Another one of the most famous managers at the moment is Jürgen Klopp. Known for both his passion and love for his players, Jurgen specializes in “man managing”. He’s a manager both the press- and more importantly the players- absolutely love. And although he only has 8 trophies to show for his work, Klopp has brought both Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool back into the conversation of their respective country’s top football clubs. He’s arguably the best manager in the world when it comes to club culture and connection.
Klopp was born in Stuttgart, Germany and wasn’t well known for his playing career. As he puts it, “I had fourth-division feet and a first-division head”. He knew if he had a chance of succeeding in football, it would be through managing. Perhaps this knowledge of being an relatively unknown player is what links him to those selected in his starting 11 and those on the bench. He’s been on both sides. However, it’s easy to see how the German is influenced by the city he grew up in. Stuttgart is known to be an amazingly friendly city and this is evident in the way Klopp approaches press conferences, how he puts his arms around his player as he instructs them, or the hugs he’s become so famous for. The city is known to be “a big city with a small-town atmosphere”. Klopp’s clearly brought this to Liverpool; a massive club where yet everyone seems to matter. Additionally, Stuttgart is known for the automobile industry where both Porsche and Mercedes-Benz are located. Much like a car, a Jürgen Klopp team runs like a well-oiled machine.
In footballing terms, Jürgen Klopp follows the ideas of gegenpressing. In layman terms, it’s run like mad and win the ball back. Gegenpressing focuses on moments when the other team has the ball. It calls for immediate pressure, followed by immediate counter-attacks. His teams play narrow allowing fullbacks to get forward, but focuses on expanding the pitch and running free. The theory in this style of play is winning the ball as quickly as possible. As the manager explains it, “The best moment to win the ball is immediately after your team just lost it. The opponent is still looking for orientation where to pass the ball. He will have taken his eyes off the game to make his tackle or interception and he will have expended energy. Both make him vulnerable”. In order to do so, the team must be extremely organized and hence the command Jürgen has with his players. Each player has a distinct role, and if not done correctly, the press is easily broken. By allowing each player such a big responsibility Klopp puts his trust in players, something they don’t seem to take lightly. However tactics aside, Klopp exudes passion and his teams do too. He finds this to be a prerequisite to any tactical ideas. First comes passion then you can play.
Of course in order for gegenpressing to be successful, players must be extremely physically fit. They must have the rare ability to accelerate over short distances, and do so for 90 minutes. What’s more, they must have an appetite to defend. Take Firmino for example, who has one more tackles than any other forward in the Premier League since his arrival. In all, Klopp has spent roughly €451m since his arrival in 2015 to the Merseyside club. While massive fees were paid- and criticized- for players like Virgil van Dijk (£75m), the success the club has had since his arrival makes it seem to be money well spent.
The Liverpool Identity
Liverpool FC is a club of incredible history in English football. A club that once dominated the league in the 70s and 80s and won the Champions League in an unbelievable fashion in 2005, have been left with few reminders of how dominant the club was since. Still, the city of Liverpool itself is rooted in the club’s identity. In 1889, Liverpool became a large port and expanded quickly due to the Industrial Revolution. The city has this transformation to thank for it’s growth, and that’s evident in the way the club plays. The club values the labor aspect of the game, and prides itself on the resemblance to a machine.
But what makes Liverpool FC, is the fans. And Klopp’s relationship with them is unparalleled in world football. The emotion you see in a Jürgen Klopp celebration is what you see in thousands of other Liverpool fans around Anfield, and the world. He sees himself as just another fan, wanting to be entertained by the club. This connection only adds to Klopp’s philosophy of everyone playing an important role in order for the team to succeed, as Anfield has once again become one of the most intimidating stadiums to play at. With this, Klopp seems to have been destined to manage Liverpool FC, a club who adopted the motto “You’ll Never Walk Alone” years before his arrival.