Klopp's shift from heavy-metal obsession has Liverpool singing loud and proud again
- Jurgen Klopp's development as a coach, and Liverpool's improved tactical approach, deservedly made them Champions League winners.
In the second half, Mauricio Pochettino was in and out of his technical area, prowling, barking orders, bothering officials. Twenty yards away stood Jurgen Klopp: arms behind his back, impassive, considered.
It wasn't what you would have expected, just as a final between Tottenham and Liverpool being distinctly low on quality and excitement was not a prediction many had made.
But that's what Klopp gave us, and it got him the Champions League - a first trophy with Liverpool, a sixth in this competition in their history. And with it, he banished both the haunting memories of last season's loss to Real Madrid and the nagging doubts about his reluctance to adapt.
This was Klopp 2.0. Guarded, patient, unflinching, and victorious.
01:48 – Mohamed Salah’s opener for Liverpool is the second fastest goal in a Champions League final, only behind Paolo Maldni (00:50) for AC Milan versus Liverpool in 2005. Blocks. #UCLfinal pic.twitter.com/xymH4g79DG— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 1, 2019
"We've learnt a lot in the time we have been together. We are a completely different side to last year," he told the media in Madrid on Friday. "So the final [in 2018] was not so important for our improvement, but the final was like a starting point again for the next steps. That's how we saw it, that's how we wanted to use it and that's what we did."
Liverpool were true to his word. There was luck involved - Klopp spoke of a need for that, too - when Sadio Mane's cross hit the arm Moussa Sissoko was using to organise Spurs' defenders. But when fortune gave them the edge, Liverpool held fast.
There has been a distinct shift in their approach throughout 2018-19: gone is the recklessness that thrilled and worried supporters in often equal measure, the kind that saw them destroy Roma in the last four last year and yet somehow only progress by a single goal.
Alisson and Virgil van Dijk are key components, yes - Alisson made brilliant saves and Van Dijk was Man of the Match here - but Klopp's altered methodology is just as important. Where before he might throw on an extra attacker when 1-0 ahead, this time there was no desperation to kill the game. On came James Milner to solidify midfield and curtail some Spurs runs. On came Joe Gomez to see out the closing minutes. And before all that, on came Divock Origi, who blasted his one opportunity into the net to seal the win and his eternal place in Anfield folklore.
Klopp's "heavy metal" football has always been successful but limited. It was essential to that sensational comeback against Barcelona, for instance. But at the Wanda Metropolitano, Liverpool were more classical, operating at a precise melody, all parts in harmonious precision, and they are deservedly champions of Europe because of it.Published 02 Jun 2019, 02:58 IST