from mediocrity on all fronts, to two finals in what has been a turbulent season – they look a totally different outfit despite boasting the same squad that only managed four victories in their first 14 matches this season.
So what has caused such a turnaround in form? A League Cup final, Europa League final, and some fantastic results in the Premier League dashed between. The difference between this, and the side which saw empty seats in the stadium at the start of the season, is simply energy and unity.
Brendan Rodgers is owed much for his time at Anfield, despite failing to win a major trophy during his tenure. He brought back the kind of football that older generations are used to, showed the modern generations what they’d been missing, and almost took the Reds to their first Premier League title since it began in 1992. He brought the Champions League back to Anfield – albeit briefly – and had his side breaking scoring records left, right, and centre. Their stylish football drew comparisons with that of champions worldwide, but after failing to replace Luis Suarez, he never quite looked like he was going to get the team back on track. There was mishaps in defence, absence in midfield, stagnancy on the front lines… his time came, and no-one could quite expect what was to come.
Ask any Liverpool fan, and chances are they will all admit they doubted their chances of seeing Klopp take the reins after Brendan Rodgers departed. Linked with Arsenal, Manchester United, Real Madrid and many more, clubs who were/are in much better positions in both financial and performance terms. But Klopp is one of the few romantics left in football, and he saw a love story to be made with Liverpool FC, a football club with such a strong affiliation with their fans, built on the success of each of their iconic characters of the past.
Klopp has a track record for bargain buys, building up those who had failed under previous management, and making his teams determined by nature. His arrival alone brought a fresh breath of optimism to the fans which hadn’t been seen for some time, not even during the famous “make us dream” closing weeks of the 2013/14 Premier League season. Instantly the club had a manager who could attract players through his stature alone, someone whose stature was greater than that of the money offered elsewhere. Players around the globe already speaking of the “great opportunity to work with Klopp”, others linked – one Mario Gotze, in particular – that we never would’ve dreamed possible some months ago.
Aside from his reputation, his contacts, his character, and the rest of the never ending list that could describe Jurgen Klopp – he immediately unified the fans. “We must turn doubters to believers” he was almost immediately famed for saying, only a few months ago. And how well he’s done it. Thousands of fans waiting on the streets of Liverpool for the bus to arrive before Europa League ties, not an empty seat in the ground when the side trailed German giants Borussia Dortmund by three goals to one and the infamous away goal advantage.
Klopp made his players believers. They were no longer lounging to 1-1 draws with the likes of Norwich, instead they were determined to come from behind and steal a 5-4 win on the road. They beat Chelsea 3-1, Manchester City 4-1, Everton 4-0. The Reds, despite suffering numerous injury setbacks and bearing a relatively weak squad for a club of their magnitude, are now doing wonderful things week in, week out. The energy and belief that the players – at least those with a future at the club – are playing with has fans looking toward a brighter future, instead of homing in on slip-ups. They believe there’s a bright future, they have faith in the team and in the recruitment department, and they can smell success on the horizon.
Liverpool head into their match against Chelsea knowing they’re only seven days away from a European cup final. They can take pride in knowing that in only a short time, so far backed with no money for additional players, they’ve developed into a force again. Liverpool could well be on the brink of becoming one of the world’s super clubs once again, and with the right additions, this club can put their stamp on world football for another generation.