By Moshood Akinleye
The arrival of Jürgen Klopp at Anfield has made a lot of statements, from a spectacular first press conference to the actual on the field performances. With an early gel with his players and obvious improvement on the team, Klopp has now justified the sacking of Brendan Rodgers by Ian Ayre and co. In fact, the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) and the Liverpool Board of Directors could be wishing they had sack Rodgers earlier than they did. Klopp has set himself different from his predecessor in many ways.
A Humble Pie:
Despite Klopp’s popular achievement at Dortmund and a huge expectation upon his arrival at Anfield, the former Dortmund Manager was very courteous with his utterances at his first press conference. He didn’t want to promise heaven on earth. He wanted to be the normal guy, perhaps, that was why with the insistence of the English press he was able to coin “THE NORMAL ONE” as his trademark at EPL. The only promise he made was setting a target to win the title in four years, as well as make the Champions League spot at the end of the season which is absolutely normal of a good Manager. This gesture of his kept him on a normal side of the bar. No pressure, do the job freely and get the result. I believe those were his objectives. Invariably, with this simple way to start his work at Anfield, Klopp must have planted a fruit of disdain of Liverpool in the minds of some EPL Managers, making them see Liverpool like the usual Rodgers era, thereby stealing results in the process. In pre and post-match conferences, he wouldn’t say he’s got the tactics to win the match or that he has the advantage, his habitual language was “To try”, ‘we will try to give it our best, and see what we can do’ etcetera. I think he wanted to be a Wolf in sheep’s clothing. He enjoys being underrated.
Dead Bones Rising:
The story of Lazarus in the Bible is quite amazing. Someone who was already wrapped to be buried was soon raised by Jesus. Isn’t that amazing? This is typical of the rejuvenation of Liverpool players like Mamadou Sakho, Lucas Leiva, Dejan Lovren, Emre Can and Adam Lallana. Mamadou Sakho was featured in few games as a first XI and condemned to the bench in many others during the Rodgers era. The Northern Irish Manager didn’t have a permanentcentre back mix, hence, Sakho looked like the black sheep of the team. But the same player is now one of Liverpool’s best players under the German boss. In Sakho’s absence, the error prone Lovren seems to be getting to shape, pairing seamlessly with Martin Skrtel at the centre back. Lucas Leiva who was usually a victim of transfer news and rumours at every window has become the second midfielder with the highest tackles (41) in the EPL this season, two less than Stoke City’s Erik Pieters.Emre Can who has played in different positions more than any other Liverpool player under Rodgers has gotten a stable midfield role with Klopp, and his work rate plus assists has improved (the ManCity EPL game, the Capital One Cup Q/final game with Southampton and few others are evidence enough). After the sale of Luis Suarez, and the diminishing of Rodger’s team, Phillipe Coutinho used to be the life wire of Liverpool’s creativity and success but in Klopp’s reign, the Brazilian international seems more like an icing on the cake.
More Actions less Words
If there is one thing Brendan Rodgers must learn from the emerging Klopp, it should be how to address the English press. Unlike the untidy Rodgers that would inadvertently leak tactical secrets to the opponent, including making an implicating statement that contributed to his exit, Klopp doesn’t dotechnical; the German boss will rather go purely flat, speaking like a Human Resource person, and keeping the technicalities to himself and his team. Meanwhile, the former Dortmund Manager has made better statement in his results better than Rodgers had tried in his post-Suarez era in Liverpool, and even in the 2015-2016 season. Klopp has increased the Reds win rate from 27% during Rodgers era to 64%, a stunning 37% margin. Klopp has played Chelsea and Manchester City away and won both convincingly. Forget the Stamford Bridge crisis; Rodgers wouldn’t have seen the silver lining in such games. Besides, so far, it has been the same set of players deployed by Rodgers who are now making all the difference under Klopp.
A PR Expert
Advertising and Sales is the body of a business, public relations is its soul. Without a soul, the body is as good as useless. What Jürgen Klopp has managed to add to his tactical managerial skills in football is human relations. Klopp’s quick gel with his players is incredible. He practically wants to get personal with every player in his team. You will see him shout at them during the game, but will not go to the dressing room alone except at half time. He would go to each player one after the other after each gameto exchange words, congratulate them etcetera. That attribute goes a long way in team achievement. The excitement he exerts into games is significantly phenomenal.
‘Geggenpressing’ might be Klopp’s Undoing
Jürgen Klopp’s innovative football tactics which he calls‘geggenpressing’ may likely be his undoing. It may sound illogical especially considering the fact that this tactics has largely contributed to his rising achievement so far. The players have made more tackles and interceptions than they have done in the pre-Klopp era, many of which have led to counter attacks and goals; but these players aren’t machines, they will naturally get tired, and some may even get injured, and before Klopp gets caught unawares, he has to begin to think of a Plan B, or perhaps a rich bench, which may not be forthcoming in the approaching January transfer window.
Another headache in the pipeline for Klopp is Liverpool’s best but injury prone striker, Daniel Sturridge. The English forward has suffered too many intermittent injuries making him lose out on many games. He started his first game under Klopp at the St. Mary stadium where his brace inspired Liverpool come back from a 0-1 score line to win 1-6 at the Capital One Cup Quarter finalat Southampton. Liverpool too has had headaches of attacking options with their best man usually side-lined with one injury or the other. Despite Sturridge’s progress with the Anfield club, with a remarkable SAS partnership during the Suarez era, rumours now have it that the future of the English Striker in Liverpool may depend on improvement on his fitness. If this is true, it is going to be a great call for Klopp to make having confirmed the quality in the 24 year old during his little game time under the German boss.
With the Reds in the semis of the Capital One Cup, and climbing the league table up in procession, Klopp has begun to raise the hopes of Liverpool faithful worldwide. He had mentioned in his first press conference that Liverpool fans must be ready to change from doubters tobelievers, and that looks like the present climatic situation at Anfield. Jürgen Klopp has delivered the kind of football he promised Liverpool, and if he perhaps makes the Merseyside club the Champion ‘stuff’ they use to be, the EPL will become more interesting too. There is more to wait for; the German gaffer just started his reign.