Red Letter: Liverpool starting to catch fire under Klopp

Date published: Friday 6th November 2015 12:14

Jordon Ibe: Earned praise from Jurgen Klopp

In his weekly Liverpool blog, lifelong Reds fan Dave Tindall looks back on the wins over Chelsea and Rubin Kazan and the continuing rise under Jurgen Klopp.

Sehr gut, aber man soll nicht zu optimistisch werden!

Or, in English…. very good but let’s not get carried away.

Still, victory away to the Premier League champions and a first win on the road in Europe for three years equates to an excellent week for Liverpool fans so danke Herr Klopp.

In fact, it’s our best week since April 2013 when back-to-back 3-2 victories over Manchester City and Norwich took us to the brink of the Premier League trophy.

Forget Steven Gerrard’s slip, that dream was ended by a tactical masterclass from Jose Mourinho, who took particular delight in putting what proved an irreparable puncture in Liverpool’s title hopes. His team were out of it by then and faced a Champions League semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid just three days later so quite why he was so determined to thwart his young protégé Brendan Rodgers I’m not so sure.

[of_poll name=’How will Liverpool do under Jurgen Klopp this season?’ id=’657457′]

Was he still bitter about the two Champions League semi-final losses to Rafa in 2005 and 2007? You know, the ‘ghost goal’ one in 2005 when Petr Cech took out Milan Baros so the alternative to Luis Garcia’s early strike would have been conceding a penalty and being reduced to 10 men.

I’ve admired more than loathed Mourinho since then as he’s a brilliant manager but on Sunday I almost felt sorry for the guy as he embarrassed himself in the post-match press conference with Des Kelly. “I cannot say. I cannot say,” was his mantra. I’ll do it for you then Jose, your team were outplayed so stop hiding behind all this conspiracy nonsense.

Klopp’s reactions to Liverpool’s goals in the 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge were quite telling I thought. After about 10 minutes he knew his side were the better team and he’d got it tactically spot on so Coutinho’s equaliser and go-ahead second were met with satisfied low fist pumps.

Only when Benteke netted the third did he allow himself a little victory jig as, by that stage, the whole world knew that Chelsea were on the canvas and out for the count.

The victory over Rubin in Russia on Thursday was a continuation of the Chelsea match in many ways.

Liverpool picked up where they left off, dominated from the very first whistle and found the killer goal through the rejuvenated Jordan Ibe.

My Twitter timeline exploded with Vines of Klopp embracing Ibe at the full-time whistle. It almost felt like a father greeting a returning son at an airport such was the genuine warmth.

Jordan Ibe: Earned Liverpool victory over Rubin Kazan

Earlier in the week, Ibe had revealed that Klopp had already had a huge effect on him. “With the new manager, everything is fresh,” said the 19-year-old. “I feel like a new player and it’s for me to keep improving and trying to stand out in training.”

He did more than just that on Thursday night. He hit the winning goal (what a classy pass from Firmino!), ran the Rubin defence ragged and confirmed all the potential that had got diluted with Rogers mucking about playing him as a wing-back.

The stats show that Ibe completed 11 successful dribbles against Rubin – nine more than anyone else on the pitch. In other words, he did what he’s good at, hurting the opposition high up the pitch from a wide starting point.

Ibe impressive

There are still plenty of rough edges to come off but Ibe could be a big player for Liverpool this season and a first goal – and such an important one – at senior level will do wonders for his confidence.

Sometimes actions speak louder than words. Brendan may have said he loved Ibe and could develop him as a player (and as a person too, Rodgers would likely have added) but playing him out of position all the time suggested otherwise. By contrast, Klopp has quickly put a round peg in a round hole.

I don’t want to turn this in a Rodgers-bashing column as I’ll never forget THAT season he gave us. But, as I’ve said before, the Northern Irishman was a manager for the good times and when things went wrong he looked lost. A latter day Kevin Keegan.

That same feeling of bemusement was felt particularly strongly in Europe under Rodgers. Either he got his tactics horribly wrong (what were his tactics?) or he just didn’t seem bothered by it.

I tried to vaguely defend him at the time but leaving Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling out of the away trip to Real Madrid last season probably had huge ramifications after all they’d done to earn such a night in the first place. Did that pair every really feel the same about Rodgers or run the extra mile for him after that?

By contrast, after three 1-1 draws in this very winnable Europa Cup group, Klopp said enough was enough. He told the full squad to get on the plane to Russia, picked a team to get the job done and got his reward.

True, the opposition were poor but this was the same lot that had snuffed the Reds out at Anfield and escaped with a 1-1 draw.

If Thursday night was a test of how quickly Klopp could assess real-life opposition having already seen them in the flesh and weighed them up, he passed it with flying colours.

Everyone on the pitch in Russia knew what they were doing, there was a real sense of purpose and the only frustrations were a few wrong choices in the final third that stopped a basic 1-0 win turning into a good old gubbing.

Rather than being slightly disappointing, those three draws Klopp kicked off his reign with are now starting to look like solid foundations for something bigger and better.

Successive wins against Bournemouth, Chelsea and Rubin are the first bricks being laid and suddenly everything in the house of Liverpool feels exciting again.

Firmino oozing class

Sakho looks a beast in central defence, full-backs Clyne and Moreno have speed and relentless energy, Emre Can continues to mature in his favoured midfield position and Firmino is starting to ooze class.

Klopp also knows how to shuffle his pack. Benteke for Milner at Chelsea. Wunderbar. A substitution that said so much about Klopp’s positive intent.

Next up is Sunday’s home game with Crystal Palace and it’s another obvious opportunity to draw comparisons with the previous regime.

Last season, Stevie G’s Anfield farewell was ruined by a vibrant Palace, who ran out deserved 3-1 winners. Liverpool were in a mess at the time as shown in brutal fashion by the 6-1 humiliation at Stoke the following week (a wrong that Rodgers righted in the opening match of this season to be fair).

But now it’s time for Klopp to tick off another first and get his first Premier League win at Anfield. Palace have dipped with three defeats and a draw in their last four games so, despite that long trip back from Russia, Liverpool look good to bank a fourth straight win.

Here’s a stat. Only the great Bob Paisley enjoyed a longer unbeaten start to his reign as new Liverpool boss than Klopp has so far. The great cardiganed one suffered his first defeat after nine games.

For Klopp to match it, Liverpool would have to first get past Palace and then take something from their next away game – a trip to Manchester City!

If he manages to achieve it with victory at the Etihad, then forget “sehr gut, aber man soll nicht zu optimistisch werden” because I WILL be getting carried away.

Agree with Dave’s assessments? Discuss the article and other issues at Anfield on the Liverpool Your Say forum.

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