The arrival of Jürgen Klopp at Anfield sparked a frenzy of optimism amongst Liverpool fans with some even believing they could claim the title. A promising 0-0 draw in his first game in charge and impressive away wins against Manchester City, Chelsea and Southampton might have given reds fans fuel for the fire.
Despite those impressive away wins, Liverpool have also registered some abysmal performances in the losses against Crystal Palace, West Ham and Watford and were second best against high-flying Leicester City on Tuesday night. All things considered, it is fair to say Liverpool still have a long way to go before being considered genuine title contenders.
There is no doubt though that they have been very unlucky with injuries – Klopp has rarely had the chance to develop a centre-back pairing and has lost three out of his four strikers, with the misfiring Christian Benteke his only fit recognised forward.
The main difference in Liverpool has been the energy of their play. Under predecessor Brendan Rodgers they looked devoid of confidence and despite what he said, were lacking ‘Character’.
He has clearly developed a good relationship with the squad, which visible in the way that Adam Lallana rushed over to celebrate with his manager after scoring the late winner against Norwich. It was telling to see Klopp push a Sky cameraman onto his players and seemed to be saying ‘Them not me’
The chaotic victory over Norwich summed up Klopp’s time on Merseyside so far. His team were full of running and energy but were disorganised at the back and unable to defend rudimentary opposition balls in the box. What will be pleasing for Klopp and ‘Kopites’ to see is the never die attitude that the team have developed since the German’s arrival.
Despite the crazy win over Norwich, the ‘Reds’ had to rely on penalties to get them over the line against Stoke in the League Cup semi-final. In victory, however, Klopp has done something Rodgers couldn’t and got them into a cup final.
This in some ways shows Klopp has already improved on what Rodgers achieved in just over three years at the club. The Reds had to scrap to a semi-final victory over Stoke on penalties, where pantomime villain Simon Mignolet saved two to put Liverpool through.
Koppites should also be pleased by the site of seeing young players get their chance at Anfield. Klopp blooded several young players against West Ham in positive performance, despite the 0-0 final score line. The future looks bright at Anfield as Liverpool go through and get a glimpse at the potential being produced at Liverpool’s Kirkby academy.
One thing Klopp should get at Anfield is time, the squad are still very much Rodgers’ group. Graeme Souness said the former Dortmund manager would need at least three or four windows to just to ‘Improve’ things.
January is always a difficult time to buy as usually the real quality is not available. Alex Teixeira has been strongly linked with the club and would certainly suit Klopp’s ‘gengenpressing’ style of play, especially considering he has mostly deployed Roberto Firmino as a ‘False nine’.
Then there is the Benteke issue. The forward cost the club £32.5 million but has struggled to make an impact, the Belgian obviously has talent but is he really a Liverpool forward? Often static up front, it appears either he will have to adapt to Liverpool’s style or vice versa.
What has gone down well with Liverpool fans has simply been Klopp’s honesty in front of the media. The manager has been strong enough to say when his team haven’t played well, but what has been most pleasing to see is his passion and drive for the game.
He often does post-match press conferences still caught up in the heat of the game and has to apologise for comments later on. His animations on the touch line bring back memories of a young Sir Alex Ferguson in his early United days.
Considering the vast amount of money which will come into the Premier League next season it surely has to be an absolute priority that Liverpool finish in the top four. With the unpredictability of the division, it has to mean they have a good chance.
With a little under four months since he arrived at the club I think its fair to say Klopp has done well. He is beginning to change the feeling and mindset around the club, instilling the idea that Anfield is being rebuilt back into the fortress it once was. We will most likely see the biggest changes next summer.
It took Klopp two seasons to turn Dortmund into title contenders and they were very much in a similar position to Liverpool. The only difference is that the German club only had to become ‘Anti-Bayern’, whereas Liverpool must overtake Arsenal, United, City and Chelsea.