It’s a scary thought isn’t it? The notion that Jürgen Klopp will one day move on – that one day he will be in the Liverpool dugout for the final time.
Since arriving on Merseyside, the lovable German has become a messiah, ending the club’s 30-year wait for a title. The former Dortmund boss is currently tied down until 2024 and any Red would snap at the chance to ensure that he does not leave until then. That said, it’s always exciting to look at the plethora of managerial talent available all over Europe, not least in the form of an ex-legend working up in Scotland.
Steven Gerrard will always be welcome in the city of Liverpool. He brought so many good times to loyal LFC supporters and carried them through some bad ones as well. He has openly admitted he has had his head turned but nowhere else was enough to make him abandon his beloved Reds.
However, a club does not want to fall into the trap of appointing an ex-legend purely for sentimental reasons. Nobody knows what the club will look like when Klopp leaves – he himself is in new territory given that title success at Borussia Dortmund was always met with the departure of his best players rather than a continued demand for success.
Liverpool would not want to appoint Gerrard purely for sentimental reasons and indeed he is yet to win a trophy in Scotland. To use the obvious point of comparison in Frank Lampard who, although I rate as a manager, you cannot help but feel he gets away with things that, say, Maurizio Sarri wouldn’t have.
The ex-Reds captain’s club of choice, though, and style of play seem indicative of a long-term plan to find himself back at Anfield, only dictating from the sidelines rather than central midfield.
The size of club
Gerrard has always been accustomed to playing under pressure, arguably more so than anyone in the club’s history. Management is a completely different ball game, though, and there can’t have been many harder jobs available than Rangers when he first took over. He must have been rated though, given the Glasgow side’s tumultuous first two seasons back in Scotland’s top division.
Regardless of your thoughts on Scottish football, the weight of expectation from the fans and the desire to win trophies is similar. Yet to win a trophy, Gerrard makes it clear after every game that success can only really be considered once a trophy has been lifted.
The closest he came was last year’s Betfred Cup final – a narrow 1-0 loss to arch-rivals Celtic after dominating the game. The season was of course then cut short by Covid-19 and, unlike the Premier League, the Scottish Premier League was awarded to the green side of Glasgow.
Nonetheless, Gerrard has completely overhauled the culture of the club step by step. A change, not only in the quality and calibre of player, but in the mentality has been particularly noteworthy. This was done, like Klopp, step by step.
First came progression to the Europa League Group stages just a year after being put out in the first qualifying round by Luxembourgian side Progrès Niederkorn. Second, came a win over Old Firm rivals at home before an away win, almost 10 years in the making, in the following season. All that is needed now to cement Gerrard’s legacy is a trophy or, even better, a league title to stop Celtic’s charge towards 10 in a row.Embed from Getty Images
Of course, should Gerrard not deliver any silverware this season, pressure will begin to mount. He is already the first manager at the club to enter a third season without a trophy. As Liverpool fans know, though, patience is key. Heartbreak and failure can often be the catalyst for success.
The other issue comes with what is next after Rangers if Liverpool aren’t quite ready for him. Does he head to the Championship where the pressure of, not necessarily winning, but earning promotion to the Premier League at all costs is essential for almost any club? Does he head to a mid-table club in England’s top flight and try to challenge the top six? Does he head to the continent? As with everything in football, only time will tell.
European competition has and always will hold a special place in Liverpool fans’ hearts. It has provided some of the most famous nights in the club’s long and rich history with Klopp himself reaching three finals of the four European competitions he has entered, bringing home a sixth European Cup in the process.
When Gerrard arrived at Rangers, the club had not reached the group stages of a European competition since the 2010-11 season. He made short work of that and progressed through all four qualifying rounds, being eliminated in the group with just one game to go.
The Scouser showed his intelligence, though, as the following year, not only did he navigate the qualifying rounds again but got through the group showing he had learned valuable lessons from last year.
As much as the Europa League is often the subject of banter on social media, reminding a given club that they aren’t performing alongside the rest of Europe’s elite, Gerrard’s side have navigated some difficult fixtures.
They took on Porto away from home and drew 1-1 before beating them 2-0 at Ibrox in the reverse fixture. There will always be those who criticise the Scottish league but when there’s a team taking on Champions League level opposition and holding their own, something is going right.
Having progressed through the group, Rangers found themselves 2-0 down at home to Portuguese side S.C. Braga in amongst a bad run of form in Scotland that had seen the league title begin to slip away yet again.
However, in the space of 15 minutes, the Gers turned the tide and won the game 3-2 before an exceptional performance away from home saw them through to the last 16. Although the score made it look like Bayer Leverkusen made short work of his side, Gerrard’s side didn’t disgrace themselves and were punching well above their weight in Europe.
More than this though, there are so many similarities between Ibrox and Anfield. It’s easy to speak in clichés but that night against Braga, the crowd really did become the 12th man. The Primeira Liga side were in control well up until the first goal and then crumbled under the pressure of the crowd.
Like Anfield, Ibrox is close to the pitch and can often prove suffocating for so many teams – along with Porto, Rapid Wien, Feyenoord, Legia Warsaw and Liverpool’s Danish group stage opponents FC Midtjylland have all found themselves unable to cope.
The demand for trophies at a club is one thing – the demand for an exciting style to go along with it is another added pressure entirely. Fans at both clubs want a system which shows a player’s passion, and demonstrates they are willing to go that extra yard for the badge.
Gerrard has done just that, implementing a favoured 4-3-2-1 – similar in many ways to what Liverpool use now. Known colloquially as the ‘Christmas tree’ formation, Gerrard’s front three play narrowly with ex-LFC man Ryan Kent and usually one of Ianis Hagi or Brandon Barker operating as the other ‘inside 10.’Embed from Getty Images
In turn, this allows space for full-backs Borna Barisic and captain James Tavernier to get forward as well. It’s remarkably similar to the way Klopp’s Reds play in that it demands high-intensity at all times and gets the fans on their feet.
The side has also shown how resolute they can be defensively though, this season in particular. Rangers have kept nine sheets in their opening 11 league games and, most recently, produced an exceptional performance away to Standard Liège. On a side note, if you haven’t seen it yet, go and watch Kemar Roofe’s goal which sealed a 2-0 win, scored from inside his own half.
As I’ve said, only time will tell if Gerrard can bring success to Rangers and potentially, Liverpool. There are a lot of similarities to be had there. Between Klopp and Gerrard. Between Ibrox and Anfield. Perhaps when the time comes for the normal one to depart, Gerrard might provide some continuity.
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