Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool FC: A year-by-year tale of progress
- A year-by-year look at Liverpool's transformation under Jurgen Klopp, evolving from mid-table mediocrity to Premier League winners.
- The Reds manager successfully converted every doubter into believer as Liverpool have a squad ready to dominate England and Europe for the next few years.
Five years ago, Liverpool Football Club was a mess. Brendan Rodgers failed to capitalise on his side's explosive charge towards the Premier League title in 2014, eventually overseeing an incredibly lacklustre campaign that ended in the most humiliating fashion.
Steven Gerrard left the club, with his final two games ending in embarrassing defeats. Rodgers was still afforded the chance to get Liverpool back on track at the start of the 2015-16 season. However, the Reds ended up being even worse, despite some solid summer signings.
The Northern Irishman was sacked in October 2015 following a 1-1 draw with Everton, and his replacement, Jurgen Klopp, would end up being Liverpool's greatest ever managerial signing in Premier League history.
Fresh off a mini-break following his roller-coaster run as Borussia Dortmund manager, Klopp instantly embraced Liverpool's culture, both as a city and as a football club. The German's first few days as Liverpool manager saw him make some headline-grabbing statements.
"Please give us time to do the work but when I sit here in four years, I think we may have one title. I'm pretty sure. If not, maybe (I'll win) the next one in Switzerland."
Klopp also mentioned to the fans that it was time to turn doubters into believers. And over the course of the next four seasons, Liverpool fans kept on believing because Klopp was right. Every year under the German tactician has been one of progress for Liverpool.
And now, in 2020, less than five years since his arrival at the club, Jurgen Klopp has delivered Liverpool's first Premier League title. Their first league title since 1990. And for that alone, Klopp has etched his name as a Liverpool legend.
However, the journey towards that elusive Premier League title was not an easy one at all. Here is a year-by-year look at how Jurgen Klopp took Liverpool FC from mid-table mediocrity back to their perch.
How Jurgen Klopp transformed Liverpool from mid-table mediocrity to Premier League glory: A year-by-year account
2015: When the world laughed
The first few months of Jurgen Klopp's reign as Liverpool manager were difficult. The Reds certainly improved, but there were still issues that needed addressing, one of them being the club's relationship with its supporters.
Klopp noted how 'alone' he felt when supporters left Anfield in high numbers before the end of his side's 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace. The German manager called on the Anfield faithful to stick with the team and support them till the very end. And that is exactly what happened a month later when Liverpool hosted West Bromwich Albion.
Divock Origi scored a 96th-minute equaliser to salvage a 2-2 draw for the Reds, validating the manager's call for support. Klopp made his players salute the Kop as a way of showing gratitude for staying till the end. And while the whole footballing world laughed, this act sparked the rekindling of a special bond between Klopp and Liverpool's supporters.
The relationship Jurgen Klopp has with his players and the fans has since gone from strength to strength, with this moment after an inconsequential 2-2 draw with West Brom playing a huge part. From this point on, it was clear that the Liverpool fans were going on this journey with Klopp and the team.
2016: Cup finals and change
The second half of the 2015-16 season saw Jurgen Klopp stamp more of his identity on the Liverpool team, with intense pressing tactics catching opponents by surprise. He did the best he could with the players he was dealt with. An 8th-place league finish was disappointing, but Klopp did better elsewhere.
He managed to take Liverpool to the League Cup final and the Europa League final. And while they lost both matches, to Manchester City and Sevilla respectively, there were positivies in both campaigns. Liverpool's run to the Europa League final was special, with a 4-3 comeback win against Borussia Dortmund being the highlight.
The summer saw numerous changes at Anfield, with Klopp spending big to sign Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum as he began to transform Liverpool into a proper Klopp side. 2016-17 was his first full season in charge of Anfield, with a real sense of expectation surrounding the Reds.
Philippe Coutinho was the star of the show as Liverpool started the season brilliantly with their new brand of 'heavy metal football'. Liverpool were battling it out with several top clubs, in what was one of the most intense Premier League seasons ever. The Reds were second at the end of the 2015-16 season, having beaten Manchester City on New Year's Eve.
2017: Just about over the line
Despite their great start to the season, Liverpool fell away massively in 2017. Their title challenge was wiped out during a wretched January as even finishing in the top four looked like it was going to be a challenge. Jurgen Klopp took a more conservative approach towards the end of the season, employing a more solid structure.
Liverpool limped over the line at the end of the season, with some extremely nervy wins against the likes of Burnley, Stoke City and Watford. The Reds, however, signed off in style, sealing Champions League football with a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough on the final day of the season. This would turn out to be one of Klopp's most important victories as Liverpool manager.
Having sealed a Champions League return, Liverpool spent well on players who would fit their playing syle perfectly. Mohamed Salah was the marquee signing of the year, with Andrew Robertson joining as well from relegated Hull City. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain signed for the Reds on deadline day.
Salah was an instant hit at Anfield, scoring goals at a frightening rate. He lit up the league, alongside Mane and Roberto Firmino. Liverpool's attack looked phenomenal but Klopp needed to work on his side's defence to elevate his team to the next level.
2018: Wheels in motion
In terms of pure progress and transformation, 2018 might be the most important year in Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool's journey to immortality. Sure, their 4th-place finish in 2017 was massive, but the leap in quality over the course of the next year perfectly set the Reds up for future glory.
For starters, Liverpool signed Virgil van Dijk for £ 75 million. This was huge, as Klopp had been chasing the Dutchman since the summer. Van Dijk's arrival came when Coutinho was on his way out from Liverpool, joining Barcelona for over £ 140 million. However, this mid-season change reaped immediate dividends; it helped the balance of the team as Liverpool reached the Champions League final.
Liverpool lost 3-1 to Real Madrid in Kiev, but the season was still a success. Salah scored 44 goals in all competitions, thanks to a ridiculous burst in consistency, helping the Reds to another top-four finish in the Premier League. There was still some work to be done for further progress though, with Klopp's summer business proving exceptional once again.
Fabinho signed from Monaco to give Liverpool more stability in midfield, while Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri helped to bolster the Reds' overall squad strength. However, the biggest signing of the summer was Alisson Becker who, like Van Dijk, was extremely expensive but made an instant impact. Becker proved his worth, especially with Klopp requiring a top-class goalkeeper.
And just like that, Liverpool's core was set. The team was ready to challenge for the top titles following their run to the Champions League final and the replenishments to their squad over the course of the year.
2019: Mentality monsters
The 2018-19 season was extremely special for Liverpool, with the Reds adopting several tactical switches that proved priceless. The Rock-and-Roll football was replaced by a more compact approach, with Van Dijk and Alisson Becker forming the core of the Liverpool defence.
Jurgen Klopp's decision to utilise his full-backs as Liverpool's creative hub was a genius move, to say the least, with Trent Alexander-Arnold emerging as one of the brightest young talents in Europe. The young Scouser's contributions kept on growing as the season progressed. The hard work that Liverpool's midfield-three would regularly put in was priceless as well.
The Reds ended the season with 97 points in the Premier League, astonishingly not enough to win it. Manchester City won their last 14 games to pip Klopp's men to the title by just one point. However, Liverpool continued to deliver in Europe.
They faced Barcelona in the semi-final, with the opportunity to make up for the unavoidable disappointment of missing out on the title in the last season. And after losing 3-0 in the first leg, Liverpool came out flying on a special European night at Anfield. They defeated the Spanish giants 4-0 to reach the Champions League final for the second year in a row, with their manager dubbing his players 'mentality monsters'.
The final, while not as exciting as the spectacular comeback against Barcelona, saw Liverpool finally deliver on the biggest stage in club football. The Reds defeated Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 to lift their sixth title in the competition, a special achievement for the entire team.
Finally, four years after joining the club, Jurgen Klopp finally won his first trophy as Liverpool manager. It would only be the first of many.
2020: Now you're gonna believe us
2019 saw Liverpool go from Champions League runners-up to Champions League winners, with the goal for the next year being as clear as day. Jurgen Klopp's men had to win the Premier League title in 2020. It was pretty much the same squad of players who needed to keep playing at the same level as they did in the last season.
And that is exactly what happened. Liverpool went on a magical run, winning 26 out of their first 27 league games. That was historic, to say the least. The Reds dominated the league right from day one. Klopp's side were able to find countless ways to win a football match, from gritty 1-0 wins to dominant 5-goal displays and everything in between.
The incredible hard work over his first few years as Liverpool manager paid off big time for Jurgen Klopp, as hardly anything needed to be changed for his players to win the league. There was just more hunger, passion and intensity within the squad. Getting 97 points and failing to win the league can destroy many teams but not Klopp's Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp has built a machine that just does not stop. The character in his team is unbelievable, with a laundry list of crucial late goals rescuing several potential dropped points. Liverpool have been so dominant in 2019-20 that they only dropped seven points all season.
And after all those victories, Klopp's men were finally crowned Premier League champions when Manchester City lost 2-1 to Chelsea. This made them the quickest Premier League winners in history, with seven games to go. It was the culmination of the German's stupendous work at Anfield, finally delivering the holy grail that had eluded the Reds for 30 long years.
Liverpool's Premier League victory is emphatic and inspiring, with every single player coming from humble roots to be a part of this remarkable achievement in the club's rich history. This Liverpool team has now become immortal in Anfield folklore as the ones who finally delivered the Premier League title for the Reds. Captain, Jordan Henderson is the poster boy of this success, growing as a player over the years and eventually becoming his manager's most reliable warrior.
And like every single year since Jurgen Klopp arrived at Liverpool, the only way is up. This group of players, all in the prime of their careers and operating at a ridiculously high level, will want to do it all over again and ensure that Liverpool Football Club is firmly back on its perch.Published 29 Jun 2020, 18:16 IST