One year later: How Liverpool have fared under Jurgen Klopp
Klopp has very quickly made himself the spiritual figurehead of Liverpool, with the one-year mark since his arrival on Merseyside passing last week
It’s easy to judge managerial appointments in retrospect, so it’s perhaps the greatest appraisal of Jurgen Klopp’s time at Liverpool so far that the Anfield club would surely make the same decision in hiring the German with the benefit of hindsight.
Indeed, Klopp has very quickly made himself the spiritual figurehead of Liverpool, with the one-year mark since his arrival on Merseyside passing last week. In that time the Reds have taken on the identity of their new boss, reflecting the character of the German with the infectious Cheshire cat grin.
There is an energy and direction to Liverpool again which was lacking under Brendan Rodgers. Of course, the Northern Irishman is not solely to blame for the way the Anfield club coasted towards the latter stint of his tenure. Owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) deserve much of the blame for the crisis of identity suffered on Merseyside in the years prior to Klopp’s appointment.
But the hiring of the former Borussia Dortmund boss was a watershed moment for the club. It made a statement about where Liverpool were heading, while renewing supporters’ faith in FSG and their ambitions. Since then Klopp has restored the character of the club, with belief now tangible in the air at the newly-renovated Anfield. Liverpool are on the up.
On the face of things Liverpool have made scant on-the-field progress under Klopp. The German has lost nearly half of the 37 Premier League matches he has taken charge of, with the Reds finishing a lowly eighth last season. To provide some perspective, the Reds finished sixth in the Premier League under Rodgers the season before.
But with Klopp in charge Liverpool have become comfortable in their own skin again. The Reds are the Premier League’s current joint-top goalscorers alongside Manchester City, with their attacking frontline potent enough to blow away any opposition side - as they have already done to both Arsenal and Chelsea early on this season.
Yet Klopp isn’t too keen on the accusation his side plays cavalier football. “I love clean sheets,” he explained in an interview earlier this season. “It looks different but I love it! I would never accept conceding goals before a game, to be honest. I’ve never chosen a line-up where I’ve thought, ‘OK, maybe we can score five but with these guys we will concede four.’ I never did this...
“It’s clear that we don’t pass for the sake of passing. We want to create offensive spaces. We want to move the opposition. But until we know ‘this is the pass’, we don’t have to take too much risk around the goal. You always have to take risks, but not too much risk.”
Perhaps Klopp’s comments hint at his own recognition of the progress that’s still to be made. While Liverpool’s attacking frontline is among the best in the English game right now, their defence remains decidedly shaky. The Reds can out-gun most in the Premier League and they have been required to do so on a number of occasions already this season. But how sustainable is that as a strategy? Surely they can’t keep it up.
So while Klopp undoubtedly places an emphasis on the attacking side of the game, highlighted by Liverpool’s performances this season, he must find a balance what happens up front and what happens at the back. Indeed, the Reds are still some way short of the finished product in defense.
But by giving Liverpool an identity again Klopp has already succeeded in achieving a key objective asked of him when he first arrived on Merseyside a year ago. He has given himself a platform to build upon, although Klopp’s legacy at the club will be defined by what he does next. Liverpool feels like Liverpool again and much of that is down to their new German figurehead.