Jurgen Klopp just celebrated his fifth anniversary as Liverpool boss, and it has been some ride for this team. When Klopp first arrived at Liverpool, he inherited a midtable team that had won only one game out of their nine matches. This team had scored only 11 goals in their last 11 matches. The star players such as Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling, and Mario Balotelli had all left the team, and the next best striker, Daniel Sturridge, was going through some serious fitness problems.
The way Jurgen Klopp transformed this team and made them the Champions of Europe and England is worth appreciating. The mighty reds are now one of the toughest teams around. Continue reading to know how Klopp turned this midtable team into the Champions.
First things first
When Jurgen Klopp was appointed in October 2015 as Liverpool’s new manager, the very first thing he did was change Brendan Rodgers’ favorite 3-5-2 formation into 4-2-3-1. Klopp did a number of experiments with his formation, but the 4-2-3-1 remained his most frequently used formation throughout the end of his first season.
The first season as the Liverpool manager, the 52-year-old thoroughly evaluated his players. He made a list of players who suited his requirements, and he made another list of players who should be sold. He knew from the beginning that he would have to reshape the team completely in order to win titles.
Introduction of Klopp’s famous pressing game
Right from the beginning, Klopp wanted his players to show their best pressing game. He wanted his players to run more and fight more for the ball. His strategy was evident from his very first game against Tottenham. Even though the game ended without any goal but Klopp’s side was the first team that season to outrun Tottenham.
In the next season, Klopp signed Gini Wijnaldum, Loris Karius, Joel Matip, and Sadio Mane. These players offered attack and speed, which were essential traits that were lacking in the current team. Thanks to his pace, Sadio Mane posed a serious penetrative threat to the opponent’s defenses.
The league season finished with Liverpool winning 22 out of their 38 league matches. It was a massive improvement on their last season. There was also an obvious increase in their possession average, which went up from 56% to 61%. This showed this team’s growing ability to keep the ball away from their opposition. Klopp finished his second season in the fourth spot, which was critical in bringing Champions League back at Anfield.
The signing of Mohammad Salah – the Egyptian King
Mohamed Salah was, without a doubt, a turning point for this team. He turned out to be the best signing of the season. The impact of his presence at Liverpool is difficult to express in words. Salah’s ability to score goals was the reason that transformed this team that ultimately won trophies.
Before Salah, Liverpool’s top scorer was Philippe Coutinho, with only 14 goals. Coutinho was still an improvement on the former top goal scorers Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard, with 13 goals each. It was a shock for the Liverpool fans to witness Mohamed Salah score 44 goals in his very first season for Liverpool. No one expected this £37m signing from A.S. Roma to explode like this. Salah was the right player to complement Sadio Mane and Firmino right when Coutinho was about to leave the team for a better opportunity.
Emphasis on attacking full-backs
In the same transfer window when Liverpool bought Mohamed Salah, Klopp signed Andy Robertson. This is the time when Trent Alexander-Arnold began to rise as well.
On a number of occasions, Klopp has stated that Full-back is one of the most important positions because they are always involved in the game. According to modern football, full-backs are similar to any other midfield player.
A few games later, Klopp introduced Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold in his line-up. The result of that game was not very impressive, but Klopp saw something no one saw. In that match, Liverpool had 35 shots.
The new attacking full-backs provided width to the attack; the front three were supposed to penetrate their opponent’s defenses and score goals. While the midfield trio was supposed to focus on providing the cover, energy, and support.
Van Dijk strengthens the defense.
With the attacking options in place, midfield all settled, and the full-backs empowered, the majority of Klopp’s problems were solved, but there was still some stress on the center-back position, which was Klopp’s main concern.
Klopp signed Virgil Van Dijk for £75m in the same transfer window when Coutinho decided to make an exit for FC. Barcelona. Van Dijk earned seven clean sheets in his 14 appearances for Liverpool. Van Dijk’s addition to this squad was a huge turning pointing for Liverpool.
Room for improvement
Liverpool’s amazing performance that season was enough to guide them all the way to the UEFA Champions League final. Klopp’s team suffered a dramatic 3-1 defeat against the European giants Real Madrid in the Champions League finals. The only weakness that remained in the team proved costly in the finals. With this defeat, Liverpool ended their season once again without any trophies. Klopp’s team had the performances, but they were not getting the desired results.
Alisson Becker solved the problem.
Loris Karius’ goalkeeping blunders in Kyiv was the primary reason behind Liverpool’s defeat in the Champions League finals. Klopp needed to do something about this problem.
The signing of Alisson Becker instantly solved the goalkeeping problems faced by Klopp.
Alisson acted as a wall for the Liverpool team. In his first season, the Brazilian conceded 22 goals only. His amazing performance in the Champions League was one of the reasons why they went on winning the competition.
All of the above changes in the Liverpool side played their role in crowning Liverpool, the Champions of Europe and the Champions of England. Klopp inherited a mid-table Premier League side and turned them into one of the best teams in the World.
Liverpool’s journey to the top is something to remember. And it is not over yet.