Friday 24 November 2017

The new Liverpool: How Jurgen Klopp is creating his own dynasty at Anfield

Matip and Mane were two shrewd buys by Klopp
Matip and Mane were two shrewd buys by Klopp

Carl Markham

Jurgen Klopp may be a familiar face after 10 months in the job but plenty is changing at Liverpool.

The German finally had a chance to put his players through one of his pre-season programmes - which sometimes involved triple sessions - having arrived mid-campaign amid a packed fixture list which left him little time to work on fitness and style of play.

It is a key factor for Klopp, who used many of the summer friendlies as extended training sessions to give his players extra work-outs.

As well as the new regime there are new arrivals as Klopp, who signed a new six-year contract this summer, opted not to strengthen his squad in the January window but wait until he had fully assessed his options before deciding who to keep and which players to replace.

The clear-out has already begun with Martin Skrtel, Jordon Ibe, Sergi Canos and Jerome Sinclair shown the door, with Christian Benteke and Mario Balotelli deemed surplus to requirements and the likes of Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen told they can expect reduced playing time if they stay.

Two important new additions could be central defender Joel Matip and forward Sadio Mane.

Jurgen Klopp is putting his own stamp on proceedings at Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp is putting his own stamp on proceedings at Liverpool

The latter is well known to Premier League watchers having moved from Southampton for £30million but Matip may prove to be an equally good, more shrewd buy.

Liverpool's vulnerability at set-pieces was so well-known it became opponents' first line of attack, as an inconsistent goalkeeper and a defence which could not dominate in the air gave encouragement to all.

Matip, a Cameroon international, is 6ft 4ins and comes from the Bundesliga having spent seven years in Schalke's first team.

Klopp moved quickly to tie up a deal for the centre-back in January as his contract was due to expire in the summer and it seems likely he will be the German's go-to guy in the centre of defence.

His arrival was part of the reason Martin Skrtel was allowed to leave for Fenerbahce and veteran Kolo Toure's deal was not renewed, and if Matip can succeed where they failed in dominating the penalty area Liverpool will be a much harder nut to crack.

"In the air and on the ground I am good," said Matip. "I am very good under high balls, especially at corners and set-pieces.

"Leadership is something I will have to grow into but I am also sure I have the ability for that position and from the way I approach the game.

"I am always looking forward and want to play it forward - and I am always good for a few goals."

At the other end of the pitch Mane gives Klopp options as he can play out wide or up front if necessary.

Fitness permitting, the premier striker's role will go to Daniel Sturridge, but Mane's 15 goals last season - including four in three matches against Liverpool - suggest there should plenty of support from further back.

"I am happy because as a striker - and not only for me, but for all strikers - it is very important for you to score for your team," Mane said.

"Now I am looking forward to working with my new team-mates, to playing with my team and trying to help each other to push the club upwards."

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