Friday 27 April 2018

Vibrant Jurgen Klopp's revolution reigniting the 'Liverpool Way'

Marvellous maverick gives Reds chance of title charge, writes Oliver Brown

Jurgen Klopp congratulates Daniel Sturridge after his two-goal display against Southampton
Jurgen Klopp congratulates Daniel Sturridge after his two-goal display against Southampton

Oliver Brown

The passing of time has cast the 'Liverpool Way' as a quasi-sacred text, English football's answer to the Golden Verses of Pythagoras. Except nobody seems able to state with certainty what it is.

Successive generations at Anfield have offered eclectic definitions: Ronnie Whelan claimed for those all-conquering '80s teams it was a matter of heart and soul, while Brendan Rodgers, late of that parish, identified signature virtues of discipline and simplicity.

Steven Gerrard, who has made a fleeting return to Melwood in his training strip, points instead to a "family feel" at the club, to a tradition where "we have celebrated together and commiserated together".

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Promote from the reserves straight into the first team? That was the Liverpool Way, according to Kenny Dalglish. An attitude where any goal conceded would be regarded as a heinous sin? Straight from the mouth of Alan Hansen.

The Liverpool Way is a phenomenon endlessly invoked but little elaborated.

Divock Origi celebrates with team mates after scoring the fourth goal for Liverpool Reuters / Eddie Keogh

Now, at last, Jürgen Klopp, the Kaiser of cool, has alighted upon an answer that everybody can be happy with. What else is a 6-1 win at Southampton - let alone one that features Divock Origi - if not an expression of the club's most cherished ideals?

Even the most breathless reactions can be forgiven. Michael Owen has anointed Liverpool, who travel better under Klopp's tutelage than Jules Verne, as title contenders if they can transplant any semblance of their away form to Anfield.

A shrewder piece of wisdom, though, might be to harness Kipling's call to keep their heads when all about them are losing theirs.

Set against the torpor of Manchester United or Manuel Pellegrini's stick-a-pin-on-a-donkey approach to selecting his superstars at City, not to mention Chelsea's air of perpetual revolution, Liverpool represent an oasis of serenity.

Even Origi, who has often looked a carthorse of a buy since his £10m move from Lille, was a talent transformed at St Mary's this week.

Emre Can celebrates scoring the first goal for Liverpool with Adam Lallana Reuters / Phil Noble

Origi, Emre Can, Adam Lallana: players who at best flattered to deceive under Rodgers are all coming in from the periphery. Few, you notice, are talking derisorily about transfer committees now.

It is testament to Klopp's status as the Anything-but-Normal One that in barely eight weeks, he has attuned Liverpool to the way of thinking that chief executive Ian Ayre has long craved.

Ayre said in New York last summer: "We are one of the biggest clubs in the world and we should look like we are."

Incrementally, that dream is being brought to fruition. Liverpool might have lost the world's most lethal No 9 in Luis Suárez, but they have acquired a marquee manager and are fast producing the headline results to boot.

It had been feared that the irrepressible Klopp would become jaded and jaundiced by his exposure to the Premier League, but he has kept up the doses of maverick charm, whether in his fatalistic references to the Merseyside weather or his efforts to learn Scouse from a nine-year-old.

Alberto Moreno celebrates with Daniel Sturridge after scoring the third goal for Liverpool Reuters / Eddie Keogh

If Liverpool are to mount a sustained title surge, much depends on the contributions of the fragile and mercurial Daniel Sturridge.

But even on this front Klopp has proved a master of psychology, making a barbed comment about the striker's inability to distinguish between actual and imagined pain and then standing back as he fashioned two fine goals against Southampton.

Throw in Philippe Coutinho and Mamadou Sakho, once the pair return to fitness, and Liverpool might yet have a side to revive a dream that look to died irrevocably in the summer of 2014, with Gerrard's fateful slip.

Klopp, whether in his neuroses about watching penalties or his almost spiritual connections with his alma maters of Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, exalts emotion in all that he does. Already an abiding image of the season is Lallana's reaction to being substituted in his first match for the German at Tottenham.

Eschewing the juvenile, bib-throwing antics of Diego Costa for Chelsea, the midfielder simply fell into the arms of his mentor. It is extraordinary how powerfully the force of charisma can unite.

Liverpool's soft underbelly appears to be disappearing, too. During the campaign that condemned Rodgers, the team trailed in 29 matches and recovered to win a meagre four.

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A pattern of similarly sluggish starts has re-emerged under Klopp, but with the crucial difference that his sides have rallied from behind to vanquish Chelsea, Bordeaux and Southampton, plus secure a draw with Rubin Kazan.

So much for all his faux realism, then. "Oh, please," he responded at Stamford Bridge to a question about his charges' title credentials, after they had meted out a humbling that pushed Jose Mourinho to the ragged edge. "I'd prefer not to have understood that question. Are you crazy?"

The notion is not so absurd, though, when your rivals are in a tailspin and when your supporters are animated as rarely before.

It is a turnaround stunning in its speed, for which the credit belongs all to Klopp, high chief of all the hipsters, whose inexhaustible vibrancy could yet reignite the Liverpool Way. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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