With the first anniversary of his appointment fast approaching, Jurgen Klopp’s reign at Liverpool is approaching the giddy heights he promised in his first press-conference.
He stated his ambition to ‘turn doubters into believers’ at Anfield and revitalise the fortunes of a club that had gone stale under Brendan Rodgers and the expectations of a fan base that had become increasingly disillusioned.
Two cup final appearances last season suggest the German had little trouble injecting his ‘heavy metal’ style of football into the club.
The internet can be a ruthless place, Twitter especially. It’s the Western saloon of the Wild West, attracting all manner of people from across the board, shooting from the hip and asking questions later. It takes no prisoners, it leaves no survivors.
Certainly not after a Liverpool game, and not one as demoralising and gutless as the defeat at Burnley. It was awash with the hallmarks that pre-season was meant to wipe out — a slow start, ponderous possession play and a lack of imagination.
That it came a week after the thrilling, if not entirely flawless, victory at Arsenal seemed to heighten tensions among Reds fans. Two games that summed up the Jürgen Klopp reign so far — one step forward and two steps back. A brutal lack of consistency, with brilliance coming in flashes and stodginess aplenty.
t has been a curate’s-egg of a season for Liverpool that has encompassed a change of manager, a Wembley final and a run to the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
While the Reds have proved excellent in the cups and in one-off cup games, they have struggled to find rhythm and consistency throughout a disappointing league campaign.
The 3-2 defeat by Southampton on Sunday betrayed a soft-underbelly from a side who squandered the chance to record four consecutive league wins and reigniting their charge towards the top four by blowing a two-goal lead in the second-half.
Philippe Coutinho showed quick feet and a deftness of touch to race past Guillermo Varela before supplying a delightful dink over David de Gea to finish off Manchester United’s hopes of a remarkable Europa League fightback on Thursday.
Liverpool had been outplayed for much of the first-half at Old Trafford and had wasted golden opportunities to score a crucial away goal.
But when it mattered most the Brazilian magician stepped up and delivered, and he’s made a habit of doing exactly that since joining the Anfield club in 2013.
Ten years ago today, a long ball is pumped toward the halfway line with the Wigan Athletic midfield caught ball watching. Peter Crouch chests it down and within a single, fluid motion, he’s bearing down on the opposition penalty area. Anfield roars him on as he surges up field.
Three touches later, he strides through a gaping hole in Wigan’s defence. They back off and back off, and back off some more, and he shapes to shoot. The roar becomes a cacophony.
Fernando Morientes is to his right, Steven Gerrard is bursting through the middle and Harry Kewell to the left of the captain. Crouch has so much time, so many options, the weight of his 1,299-minute drought on his sizeable yet flimsy frame causes self-doubt. He makes two wrong decisions in quick succession.
DEJAN Lovren. Two words that have spread fear throughout the Liverpool fanbase like no other.
When Mamadou Sakho crumpled to the floor as he landed awkwardly contesting a header against Crystal Palace, Anfield drew a deep breath. The lanky Frenchman has had a chequered injury record in his two-year spell at the club, but this was different.
This was no muscular injury that he is so susceptible to. The more innocuous an injury looks, the worse its prognosis. Sakho showed the fortitude and attitude that has quickly made him a fan favourite this autumn, as he hobbled back onto the pitch to continue, as if he too had realised what, or who, was coming next.
“Sakho, Sakho” – the chants rained down from a sodden Anfield. But it was clear he could barely walk, that this warrior of a centre-half had been let down by his fragile body yet again.
“I believe in a playing philosophy that is very emotional, very fast and very strong. My teams must play at full throttle and take it to the limit every single game.”
Liverpool’s season has changed in the blink of an eye. A week is a long time in football and there has been no better illustration of that than in the sea change of emotions and expectations at Anfield. The lethargy and inertia of the latter-day Brendan Rodgers era has been swept away and replaced by the unbridled optimism that the beaming presence of Jurgen Klopp can only inspire.
From a predictable, mentally fragile side that looked to be meandering through footballing purgatory, the mood has changed with ringing endorsements from a who’s who of German football illuminati from Franz Beckenbauer to Jogi Low.
“I promise to dedicate my life to fight for this club and defend the great principles of Liverpool Football Club on and off the field.”
Brendan Rodgers knew how to talk a good game when he arrived at Liverpool in June 2012. There aren’t many tougher acts to follow in the club’s history than Kenny Dalglish – no matter how lamentably his second coming ended, many felt it a disgrace that such an iconic legend had been sacked by American owners in Boston.
Talking a good game was essential; with a CV as wafer-thin as Rodgers’, he needed more than a 180-page dossier to convince the masses he was the right man for the job. Without a long career in professional football, he needed a USP to make him stand out.
Roy Hodgson had been in his seat only two years previously, and his first press conference did little to dispense the suggestion that he saw the Liverpool job as a personal accolade, a stepping stone to the top job he possesses today. Rodgers couldn’t afford to get off on the wrong foot; his appointment was perhaps the riskiest move the club had made since promoting Dalglish to player-manager back in 1985.
In-depth: Daniel Sturridge scored his first goals of the season as Liverpool won their first game since August – can he spark a recovery for Brendan Rodgers?
The 3-2 win over Aston Villa on Saturday brought a few notable landmarks for the Reds. They scored more than one goal in a game for the first time this season, and scored three for the first time since February.
There was a first goal for James Milner too, as he appears to be getting into his stride as stand-in captain in place of the injured Jordan Henderson.
But the real story was to be found elsewhere on the pitch, as Sturridge’s first goals since March – sumptuous finishes both – propelled Liverpool to a much needed three points.
His goals also saw him break a new record, becoming Liverpool’s most prolific striker in Premier League history.