Looking Back At Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool Tenure: 2018-2019

Last week I took a break from this run of looking at Jürgen Klopp’s time in charge of Liverpool so far in order to explain why I think opting for a null and void of the season would be moronic. It’s time to get back to it, though, and there’s arguably no better campaign to return to than the 2018-2019 one. In many ways it was the culmination of everything that the manager had been working towards. We didn’t win the Premier League, but we racked up ninety-seven point and would have won it during any season other than those in which Pep Guardiola was at The Etihad. It was an incredible run, particularly in the latter half of it after we’d lost to City and then went on a winning streak to mean that the Spaniard’s side couldn’t afford to drop a single point. It was a thrilling few months that resulted in both teams playing to the best of their abilities and taking the title challenge until the final day of the campaign.

Missing out on the title in that manner felt as though it was going to be killer for the Reds. I remember feeling so incredibly low the night that City beat Leicester, coming just after our 3-0 loss to Barcelona at the Camp Nou. I felt as though everything I’d spent the season feeling so elated by had coming crashing down, given that there was no other way I could envisage the Cityzens dropping points and everyone knew we’d be knocked out of the Champions League. However, just as everything on the pitch seemed like a culmination of everything that Klopp had been working towards with his players, so too did what happened off the pitch feel like it was everything that the German had been working towards reaching a crescendo when Barca turned up at Anfield for the semi-final second-leg. It meant that the team had a chance at winning some silverware that it so richly deserved. What were the games that stood out from that season?

Liverpool 4 – Barcelona 0

There’s nowhere else to start, is there? The first-leg result in Spain couldn’t have felt any less like a 3-0 if it tried. We’d played really well and genuinely deserved to take something from the game. In the end, it probably should have finished up as a 4-0 win to the Spanish side as we lost our shape chasing an away goal. You could see the disappointment on Lionel Messi’s face when the scoreline finished the way it did, arguably suggesting that he knew what could happen at Anfield. Barca fell into the same trap that so many other teams have dropped into in the past, suggestion that the atmosphere at our home ground wouldn’t influence the outcome of the game. Was it arrogance? Over-confidence? Naivety? Or was it just Barcelona’s management and players trying to remain in good spirits, given what had happened a year earlier against Roma when the two sides met with the same scoreline in place? Losing then might have stuck with them.

We’ll never know, of course. What we do know, though, is that Anfield really does deserve its reputation as being one of the worst grounds to go to when the home side needs a result. Klopp had started the ball rolling at harnessing the atmosphere when we drew 2-2 with West Brom and then ‘celebrated’ in front of the Kop, he’d pushed things a bit further with that 4-3 win over Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League and he brought things to boiling point when we beat Manchester City 3-0 in the Champions League quarter-final in 2018, blowing them away in the opening thirty-one minutes and never letting them get back into the game. All of that felt as though it was leading to what happened when Barcelona came to town and it felt as though the match was little short of a lost cause, only for the Reds to win 4-0 and progress to the Champions League final. It was the game that defined the season, leading to Klopp’s first silverware.

Manchester City 2 – Liverpool 1

It’s weird to pick a loss in a season that was so full of wins, but it strikes me that this was the most influential game of the Premier League campaign. Yes, Evertonians and United fans will want to claim that the four points that we dropped at Goodison Park and Old Trafford were the ones that stopped us from winning the league title, but we all know that it’s not true. We beat every single team that finished below us at least once that season and only lost one game in the entire campaign – this one; it just so happens that it was the loss that ended up deciding the destination of the Premier League title. As with the first-leg in the Barcelona tie, it was also a result that was a tad unfair when you think about the way in which we played. We matched City toe-to-toe and were remarkably unlucky to lose out in what was unquestionably a pulsating encounter. Perhaps if Joe Gomez had been fit enough to play we might not have lost, either.

Ultimately Pep Guardiola’s side did enough to get the three points that would ultimately see them take the Premier League title back to The Etihad. It was about as close an encounter as you can get in football, however, and the Reds would use the hurt they felt from not picking up at least a draw to win thirteen of their remaining seventeen games. Not only that, but we’d carry that over into the start of the 2019-2020 campaign, winning our first eight matches and putting ourselves on the path to what should, eventually, be our first Premier League title. If we don’t miss out on at least a point at The Etihad, do we have the hunger to go on and do what we’ve done in the year or so since that? Do we even win the Champions League that season? It’s impossible to give an answer to those questions, of course, but the pain of missing out certainly feels like it’s been a driving force. The battle with City also feels as though it could be the defining one for some years.

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