Klopp for the Kop: How German changed things at Liverpool

Only once before in their 126 year old history Liverpool has scored more than 135 goals in a single season, like they did in 2017/18. We are talking about the club which has a great history and still holds the second highest number of league titles(18) in England, while adding to their feather the 5 Champions League titles which is the third highest in Europe by numbers where AC Milan(7) and Real Madrid(13) are the other two clubs leading the trophy count.

Liverpool who didn’t had any taste of success since quite a long time, now looks to have found some right direction under their current manager Jurgen Klopp. Coming from his previous club Borussia Dortmund where the German had some great success, Klopp bought with him an attacking flair, aggression, skill, style and substance to the club.

Though under his first season in charge the Reds didn’t finish at a great position in the league, but playing two finals that year was testament of Klopp’s success driven managerial style and vision. Of course disappointment must have been there to be missing out on the two trophies, and many won’t consider making it to the two finals a success, but go out and ask any Liverpool fan, you will surely get to hear a better story than what many critics won’t mention.

Klopp had a lot of work to do with the available squad in his first season.

Marching a season ahead, Jurgen made his first signings at Liverpool; buying Sadio Mane for £32 million and Georjinio Wijnaldum for £24 million, among few others. While the rest of the purchases were not as efficient, Wijnaldum had a quality season transforming from a winger into a box to box midfielder. Mane on other hand became a star with many match winning performances and he was awarded Liverpool’s Player of the Season award. He also occupied 23rd position in the inaugural Ballon d’Or top 30, and become another example of a fine player becoming a good one under the German. This all occurred underneath a net spend of only £4.5 million.

The following season was the one where his exceptional managerial abilities were truly displayed. Klopp had a negative net spend of £34 million at the end of 2017/18 season – and that’s for a team which finished only once in the top 4 in the last 6 years before his arrival. This squad achieved a top four finish and reached the Champions League final, after another UCL place finish in the previous year.

Close and yet too far.

While Liverpool’s league position, or cup progression (barring the Champions League) didn’t look like it’s from a team which has netted that many times in one season, it is a contributing factor to the contradiction that a minimum of 7-8 goals were conceded due to pure individual mistakes of the defense or the goalkeeper, which often costs the team dearly at crucial stages; the latest example being Loris Karius’ blunders in the Champions League final.

As the season progressed, the previously lackluster defence improved vastly, with Liverpool conceding the least goals(9) in their last 14 league games out of all the sides in the league, while also holding the most clean sheets in UCL this season.

Jurgen is nowhere near perfect, no one ever is, but if the squad which Klopp inherited and the resources that the German had are to be considered (currently the total net spent is £1.67 million post Fabinho transfer) it’s safe to say that his performance as a manager until now has been outstanding.

Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, none of these names would have been in the world’s top 25 attackers at the time of acquisition. But with these three Jurgen Klopp has arguably formed the best attacking trio in Europe which ended up scoring a combined 90 goals last season. One can also look at Andrew Robertson, a full back from a relegated side, an academy graduate in Trent-Alexander Arnold, and a forgotten talent in Oxlade Chamberlain; on how did all of them perform. This shows that the German is a brilliant manager when it comes down to bringing the best out of his players and developing them into a better performer.

Trent Arnold has been a revelation under Klopp.

Talking about the change of air around Anfield, the fans are more united and supportive now than they have been in recent years. There is a feel good factor kind of atmosphere, which was missing for many years at the club. Yes it is true that Klopp has not had a good record in the finals, but without excusing every loss that the manager has suffered, two factors are to be taken into account here.

First, except the Europa final against Sevilla, he has always carried an underdog team like Dortmund in the Bayern dominated Bundesliga and a below par Liverpool side in England to the final stage. Second, assessing his 3 finals with Liverpool, two were predominantly affected by individual horror show, such as Alberto Moreno in the Europa League final and Loris Karius in the Champions League final, besides the team losing their best player of the season only after 35 minutes. Not to forget that Liverpool lost the League Cup final only on penalties against Manchester City, where luck factor can tilt either way.

Jurgen has so far won 3 out of 9 finals he has featured in - winning the German Cup & 2 German Super Cup titles. So it’s not all doom and gloom in the finals for the manager. Apart from that Klopp won 2 Bundesliga titles consecutively with a mid table club like Borussia Dortmund against the might of Bayern Munich, which held an average net spend of less than £6 million in 7 seasons. Everyone knows how difficult it is to win anything in Germany if you’re not Bayern, let alone working with these much of resources. Klopp won 5 titles with Dortmund in 7 years against the dominance of Bayern Munich. If that’s not any less than impressive, then guess we need to look up for new words to define such success of Klopp.

A mastermind of Dortmund’s rise.

Before his success at Dortmund Klopp’s transformation of FSV Mainz from a 2nd division mid table team into a 1st Division mid table team in 7 years, while winning the Bundesliga-II title in the process also reflects on why he is regarded as one of the quality managers out there.

It is true that Liverpool is still missing on trophies since Klopp took the charge, but the review of the progress being made at Merseyside club strongly indicates that it is about time that silverware starts arriving at Anfield. One can surely criticize Klopp if he doesn’t bring silverware in the next 2-3 years, but on an overall assessment and at the present moment, he has definitely done a commendable job with Reds.

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