Jürgen Klopp celebrated a year in charge of Liverpool on Saturday and the internet was awash with people talking about the club’s progress over the last twelve months. You may have noticed that I was conspicuous in my absence on that front, deciding to leave the retrospectives to people who specialise in looking in-depth at specific issues. It would be remiss of someone running a blog about Liverpool Football Club not to talk about the new man at the helm at all, however, so this is my attempt at a different spin on what is now well-trodden ground.
ON THIS DAY: In 2015, Jurgen Klopp took over as Liverpool manager.
What a year it’s been 🙌🏻 pic.twitter.com/Y7zrv0OyWM
— LFC Stats (@LFCData) October 8, 2016
I’ll be honest, I have a bit of a man-crush on Klopp. I totally understand why some Liverpool fans are keen to temper the love being expressed for him from most quarters, yet I can’t help liking him more and more every time he does something. I’m desperate for him to succeed at Anfield not only because I want the club to win trophies but also because I want my love of him to be entirely justified. He has been a revelation since moving to England and I hope our time together has many more fond memories yet to be created. Here I’ll guide you through the reasons I’m so enamoured with the big German in our dugout.
He Has United Liverpool Football Club
Twelve months on from Klopp’s appointment, it’s very easy to forget just how fractured Liverpool was as a football club. Not only that, but it’s also simple to whitewash over how long the club had been in a state of disunity for. In retrospect we look back on Rafa Benitez’s time in charge as halcyon days, with European Cups being lifted, leagues being challenged for and excellent football being played on the pitch.
In reality there was open hostility in the stands surrounding the manager, with fans arguing with fans about whether he was a world-class talent or a ‘fat Spanish waiter’. In 2008-2009, when we came so close to breaking our long league winning drought, Rafa was subject to dog’s abuse from members of our own support any time the Reds failed to win. Again, in hindsight we look back on the Hicks & Gillett era with the knowledge that it nearly destroyed the club. Yet at the time thousands of supporters were happy to turn a blind eye to just how bad things had got.
Hicks and Gillett did their best to destroy our club but still FSG gets more stick from fans then they did #FSG
— Brétt (@10brett10) September 29, 2016
When Rafa was removed we had to put up with Hodgson and we all know exactly how dreadful that was. No one was happy at Anfield in those days and we enjoyed only a slight degree of unity when King Kenny was re-installed on his throne. Two cup finals weren’t enough to disguise the poor football being played in the league and again fans were fighting amongst themselves, with some desperate to see Dalglish succeed and others painfully aware of how far the club had fallen.
Brendan Rodgers had his critics from the off, with plenty of Liverpool supporters unable to see past the comparisons with David Brent and the manner in which his knees were taken out from under him by the ‘Being: Liverpool’ documentary. His dissenters fell silent when we came within a whisker of winning the league, but it didn’t take long for them to emerge from the woodwork when 2014-215 got off to a rocky start. The mitigating factors such as the loss of Luis Suarez, the injuries to Daniel Sturridge and the post-traumatic stress of missing out on the title were never given any real credence by his haters. The 6-1 loss to Stoke on the final day of the season was the final straw for most.
It was remarkable, really, that he was still in a job at the start of last season. Plenty of Liverpool fans were bored of him and the football on the pitch looked as though it lacked direction. His talk of needing to be given the ‘tools for the job’ were a worry, too. A return to the top of the table had never looked so far away and an uninspiring 1-1 draw had most Reds believing another long season was in store.
The boss plays bowls! 🙌
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) October 8, 2016
No one could have expected the impact that Rodgers’ removal and Klopp’s arrival would have at Anfield. From the moment he asked us to turn from ‘doubters to believers’ he has engaged with the fan base like no manager since, dare I say it, Bill Shankly himself. He’s nearly just as quotable as the big man, too. His personality is a force of nature and it’s almost impossible not to get swept along with him. His laugh, like his smile, is infectious and his relentless positivity was able to transform a squad of poor players into one that reached two cup finals and could go on to win the league this season.
It’s a brave man who takes on the Liverpool crowd and is critical of it. Roy Hodgson claimed that ‘the famous Anfield support has not really been there’, despite the fact that most Reds gave him a chance until they saw the football he got the team playing. Yet Klopp regularly berates Anfield for not being loud enough and not only avoids the crowd turning on him but plays it like a talented conductor. Liverpool’s is a fanbase that adores the ‘god-like’ figurehead and in Klopp we’ve found someone who fits the bill perfectly. He may not be from the boot room but he is arguably the most unifying manager since the last time the Reds won the league.
He’s Tactically Excellent
It’s important to remember in all of this that Jürgen Klopp in not just a personality with good man-management skills. The German is also tactically very astute indeed, already having out-witted Louis Van Gaal at United, José Mourinho in his Chelsea days, Antonio Conte, Arsene Wenger and more. Whilst everyone’s continuing to bang on about Liverpool being an excellent pressing unit, Klopp is quietly going about turning us into a possession based side with players that know their roles and can fulfil them seemingly with ease.
— Premier League Zone (@ThePLZone) October 1, 2016
There are still huge improvements to be made. Anyone who has watched us try to defend set-pieces will tell you that. In all of the matches since Klopp took over, however, no team has netted more than the 73 goals that Liverpool has scored. Given we seemingly couldn’t buy a goal before he arrived and that the only real attacking addition he has made to the side is Sadio Mané this summer, that’s a remarkable achievement. That there are still improvements to be made, both at the back and at the front, should terrify other team’s managers and supporters.
Klopp has a specific style of play that he likes his teams to adhere to. It’s not about trying to be negative and to sit back and defend. It’s about being on the front-foot, taking teams on and trying to batter them into submission. According to the German you should be either helping the attack or aiding the defence. There is no room for passengers in his side. If the Premier League were a film then Klopp would very much be the good guy that everyone is rooting for. Which brings us nicely on to my final point…
He’s The Anti-Mourinho
Regular readers of this blog will know that I am no fan of José Mourinho. There are dozens of reasons for this, some of which I’ll go into now. One of the biggest ones, though, is that he lacks any class and decency when it comes to the world of football. He might be a lovely man when you meet him in private. He might be the sort of person who looks after his friends and is devoted to his family. All of that is irrelevant to me as a run-of-the-mill football fan, however.
The Mourinho I know is the one who said that Arsene Wenger is a ‘voyeur’. He’s the one who attempted to gouge out the eye of Tito Vilanova during a brawl between representatives of Barcelona and Real Madrid. He is the man who happily through doctor Eva Carneiro under a bus and made unsubtle sexist comments about her in order to distract from his failings as a manager at the start of last season. He is the person who will blame his players, his staff, the referees and even the fans rather than take any responsibility for his own actions.
In celebration of Mourinho's douchbaggery I present to you his eye gouge a few years back in the el Classico! http://t.co/uqwpiDjNpH
— Brian (@bt87_) April 27, 2014
What may make all of that even worse is that he has been allowed to get away with it by the British media ever since he arrived in the country simply because his ‘personality’ is such that he gives them good copy. Much like the fact that the press never mentions that the success he has achieved has come off the back of spending more money than any other manager in the history of football, his deeds often go unpunished from those on fleet street. His negative tactics may win trophies but his football is not good to watch and when you take away the trophies he is just Tony Pulis with money and far less class.
That’s why Jürgen Klopp has been such a breath of fresh air in the Premier League. The likes of Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman certainly aren’t as repugnant as Mourinho is, but instead they’re somewhat bland as characters. Admittedly I’d prefer plain or even boring to repulsive, but still. They are the FIFA football managers; designed to be inoffensive and unexciting.
Klopp is many things, but boring will never be one of them. He is a crowd-pleaser, a joker, an entertainer. He is the very definition of managerial box office. I wrote last week about the way in which his appearance on Monday Night Football had gripped those that have any interest in the game, regardless of tribal loyalty. Other fans are ridiculously jealous that he is our manager and that is with very good reason. It has to be noted that, in this day and age of everyone having a story to sell, one of the most talked about managers in the game has not had to defend himself from any real criticism of people from his past. Could the same be said about José?
It may not matter to everyone, but Liverpool Football Club stands for something. It is about class, togetherness, truth, justice and about behaving in a way that represents the city of Liverpool. Despite the rivalry, Manchester United as a club believes that it stands for similar things. It’s why Alex Ferguson didn’t want Mourinho anywhere near the manager’s position and it’s why scores of United fans were uneasy with his appointment. Jürgen Klopp is the right fit for Liverpool for numerous reasons, but the fact that he is the opposite of José Mourinho is definitely high on my personal list.