On October 8 2015, Liverpool FC unveiled Jurgen Klopp as their new manager and he was set to take over from Brendan Rodgers, mid-season. The thought of ‘heavy metal’ football and Gegenpressing on display in the English Premier League excited everybody. The German had an enormous personality and his footballing philosophy was quite clear from his time in the Bundesliga with Mainz and Borussia Dortmund.
In Liverpool, Klopp saw a sleeping giant, very low on confidence but with immense potential. He knew that this club was a special one with its rich history and its unreal fan following. He just had to get the support of the local fans who are usually very difficult to please. But this time the mood in Liverpool was quite different. People were optimistic about this appointment and Anfield was ready to give it their all to back their new manager.
In just his first press conference, Jurgen Klopp said all the right things. He said his two main objectives were, first to change the people at Liverpool from doubters to believers and second to make Anfield a fortress for his team – a stadium where away teams feared to visit and where the home team would strive. Looking back at these two objectives, it’s fair to say that the German has achieved them both and that’s the reason why he’s been so successful. Here we take a look at the transformation that Klopp brought to Anfield.
2015 – 2017: Heartbreaks in two finals and a Champions League return
When Jurgen Klopp took over from Brendan Rodgers in the middle of the season, Liverpool were struggling. It was their first season without the iconic Steven Gerrard who had moved on after 17 remarkable years at the club. The squad was heavily imbalanced and the defence was leaking cheap goals.
Klopp had a tough away fixture at Tottenham to start his career in the Premier League. In just the first game under the German, the team covered more distance, were willing to press higher up the pitch and defended compactly. The match ended in a stalemate but the new manager bounce was evident from the very first match. However, Liverpool struggled as they kept conceding cheap goals. Klopp wanted to take that half-season to understand the culture of the club and his players a little better. Even though that season was just a tester, we saw some evidence of the craziness Klopp brought with him. His over the top extravagant celebrations, his Gegenpressing on display and the emphasis to be lethal while counter-attacking.
The match against his former club, Dortmund was an example of what was to be followed. The second leg of the Europa League quarter-final was at Anfield and Liverpool were down 1-0 from the first leg. The start wasn’t ideal for the Merseyside club and Klopp’s former players made it 3-0 on aggregate in just nine minutes of the second leg. The journey in the Europa League seemed all over for Liverpool, but then the impossible happened. Anfield’s magic was evident on that day more than any other probably. The team didn’t give up, neither did the crowd nor did their charismatic manager. In a free-flowing game, Liverpool emerged as the eventual winner when Dejan Lovren scored in injury time to win it for his team, 5-4 on aggregate. Liverpool went all the way in the competition and met Sevilla in the final of the Europa League. They started the match extremely well. Daniel Sturridge scored a world-class goal from the outer part of his left foot and gave Liverpool the lead going into half time. But the two-time Europa League champions Sevilla came into the second half as an unstoppable unit and went on to lift their third consecutive title by winning the match 3-1. This was one of the three heartbreaks Klopp was going to have at Liverpool.
The 2016-17 season came and it was Klopp’s first full season in charge. With no European competition to play in, the concentration was on the domestic English competitions. Liverpool’s style developed as the season progressed and they managed to get the Champions League spot on the last day of the league. But the main journey was taking place in the Carabao Cup, where Liverpool were to face Manchester City in the final of the competition. There was nothing to separate the two and a penalty shootout was necessary to decide the winner of the competition. Willy Caballero, City’s keeper emerged as the real hero and City went on to win the penalty shootout and lift the Carabao Cup. Klopp had to be content with another runners-up medal.
2017 – 2019: En route to Liverpool’s sixth Champions League trophy
In the 2017-18 season, Liverpool had the first opportunity to play in the Champions League under Jurgen Klopp. They signed Mohamed Salah in the summer window and the Egyptian went on to have a record-breaking individual season. They also strengthened the squad by roping in Virgil van Dijk in the January window, who at that time was the costliest defender in the world. The change in defence was evident to one and all. Liverpool had an amazing run in Europe’s elite competition. They met the Spanish giants in Real Madrid in the final of the Champions League and the odds were highly against them. Even though Liverpool put up a performance to remember but an injury to their star player, Salah and some ridiculous errors by their goalkeeper, Loris Karius meant that Liverpool lost the final 1-3 in Kyiv. This was Klopp’s sixth defeat in seven major finals at that time. The team finished fourth in the Premier League again, securing their qualification to the Champions League for next season.
Klopp and his team were determined to be back in the final and this time wanted to go all the way. They brought in Brazilian keeper Alisson Becker from AS Roma, defensive midfielder Fabinho, box-to-box midfielder Naby Keita and took a gamble on Xherdan Shaqiri from Stoke City. These reinforcements in the squad meant that Liverpool were more competitive than ever and had emerged as one of the most feared teams in Europe. This time the squad was ready to fight both in the Champions League as well as the Premier League. The tussle between Manchester City and Liverpool in the Premier League went down to the wire and the latter narrowly missed out as City clinched the league by just one point.
Now all the focus was on Europe but Liverpool found themselves in a spot of bother there as well. They lost the first leg of the semi-final against Barcelona 3-0 and it seemed like it may be another trophyless season for Klopp. But what followed in the second leg at Anfield will go down in history as one of the greatest comebacks in football. Down 3-0, without star players like Salah and Roberto Firmino, nobody fancied Liverpool, but they went on to achieve the impossible and won the match 4-0 at home. This time they took the flight to Madrid for the final knowing that they were the favourites and had the experience to get the job done. They faced Tottenham who were playing their first Champions League final. It wasn’t the best final but Liverpool got the job done and went on to lift their sixth Champions League trophy.
Current Season: 30-year wait for the Premier League trophy almost over
Jurgen Klopp’s side started the 2019-20 season playing Chelsea in the Super Cup and went on to win the Cup for the first time in the club’s history. This was followed by the FIFA Club World Cup victory in Qatar and that marked Liverpool’s third trophy under Klopp. They have been outrageously good in the Premier League so far having lost just one game in the league and are 25 points ahead of Manchester City. This season saw the Reds breaking all sorts of records. They have set the English top-flight record of 22 consecutive home wins which is still ongoing. They have also set the Premier League record of 18 consecutive wins. Liverpool also went on to enjoy a 44-match unbeaten run in the league which is the second-longest streak in top-flight history.
The 30-year wait for the Premier League title seems all but over as the league is set to resume. This just seems to be the beginning of something extraordinary as Klopp has signed an extension that will keep him at the club till 2024 and long may he reign.
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