Jurgen Klopp has undoubtedly been the man behind Liverpool’s transformation from league also-rans to one of the greatest sides ever. But just how has he achieved this monumental feat? In this article, Peter Watton, from matched betting specialists OddsMonkey, takes a look at the key factors behind the German’s Merseyside revolution.
On that perfect evening in Madrid last June, many Liverpool supporters might have been forgiven for thinking that this was as good as it was going to get. However, fast forward seven months to 2020 and the club are well on course to win the prize that has eluded them for over a quarter of a century: the Premier League title.
But, its not the fact that they are going to win the title (most bookies have stopped taking bets), it’s the way they’re doing it that that has made people sit up and take notice. Unbeaten all season, with 67 points from 69, they’re in danger of becoming the most prolific club side of all time. The Reds now sit fourth in the all-time ClubElo rankings after their victory over Wolves.
The man responsible for this attempt at making history is Jurgen Klopp, no questions asked. The German has pushed Liverpool to new heights, all with the second lowest net transfer spend of the Premier League’s “traditional” top six sides in the last five years at £107.77 million (Transfermrkt). This begs the question: just how has he done this? Well, let’s take a look at the key ingredients of Jurgen Klopp’s unstoppable Liverpool reign.
A perfection of the press
When Jurgen Klopp arrived at Liverpool in 2015, there was much talk about how he was going to bring the “heavy metal football” of his Bundesliga days and turn the Reds into another version of his all-action Dortmund side. However, while most of the UK press were happy to portray Klopp as the quotable “rock star” manager he had the reputation as being, many didn’t appreciate how tactically astute he was, and that the tweaks to his formula would change the face of the Premier League.
Liverpool certainly play in the “Gegenpressing” style of his Dortmund, but it is more of a 2.0 version than a direct replication of the original. While his early seasons saw criticism for defensive frailties and an inability to control games (as with Dortmund), Klopp has slowly evolved the tactic so that it incorporates periods of possession and improved midfield organisation.
Now, Liverpool benefit from the high energy, high pressure attacking dominance of the Gegenpress, while also being able to switch up their game by keeping the ball to see difficult periods of matches through. The result is a team that have proven impossible to beat so far in the 2019/20 season.
A decisive approach to transfers
It’s not just the tactics that Klopp has gotten right. He, along with his recruitment team, have taken a thoughtful approach to transfers by signing players to fit Liverpool’s style of play rather than bringing in the biggest names and trying to adapt around them.
No quality central defenders? They signed Virgil van Dijk. Problems at left back? Welcome, Andrew Robertson. Klopp’s ability to pin-point exactly what his squad needs and then going out and getting that player is a decisive approach that has delivered on all fronts for Liverpool.
There’s also the fact that Liverpool have never panic bought under Klopp, too. Remember Phillipe Coutinho’s departure to Barcelona and how he was meant to be irreplaceable? Well, the club simply adapted to his absence rather than going and spending millions on a like-for-like player. Now, Liverpool create and score more chances than at any point during the Brazilian’s stay on Merseyside.
An ability to get the most out of players
Alongside the tactics and transfers is Jurgen Klopp’s ability to get the most out of his players. You’ve just got to look at some of the current squad to see what I mean. Virgil van Dijk was “overpriced” at £70 million from Southampton but is now almost universally recognised as the world’s finest central defender. Jordan Henderson was a decent midfielder who Alex Ferguson thought “ran funny” but has grown to be club captain and is one of the best holding midfielders in the Premier League.
Klopp is also willing to look to the youth in the squad, too, which does wonders for their confidence, as well as keeping transfer spend down. Trent Alexander-Arnold is the shining example of this. Now England’s first choice right back and responsible for a large share of assists, Klopp was the man who gave the Liverpool-born player his big break. Consider the fact close rivals Man City spent millions on the likes of Danilo (£26.5m), Kyle Walker (£50m), and Joao Cancelo (£27.4m) to solve their right back problems, and Klopp’s willingness to back youth suddenly looks like a masterstroke.
An indomitable team spirit
Watch any Liverpool game and you will see Mr Klopp screaming and shouting like a mad man on the touch line. He’s a manager who wins and loses with the team, able to celebrate success with the players one moment, then putting an arm around a player who had a bad game the next.
This enthusiasm has rubbed off on a set of players who have, crucially, been together a few seasons now, creating an indomitable spirit that ensures everyone is playing for each other. The mentality of the squad is one of the main reasons that you can never write Liverpool off, giving them an uncanny ability to keep fighting for the win until the very end.
Recently, the term “Kloppage time” has been used to describe the team’s knack for late goals and never say die attitude, and you only have to look at the dugout to see the shouting German man willing his team to victory to understand why.