With Jurgen Klopp celebrating a year in charge of Liverpool on Saturday, Dave Tindall looks at what the charismatic German boss has brought to the club and the areas in which the club has made significant improvements.
Klopp succeeded Brendan Rodgers in the Anfield hotseat on October 8 2015 and the club has been transformed into title challengers this season under his tenure.
The German may not be in any mood to reflect on his year in charge, so instead, we’ve done that job for him…..
Five things that have improved under Klopp
The Anfield Experience
True, Jurgen didn’t don a hard helmet and start laying bricks to help build the new stand but he’s had a huge hand in turning the Anfield matchday experience into a far more enjoyable one for Liverpool fans. And his methods are part of the reason we love him.
Rather than glibly trot out the line about the great atmosphere as if it were still the 60s and 70s, Klopp basically told the Liverpool fans they had to raise their game.
Forget all this going quiet, groaning, feeling anxious and leaving early nonsense, the supporters had to be part of the rebuild. To create an upward spiralling cycle where fans and players lifted each other to new heights. And it’s working. Helped, of course, by the increased capacity, Liverpool fans are now making more noise and the team are responding in kind.
Two home Premier League games this season have already brought nine goals and the stats for the last 12 games at Anfield are hugely impressive: P12, W10, D2, L0, F34, A9.
Record v Big Teams
The first real sign that Klopp’s influence was starting to take hold was the trip to Chelsea just five games into his reign when the Reds came from a goal down to win 3-1.
Soon after we smashed Man City 4-1 at the Etihad and the dye was cast. Home or away, Liverpool are now a match for anyone.
Already this season we’ve been to The Emirates and Stamford Bridge and walked away with all three points and we did enough to have added the scalp of Spurs at White Hart Lane, eventually drawing 1-1.
Klopp masterminded a 3-1 aggregate win over Man Utd in last season’s Europa League, 2-0 at home and 1-1 away, so the only iconic ground he has to conquer is Old Trafford.
It’s not been quite as dramatic at Anfield but Man City were brushed aside 3-0 last season and there were draws against Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea.
Of course, it extended to Europe too with the 1-1 draw in Dortmund and that astonishing 4-3 win at Anfield the obvious highlight.
Liverpool fear no-one and it’s that ability to get it done in the big games that has many of us daydreaming about the title and thinking “we couldn’t, could we?”
Of course, belief is a big factor behind our record in the big games but it extends to other situations too.
We saw that at Swansea last week when the first 45 minutes went horribly wrong. Adam Lallana off injured and 1-0 down. Could we find a response? You bet. A complete turnaround in the second half and a deserved 2-1 win.
The difference between Klopp and Brendan Rodgers’ closing season and a bit is night and day.
From the start of the 2014/15 campaign until the point he left, Rodgers’ Liverpool scraped together just four points from the 16 matches in which they were behind; under Klopp we’ve grabbed 19 points in 17 matches from losing positions. That includes six from three games this year. It’s more and more the case that conceding the first goal awakes rather than condemns us.
Of course, belief is one thing but if you haven’t got the goal power to supplement it, you’re only halfway there.
The goals had dried up so badly for us last season that our tally of just 22 from the opening 20 games was an all-time low. Read that again. We were performing worse in front of goal than at any other time in our history.
That was the back end of the Rodgers era and the start of Klopp’s. Luis Suarez had left a gaping hole and Daniel Sturridge, as someone wrote, was “made of crisps” and permanently sidelined.
But now look at us. We’re a goals machine. In nine games this season we’ve found the net 26 times and 10 different players have whirled away in celebration.
We’re the joint top scorers in the Premier League despite playing five of our seven games on the road and this continues the trend set in 2015/2016 when our tally of 41 in the second half of the season was the highest in the Premier League.
Swagger And Pride
It had got to the point early last season that when meeting new people in a social situation I found myself whispering the fact that I was a Reds fan or saying something like, “er, Liverpool” when asked my team.
It might prompt a look of pity, a “dear me” or even laughter at how average we’d become. But now? I’m back to bellowing it with pride. There will always be haters but now I detect envy from other fans.
We’re that team with the box-office manager who neutrals love to watch. We score loads of goals but still have an engaging fragility.
And there is certainly no “you’re a one-man team” comeback from anyone anymore. At no other time in my lifetime supporting the Reds can I think of the talent being spread so evenly. I’d never ever have given up on my team but being an LFC fan is bloody great again. Jurgen, you’re a breath of fresh air. Cheers fella!
Highlights of Klopp’s first full year
Most thrilling moment
Dejan Lovren’s header to make it 4-3 against Dortmund. Remarkable.
Most improved player
Adam Lallana. A fleeting presence has become a key exponent of the Klopp philosophy and now with end product.
Mamadou Sakho going from cult hero to bewilderingly stupid zero.
The second half of the Europa Cup final. A trophy and Champions League spot went up in smoke.
Biggest blessing in disguise
Losing the Europa Cup final! No European football this year seriously increases our title/top four hopes.
A very tough question. My personal choice is Roberto Firmino.
Jordan Henderson’s v Chelsea was pretty special but Daniel Sturridge’s outside of the foot strike in the Europa Cup final sent me into the biggest frenzy and was technically brilliant.
Biggest crisis solved
Left back. Alberto Moreno was costing us seriously until James Milner plugged the gap seamlessly.
Biggest problem unsolved
Goalkeeper. Early days but so far Loris Karius looks either one for the future or Mignolet in a mask.
Sadio Mane. Fitted perfectly into Klopp’s system whilst adding width and pace. Scores goals too.