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How Jurgen Klopp has improved Liverpool FC

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
376   //    12 Apr 2019, 16:26 IST

Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool Football Club has a history that most clubs in the world would be envious of. 5 European Cups and 18 league titles (albeit not in the Premier League era), is no mean feat.

However, since the end of the First Division and the start of the Premier League, the club has not really achieved the same heights, challenging for the league title on very rare occasions. Liverpool did have success on the European stage under Rafa Benitez in 2005, dramatically - to say the least, but that was that.

Gerard Houllier and the aforementioned Benitez are the only ones who can claim to have made a respectable title charge in the Premier League and in Europe. In the recent past, former Swansea manager, Brendan Rogers, managed Liverpool in their "almost" season, where they finished 2nd in the league and could have gone on to win had the infamous Steven Gerrard slip not happened.

Rogers gave Liverpool the hope of winning the league
Rogers gave Liverpool the hope of winning the league

However, that team was riding on the brilliance of Luis Suarez, and his departure to Barcelona brought them crashing down. Rogers could not fill the void left by the Uruguayan, and Liverpool struggled to finish in the top six, let alone a Champions League spot.

Poor performances in the following season led to the sacking of Rogers. The club appointed Jurgen Klopp mid-season on 8 October 2015. The German analysed the players and their skills for the remainder of the season, did not make any hasty transfers, and Liverpool finished 8th in the League but managed to reach the finals of the League Cup and Europa League.

Klopp then started to establish himself at Merseyside by signing the players he wanted to fit his style of play. First through the door were players like Sadio Mane, Loris Karius, Joel Matip, and Georginio Wijnaldum.

The 2016-17 season was comparatively a very fruitful one. Even though Liverpool couldn't play in Europe, it came as a blessing in disguise as the manager and the players could focus on their league prospects. Klopp pulled Liverpool back into the Champions League race as Liverpool finished 4th, ensuring Champions League football for the next season.

Rafa Benitez - Last to deliver a major title
Rafa Benitez - Last to deliver a major title
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In the 2016-17 season, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane were the star players, with Firmino and Lallana enhancing their reputations. However, the need for a proper left-back was felt, as even though James Milner put in good performances in that role, it was never his primary position and his energy was missed in the midfield.

Klopp's gegenpressing or counter-pressing style was showing on the pitch and was being widely applauded. However, this meant that the team compromised on defence and shipped in a lot of goals.

But the blazing attack made sure that the team won on most occasions. Liverpool finished fourth in the league, again assuring Champions League football, and also reached the semi-finals of the League Cup.

In the next season, Klopp stamped his authority on the club, as well as the world football stage. In the transfer window before the commencement of the season, he bought only four players, three of those were Mohamed Salah, Andy Robertson, and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain.

Then in the January transfer window, Klopp strengthened the weakest part of the Liverpool XI, the defence, by bringing in the world's most expensive defender, Virgil van Dijk. This was Liverpool's best season under Klopp.

Riding on Salah's "other-world" goal scoring and immense contributions from Firmino and Mane, the Reds again secured a top-four finish and rampaged towards the Champions League final, eventually finishing as runners-up.

However, what was important to look at was the fact that every team in Europe feared Klopp's men and they managed to regularly beat the best team in England, Manchester City. If not for a leaky defence, they would have finished higher in the league, and had Karius not made the mistakes in the Champions League final, Liverpool might have won that as well.

Jurgen Klopp - On the right track so far
Jurgen Klopp - On the right track so far

This season, Liverpool are challenging for the league title as well as for the Champions League. They keep alternating between 1st and 2nd on the League table and are tearing their way through Europe. A solid defence, a reliable attack, and a hard-working midfield have been Klopp's recipe for success this season.

How much Klopp has improved Liverpool is extremely evident from 2 facts - firstly, Liverpool have secured Champions League football for next season already, with 5 games to go and no one has batted an eyelid, and secondly, it is now widely agreed that if Liverpool don't win at least one trophy this season, it will be considered a disappointment.

Compare these two facts to the fact that Liverpool was finishing 6th and 8th in the league and quality players were leaving the club looking for Champions League involvement.

Liverpool is now back to being one of the best clubs in Europe, with most opponents wary of their counter-pressing and lethal counter-attacks.

One thing that teams have also been wary of this season particularly is the rock-solid defence consisting of Van Dijk, Matip, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson, Dejan Lovren (on a few occasions), and Joe Gomez (until his injury). The likes of Fabinho, Keita, Shaqiri, and Alisson have helped tremendously in bringing Liverpool to where the club is today.

Klopp has literally been Liverpool's messiah and saviour. He has helped the fans and the club forget and move past the Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish era, as well as the second half of Rogers' term.

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