Seven changes Jurgen Klopp has made to transform Liverpool
As Steven Gerrard returned to Liverpool’s Melwood training base this week, he encountered a mood that was transformed since his previous visit.
Liverpool’s depressing end to last season under boss Brendan Rodgers created a deflating vibe that lingered into the start of this campaign, yet the cloud has been lifted in a stunningly swift fashion by the new man at the top.
Here is an Independent.ie look on the steps Klopp has taken to turn Anfield’s slumbering giants into a fire-breathing Liver bird all over again.
THE FRESH BROOM
Liverpool’s board are reported to have sounded out Klopp on his availability before the start of this season, yet the coach who had just left his post at Borussia Dortmund was determined to have a sabbatical from the game before making his return.
That may be the only reason why Rodgers remained in place at Liverpool, with Klopp very much the chosen man for some time with the Anfield hierarchy and in just two months, their choice have been spectacularly vindicated.
Liverpool’s players were crying out for a new voice long before the change of manager was executed and the personality that was recruited has brought an enthusiasm that has made him impossible to ignore and even harder to dislike.
THE PRESSING PLAN
From the first minute of Klopp’s opening game as Liverpool manager against Tottenham on October 17th, it was evident that his impact had been instant.
Liverpool players who had started the season in less than convincing fashion suddenly found an extra yard of pace, with the pressing game Klopp demands in evidence in every game since.
Away wins at Chelsea and Manchester City were secured as Liverpool’s players outworked rivals that could not cope with their energy and passion. Sustaining the same level of drive over the course of the season will be tough, but Klopp proved he can get players to give their all for a full campaign during his time at Dortmund.
THE TACTICAL TWEAKS
The magnificent 4-1 win at the Etihad Stadium last month was a triumph for Klopp’s tactical awareness, with his decision to resist the temptation of throwing striker Christian Benteke into his team proving to be a master stroke.
A front three of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana terrorised a leaden footed City central defensive duo of Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis. Those two would have been far better equipped to deal with a physical battle against Benteke, but Klopp gave them a large helping of what they didn’t want.
That tactical plan will continue to produce results away from home, with Daniel Sturridge and Benteke not certain to start as many game as they might want in the coming months.
There is no doubt that Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho is a supreme talent, but he lost his way horribly in the final months of the Rodgers era and needed to be reinvented.
Klopp’s ability to warm the hearts of any player, with this little No.10 thriving once again under a manager who has re-engaged him in his role at Liverpool. His performances in the wins at Chelsea and Man City were exceptional, with the confidence flowing as he tries to get back to the form that was so crucial to Liverpool’s title push two season’s ago.
THE PR SUCCESS STORY
Rodgers had lost his credibility when speaking in public in the final months of his Liverpool reign, with laid back interviews that always had to include the word ‘character’ turning him into something of a figure of fun before his sacking.
From the moment Klopp swept through the doors at Anfield, that PR disaster came to an end. This German is hugely entertaining when he speaks and may be too honest for his own good at times, with his comment last week suggesting striker Sturridge needs to play through the pain barrier a little more an example of his bravado with the world’s media.
His wonderful interview with a young Liverpool supporter (below) was a PR triumph and his presence has enhanced the brand that is the Premier League.
WHAT TO IMPROVE
There are clearly still some concerns for Klopp to address when his side play on home soil against teams intent on promoting a defensive game plan.
Crystal Palace’s win against Klopp’s side last month was an example of opponents deploying a relatively straight forward approach that involved making use of their pace on the flanks to hurt Liverpool. Alan Pardew had also identified a weakness at the heart of Klopp’s defence defending set-pieces and exploited that to the full on their winning goal.
Chelsea’s success in diluted Liverpool’s attacking talent in the crucial game of the 2012/13 title race provided a blueprint for success for team’s visiting Anfield. Klopp needs to find a way to eradicate that flaw in his side’s make-up.
WHERE CAN THEY FINISH?
Eamon Dunphy suggested Liverpool could win the Premier League title this season and while Klopp has been quick to dismiss any such notions, there could well be an opening at the top of the table that could be exploited by an unlikely title challenger.
Liverpool are currently six points behind league leaders Manchester City, with the lack of consistency being shown by the pre-season favourites to lift the crown meaning that small margin could be swallowed up in double quick time.
WIll Liverpool end this season as champions? Probably not, but the fact that we are even entertaining a debate on this subject highlights how far Klopp has taken the club in his brief tenure at the helm.