On the fifth anniversary of Jürgen Klopp joining — and beginning to revolutionise — Liverpool Football Club, The Kopite had a go at picking out three key elements of the success that has seen the German lead the Reds to the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and Premier League since his appointment on Thursday October 8, 2015.
MentalityEmbed from Getty Images
A word used by — and associated with — the manager and his team oh so often. You can understand why. It has been such a marker of where they were, where they are going and what they are.
That team, too, is one that goes beyond the pitch.
Within the team— and the stands — things largely felt incoherent at the time Klopp arrived. Something which the then 48-year-old swiftly identified, looked in the eye and addressed.
After his first Premier League home game in charge — in which a certain Sadio Mané netted a late equaliser for Southampton — Klopp said: “Receive one goal and it felt like the end of the world and it’s not the end of the world. No, it’s only a goal. And you can come back always and that’s what we have to understand. That’s what I saw tonight.”
Following his second — a 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace — in which he’d seen supporters heading for the exits early following Scott Dann’s winner, the ex-Dortmund boss’ words again hit the spot: “I felt really alone in this moment”.
The benefits of the players possessing unrelenting belief in themselves and supporters backing them to the same extent soon emerged.
Divock Origi’s late leveller in a 2-2 Anfield draw with West Brom in mid-December came at the end of a game where the crowd stuck with its representatives in red.
Klopp led celebrations in-front of the Kop which were mocked in some quarters. They were more a demonstration of gratitude and recognition of progress made — and to be made — though.
That still feels like a foundation for so much of what’s followed. Various performances, responses and moments.
Manchester United, Dortmund, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Napoli, Roma, Barcelona and beyond are all Anfield games which feel like they can be traced back to the groundwork of those early weeks.
‘Heavy metal football’, ‘Full-throttle football’, ‘Gegenpressing’, or the like. However, we want to describe the trademark approach of Klopp’s teams, they have found a very happy home — and place of growth — at Liverpool.
The collective values of hard work and intensity that come with such a system — and such a manager — always felt like they’d be a great fit in L4. Still, most would agree they’ve exceeded expectations.
Arguably, one of the biggest reasons why — appropriately — is that they haven’t stood still.
So many sides couldn’t live with the sheer velocity of the earlier incarnations of Klopp’s Liverpool. If they could, though, things got sticky for the Reds. There too often wasn’t a strong enough Plan B or C, which caused major problems as the side was classed as predictable.
Steadily, that changed. Experience and additions have been big contributors to that. Since late 2018 especially, the Reds have added a subtlety, patience and extra mental fortitude to their game plans.
The intensity is still there when needed. Judging when to use it also feels like something the Merseysiders have become better and better at.
More ingredients. More rounded. More sustainable. A strong philosophy and a continually evolving one.
RecruitmentEmbed from Getty Images
A key factor in allowing the above process, of course.
To name just a few, Georginio Wijnaldum, Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah, Andy Robertson, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Alisson Becker have all proved key factors in the Reds development over the last five years.
This development has meant big name players are making their way to Anfield to be a part of the Klopp project for fraction of their supposed price. A great example of this is the recent acquisition of Thiago Alcântara for around £20million.
All of those aforementioned players arguably look like bargains now. Their technical, tactical and physical traits — paired with their personalities — have made them wonderful fits for the team and the club.
That is largely credit to the work of Liverpool’s recruitment team, so often led by Sporting Director Michael Edwards — who has exceeded in the post he has held since November 2016.
On and off the pitch, Klopp’s Liverpool is one big team and hopefully will continue to function at its efficient best for years to come.
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