By Temisan Amoye, Lagos
Last Sunday’s shaky 2–1 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, saw Klopp’s Liverpool record fifteen (15) consecutive league wins, seven (7) away wins, and also became the first team to win it’s opening six (6) matches, in consecutive seasons.
Topping the Premier League table with eighteen (18) points in the league so far, with the closest challengers Man City some five points off in second. Even the most ardent fans would be forgiven for not thinking this would have been possible, prior to Klopp’s appointment as Manager.
Due to the 2019 Champions League victory, and fantastic albeit disappointing PL run last season, you could be forgiven for forgetting the dark days in the not so distant past. The sale of the club to FSG for £300m in 2010 marked the beginning of a slow and steady rebuilding period. FSG would go on to make many vital decisions in this period, none as important as the appointment of Jurgen Klopp as manager of Liverpool FC on the 8th of October, 2015.
The Stuttgart native’s appointment as manager stirred excitement among fans of the club, due to his infectious style and his past work at Borussia Dortmund a club similar to Liverpool, where he turned a struggling giant into German and European heavyweights. In his unveiling press conference,
The Normal One stated his mission of changing “doubters to believers”. An arduous task seeing as the footballing world had written off Liverpool as a club dwelling on past glory. Inheriting a team lacking in belief and identity as well as quality personnel. Klopp and his trusted lieutenants Zeljko Buvac and Peter Krawietz worked to instill his heavy metal football style in the team.
Playing a swashbuckling style of football involving high intensity and high press, with fans favorite Roberto Firmino leading the press from the front, the one player whose playing style epitomizes Klopp’s Gengenpress philosophy. Its Klopp’s belief that a well-executed counter-pressing system can be more effective than any playmaker when it comes to creating chances.
This belief could be responsible for him not signing a creative midfielder, despite calls from fans for one. The effect of Klopp’s new style was felt in his first half-season, where he led Liverpool to Europa and League cup finals in the 2015/2016 season, only to experience heartbreak in both finals. Klopp and his team have transformed Liverpool from laughing stock of the league to a model club in 3 years. Restoring the club back to consecutive top 4 finishes and European elite level.
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- Klopp’s Liverpool has shown they can hold theirs against any team, from frequently dispatching league favourites Man City, Arsenal, Spurs in their league meetings to holding it down in two-legged European ties. Barcelona and Dortmund fans won’t forget Anfield in a hurry. Its common knowledge that teams dread facing Liverpool in a two-legged European tie seeing as Klopp hasn’t lost any since his appointment as Liverpool manager. The UCL campaigns of 2018 and 2019 give credence to that assertion. Anfield has once again been restored as a fortress with Liverpool going unbeaten at home for 41 PL games, a record surpassed only by Chelsea’s 86 unbeaten games at Stamford Bridge.
The diligent organization of the scouting and performance team, the allure of playing for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp and the negotiating ability of Michael Edwards has turned Liverpool into real winners in the transfer market. They are becoming popular among fans not just for their ability to land top players at decent fees, but sell unwanted players at somewhat high fees. £15m for Ibe, £8m for Stewart, £145m for Coutinho have ensured Liverpool record a decent net spend.
The team has been able to identify, nurture and sign talented players for very decent fees considering the madness of the market. Salah, Mane, Van Dijk, Robertson, Alisson, Matip have come in, develop and have made incredible contributions to the success of the team under Klopp. Salah and Mane signed for a combined £71m finished the 2018/2019 season as top scorers with 22 goals each, with Salah previously smashing the record for most PL goals in a 38-game season with 32 goals, Beating the joint record held by Cristiano Ronaldo and Suarez.
Both players have forged a deadly trio with Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino lighting up the league and champions league, with dazzling displays against Barcelona, Man City, Roma, PSG, and others. With the trio hitting 10 goals each in the 2017/2018 UCL and have gone on to score 113 goals in the Premier League in the past 2 seasons.
Academy graduate Trent Alexander Arnold and Andy Robertson signed from relegated Hull City for a paltry £8m have gone on to forge arguably the deadliest and most effective full-back pairing in football, with both players hitting 12 and 11 assists in the league, making the opponent worry about dealing with at least 5 attackers.
The arrival of Virgil Van Dijk for £75m and Alisson Becker for £66m has shored up a shaky defence, transforming it to one of the sturdiest in football. Alisson and Van Dijk’s contribution to a defence that kept the most clean sheets in the Premier League and UCL led to Alisson claiming last season’s Golden Glove with 21 clean sheets, resulting in him being crowned both UEFA and FIFA’s Goalkeeper of the Year and Van Dijk being crowned as PL Player of the Year and UEFA’s Men Player of the Year in 2019.
An incredible feat, considering he was nominated alongside Perennial winners and favourites, Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Fabinho’s arrival from Monaco for £39m answered fans prayers for a midfield battler in the mould of Mascherano. After a slow start, the Brazilian has nailed down his spot in the starting XI. With his performance against Arsenal early in the season where he recorded a 92% pass completion, 4 key passes with an assist, 6 recoveries and completed 9 out of 10 long passes epitomizing that of a complete midfielder.
These signings along with their incredible supporting acts like Xherdan Shaqiri who contributed 6 goals and 4 assists in the league despite limited game time, Divock Origi and Gini Wijnaldum without whom last season European triumph wouldn’t have been possible, Joel Matip who despite signed on a free, has gone on to perform a starring role with Van Dijk in the heart of defence, his impeccable ball-playing abilities has added to the strength of the team, with his marauding forward runs and dribbles creating chances and chaos for his teammates and opponents respectively.
The hard work and commitment of the players and staff, both coaching and non-coaching, has resulted in massive changes on and off the pitch. With Jurgen Klopp taking home the FIFA Coach of the Year, at last night’s FIFA The Best Award. In his 4 years at Liverpool, Klopp has guided Liverpool to a Europa League runners up medal and league cup runners up medal in 2016, Champions League runners up medal in 2018, and a Champions League winners medal in 2019. With 3 consecutive Champions League qualifications, something the club hadn’t experienced in over a decade.
Most importantly fans who have had to be patient and eat the humble pie, now have something to brag about (fan humility in football is a sign of failure, reason victory comes with bragging rights). After winning the Champions League and going on an incredible run, finishing just a point behind Man City. Amassing a record-breaking 97 points. The fans faith and pride in the team has been restored by Klopp, this club has come a long way, from being battered 6–1 at Stoke on Stevie G’s final match to overcome a 3–0 deficit against Barcelona at Fortress Anfield without Salah, Firmino and Robertson.
That speaks volumes of the giant strides and progress made by Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool. Looking back at the remarkable progress made in the last 3 years, it would be madness to bet against Klopp delivering at least the elusive 19th title for Liverpool. With local rivals Everton floundering despite spending heavily, Chelsea and Arsenal rebuilding under new managers and Man United playing without any quality and identity, this is a great time to be a Liverpool fan, because with Jurgen Klopp and FSG success is definitely on the horizon. Are you still doubting?