In October 2010 Roy Hodgson was quoted as saying “We will cross that bridge when we come to it” (On rumors of Torres to Manchester United). It was at this exact time i was more sure than ever that he would never make it in the Anfield hotseat. Not that his previous few months were anything but uncertain to say the least – but he never really “GOT” Liverpool. Especially when you allow yourself to be almost cornered into making such a statement about your greatest ever rival. I’m sure when he looks back at it now he might be forgiven for answering a basic enough question as honestly as he could at the time – but even nearly 10 years on it seems a schoolboy error. “Sell to Liverpool’s greatest rivals – NO CHANCE”. I remember scowering the forums that day and seeing the dismay of fans all over the world. His fate was sealed.
When choosing a manager to lead your club i’m sure there are varying reasons why certain clubs go for certain individuals. Sometimes it’s merely to stave off relegation (Sam Alardyce to West Ham/Everton), enhance your clubs reputation to the outside world (Jose Mourinho to Spurs, Ancellotti to Everton) and i guess sometimes it is because you have no other options available and simply need a safe pair of hands (Moyes to West Ham). The right appointment can be transformational to a club whereas the wrong one can have devastating effects.
Jurgen Klopp is now in his 4th year at Liverpool and obvious hindsight out the window he looks like a match made in heaven. Champions League Winners medal in the bag and a pending Premier League title on the horizon it looks now like a stroke of genius to have him at the helm. His rebuilding job has been of the highest order with what he inherited in a squad and in a club that was nearing extinction only a few years before. We may only see the fruits of his labour recently in terms of silverware but he has been on an upward trend since arriving into the club in Oct ’15. Something about him resonated with the Club, the City and most importantly the fans. He initially brought in a chaotic brand of football likened to heavy metal that although wasn’t completely new to the Premier League (We all remember Keegans Newcastle) it was instantly identifiable and intoxicating to watch. GenGen pressing was here and players like Adam Lallana were pivotal in his plans to run opposition teams into the ground. Opposition fan and Reds alike didn’t know where to look the night Klopp got his players to celebrate a 2-2 Draw with West Brom in front of the Kop! At the time it was a bit of a joke but it showed the way he was trying to change our thinking – change the atmosphere – change the whole mentality of the club from years of mediocrity to that of winners.
His vision was then made clearer when he called back on loan players, made the u23s train with the Senior players and called out his current squad to match his ambitions. He demanded more from the fans too by encouraging them to remain until the 95th minute if need be and to support the players until the final whistle was blown. He drummed up the crowd and the fans responded, the players then responded and suddenly a shift in mentality was on the cards – even if it was in its infancy.
Some superb business was done in the first 2 season by signing Mane (30m) and Wijnaldum (25m) in 2016 then Salah(43m) but there were some bargains for Klavan (4m) Matip (Free) and perhaps the bargain of the decade Robertson (7m). Liverpool were making progress with a Champions League place secured in 2017 with Klopp then capturing the last few pieces of the puzzle with Van Dijk being signed with a huge statement of intent.
Klopp demanded more and to win something he realised he needed the whole club on the same wavelength. The message was loud and clear, big european nights were the key to awaking this sleeping giant and using the fans desperation for success alongside away teams seemingly inabilty to handle the cauldron that is Anfield – Klopp unleashed his beasts to wreak havoc on the opposition defences. It was furious and at times manic, mixed with a little bit of crazy watching Liverpool in the 2017 Champions League campaign. Score 6 and concede 5 but at all costs outscore the opposition! Klopp knew that his team were not the finished article in style but were unmatched when it came to unlocking defences. Away goals ruled Europe and he was showing again why his teams were the most feared on their travels. If that didn’t work, they always have Anfield.
Evolution followed and Klopp made two more pivotal signings in the summer by attracting Fabinho and Allisson Becker to Anfield. A defencive midfielder that could also play RB. But Klopp eyed him as his midfield general. For too long he had had to play a square peg in a round hole with Emre Can and Henderson mixed with Wijnaldum. Then a goalkeeping colossus that would eradicate the cruel memory of the Champions League fairytale turned nightmare for the reds. Liverpool were like a different team now. They now controlled the tempo of the games they played in, calmness and reassurance prevailed. Clean sheets followed by the dozens and there was an air of inevitability when the front three took to the field. They would score at least once. In previous seasons memories of an itchy last 10 mins of games waiting for a sucker punch were becoming a distant memory. Confidence grew.
The most interesting part of the Klopp project was the only stick left to beat him with was still hanging in the balance – Liverpool in 2018/19 season amalgamated one of their finest run of games and greatest ever points total to finish on 97 in the Premier league. The highest points total ever not to win the Premier League. Klopp had lost his previous 6 Finals and despite the position where he started with this Liverpool team was to where they were now – they were still to taste success with him at the helm. The Semi Final of the Champions League win over Barcelona was all the more amazing when you think of the pressure Klopp was under pressure to win a trophy. The Premier League was out of reach by what must have felt like a millimeter, but then to be knocked out of Europe as well would have tested even the biggest of hearts. Of course Spurs were also trying to exercise their
own ghost at the same time! But it was written … Anfield produced the greatest comeback of all time against the greatest player of all time … they were never going to lose the Final thereafter.
You would have to be hugely concerned had Liverpool gone out that night against Barcelona and been beaten by the narrowest of margins in the Premier League they might have crumbled in the summer. A double hammer blow of epic proportions. Could you convince your players to rally themselves once more the following season after such a fall? Instead Klopp used the momentum to convince his players to go for greater – the speed at which Liverpool came out this season from Game1 was exceptional. Surely it couldn’t be maintained.
They now have another record (61 Points after 21 Games) the most out of any European League ever! The run they are on is something of the like we may never see again. If we look back at what City achieved last season under Pep Guardiola with a record points haul to lift one of the most exciting and tightly fought Premier League titles in recent memory it makes Klopps current situation all the more impressive.
This is the difference that the “Right Man for the Right Club” can make. Fergie at United, Jose at Chelsea, Pep to City and Wenger to Arsenal were all incredible choices, incredible legacies. We watch with anticipation what Klopp can achieve in his tenure at Liverpool to see if he can emulate these greats of the game.