This past October, Liverpool Football Club fired manager Brendan Rodgers after a roller coaster 4+ years in charge of the club, which saw the club come as close to winning a Premier League title as Liverpool has ever been in 2014, only to crash out of the Champions League in the group stage and endure a miserable 2015. Through 8 games this season, Rodgers had amassed only 3 wins and 12 points (ESPN), which was deemed not good enough by everyone at Liverpool, and Rodgers was let go.
Enter Jurgen Klopp. The famous manager who heroically oversaw the dynamic change of culture at his former club, Borussia Dortmund, took the reigns at Anfield, looking to make a similar impact. The connections between Dortmund and Liverpool were there: passionate fan base, proud history, great financial resources. But have those connections correlated to on field success?
Since Fenway Sports Group, the owners of LFC, gave Klopp the keys to the car, Liverpool have played 21 league games, gaining 32 points. In comparison to Rodgers’ 1.5 points per match, Klopp is averaging a similar number at 1.52. Liverpool lost the League Cup final to Manchester City, and they crashed out of the FA Cup in the 4th round to West Ham. And yet, there seems to be significantly more optimism amongst Liverpool supporters under Klopp than under Rodgers. But why?
For one, Liverpool’s form recently has been much improved, a 3-2 collapse at Southampton a fortnight ago being the exception. The club has advanced to the Europa League Quarterfinal against Klopp’s former club, Dortmund, in what should be a fascinating tie with interest worldwide. In the Round of 16, Liverpool thrashed their bitter rivals, Manchester United, in a two leg tie. Fans have been refreshed by Klopp’s approach to the Europa League, as he has been prioritizing a competition that the previous manager tended to overlook. The Europa League seems to be the club’s best chance to qualify for the Champions League, as their league form has not been exceptional, but, is again, improving. Over their last five league matches, they have taken 10 points.
One of the most exciting prospects of Liverpool under Klopp is the transfer policy. The much maligned Liverpool transfer committee seem to have a much more direct understanding under Klopp than they did under Rodgers. In the past, signings were distinctly labeled as “Rodgers’ signing” (Christian Benteke) or “the transfer committee’s signing” (Roberto Firmino), and the two sides seemed to compromise on targets and needs. Under Klopp, it appears that all signings will go through him. And why shouldn’t they? He proved at Dortmund that he has the ability to spot a talent from afar. Tony Barrett of The Times and James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo reported this week that Liverpool are confident of signing Mario Gotze this summer, which would be one of the biggest names to walk through the door at Anfield in a long time. Liverpool have already secured the services of Joel Matip, a bruising, athletic defender from Schalke, for next season.
The month of April will be critical to the future of Liverpool. With critical ties such as Tottenham this weekend, and both legs of the quarterfinal against Dortmund, Liverpool have a lot to play for. They do not necessarily have to win the Europa League in order to keep positive energy flowing through Liverpool supporters, but a strong showing this month, and better league form, would do wonders to improve the club’s psyche, and the club’s appeal to potential transfer targets. So, has Klopp really changed Liverpool considerably? It is still too early to say definitively, but the last month or two of the season will definitely serve as a spring board for next season, one way or another.
Barrett, Tony. “Full Tony Barrett article on the Gotze situation.” Reddit. N.p., 29 Mar. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.<https://www.reddit.com/r/LiverpoolFC/comments/4cessf/full_tony_barrett_article_on_the_gotze_situation/>.
Evans, Tony. “Jurgen Klopp hasn’t improved Liverpool.” ESPN. N.p., 1 Feb. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://www.espnfc.us/club/liverpool/364/blog/post/2798461/jurgen-klopp-hasnt-improved-liverpool>.