When Brendan Rodgers left Liverpool almost five years ago, the club was in shambles. Under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp, the Reds have resurrected as a completely new and exciting team, which can easily be ranked among the best in European football.
As much as Manchester United fans dislike the club, one cannot help but grudgingly admire the rise of the club over the last four-and-a-half years under Jurgen Klopp. Known to have brought success to Borussia Dortmund during the seven years he spent at the Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund were a force to reckon with under the German maestro.
Jurgen Klopp has singlehandedly turned around the fortunes of Liverpool by making important changes across all areas of the game. On the maestro’s 53rd birthday, let's have an in-depth look at the alterations in Liverpool across their defence, midfield, and attack:
Shrewd defensive signings combined with removing deadweight
By the time Brendan Rodgers left the club, there were a lot of players occupying the wage bill yet failing to meet the requires standards of an ‘Elite Six’ club. A few of these players included Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno and Emre Can, among others. The biggest departure during Klopp’s time, however, was Philippe Coutinho.
While many fans were disenchanted by the departure of the Brazilian, the money they got from his sale helped bring in the likes of Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk, both of whom have gone on to establish their stakes as the best players at Anfield. With these two players at the back, Liverpool went a staggering 517 minutes without conceding a goal in all competitions last season, stretching from February-March 2019.
However, his most shrewd signing at the club has to be Andrew Robertson. The Scot was brought in from Hull City after the club suffered relegation, for just eight million dollars. Many fans and pundits alike were intrigued at this acquisition, but Robertson has gone on to prove that he is worth much more than the club paid for him.
Along with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool’s two fullbacks cost Liverpool a combined eight million (since Trent is a youth product), and somehow, they are still world-class talents. Trent ended the campaign with the most assists ever recorded by a defender (12), with the former following close behind on 11.
Strong midfield options
When Jordan Henderson arrived at the club, he was not among the first choice for the fans. Fast forward to nine seasons later, and the English midfielder has rejuvenated his career under Jurgen Klopp and is doing his best to emulate the legendary Steven Gerrard.
He might not be at the same level (or anywhere near Gerrard), but Henderson’s high work rate has won fans over. He has been Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp’s trusted midfield general for three seasons running. His ability to stay back and win the ball has allowed Liverpool’s other young midfielders in the form of Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain to make forward runs.
The experience of Adam Lallana and James Milner also speaks volumes about the dominance of Liverpool in the middle of the park. Combined with the likes of Fabinho, who gives cover to the Liverpool defence, as well as Naby Keita, who is yet to show his true form at the Anfield.
To put it in context, Liverpool have a passing accuracy of close to 84 percent during Klopp’s era, averaging more than 600 passes per game.
Fast, attacking brand of football
Mohamad Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are not only lethal finishers but are also equally pacy and the main reason Liverpool are considered the best attacking unit in the league. Liverpool’s attack had started to wane towards the end of Rodgers’ career, with only Firmino and Coutinho prolific for the side. So, when many fans thought the departure of the Brazilian will reduce their flare, they couldn’t have been more wrong.
During the 2017-18 season, when Liverpool reached the Champions League final for the first time under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool averaged more shots per 90 minutes at 16.1, which was more than the year before. The pace of Salah and Mane meant the dynamic of their game had become more direct. They averaged the least number of passes per game as compared to his previous seasons but managed to score a staggering 84 goals, at a rate of 2.21 goals per game.
Salah scored 32 of these goals alone, but Liverpool only managed to finish fourth, while losing 3-1 to Real Madrid in the final. However, the Reds were unstoppable in Europe last season, with the tactical genius of Jurgen Klopp helping Liverpool win a memorable trophy. While many people talk about the genius of Trent in assisting the goal against Barcelona, they fail to recognize the poaching ability of Divock Origi, who emerged as the perfect super-sub and Champions League goal scorer for Liverpool last season.
Over the last four-and-a-half years, Klopp has been building Liverpool into the most compact unit in Liverpool. His main long-term focus has been to win the elusive Premier League title, which Liverpool have failed to do during the Premier League era. With a 25-point gap from second-placed Manchester City, and just nine points required to seal the deal from a potential 27, Jurgen Klopp has all but sealed his name in Liverpool’s historical folklore.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Oscar Del Pozo