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Such is the hype and excitement surrounding Jürgen Klopp and his imminent appointment as Liverpool manager that his Thursday afternoon flight from Dortmund was tracked on social media by 35,000 people. With his first press conference scheduled for 10am on Friday, Klopp has jetted to Merseyside to sign a three-year deal to succeed Brendan Rodgers as manager at Anfield.
Immediately after Rodgers was dismissed in the aftermath of the 1-1 draw in the derby at Everton, a decision reportedly made by owners Fenway Sports Group after penalties were required to overcome Carlisle in the League Cup, all signs pointed towards Klopp and the German’s arrival seemed inevitable after Carlo Ancelotti announced he would stay true to his decision to take a full year out of management.
With Klopp rumoured to be eyeing up the chance to take over from Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich next summer, Liverpool have acted decisively to land their man on a contract that, according to German tabloid Bild, will earn him £7.3 million a year.
That Klopp leaves Dortmund’s trophy cabinet two Bundesliga titles, a German Cup and three German SuperCups better off than when he took-over seven years ago will be regarded as justification for that huge salary.
Debt-ridden and in need of stability
Riddled with debts, Dortmund were on the brink of insolvency a couple of years before Klopp arrived from Mainz in 2008 and after rattling their way through three managers in two years, Klopp brought much-needed stability and, against all odds, progression. He took Dortmund from 13th to sixth, then fifth before delivering the first of back-to-back league titles in 2011.
With the budget severely restricted they had to get by on young players and bargain-basement signings like Mats Hummels, Neven Subotic and Sven Bender. Just over £6 million was needed to bring in Robert Lewandowski and Ilkay Gundogan and with them Klopp forged the spine of the squad that took Dortmund to the Champions League final of 2013.
There they were narrowly beaten by Bayern Munich, the long established giants of the Bundesliga, but Klopp managed to disrupt their domestic hegemony on a shoestring, capturing the imagination of thousands and turning Dortmund into one of Europe’s most-exciting teams along the way.
The job he will be required to do in Liverpool won’t be as drastic and taking into account the £290 million handed to Rodgers to spend over his three years at the club he will have much deeper pockets than when he took charge at Dortmund.
The nous that discovered Shinji Kagawa, taken to Westfalenstadion on a free from Cerezo Osaka, or Mario Gotze in Dortmund’s under 19s will be helpful but the transfer committee, source of much ambiguity when it came to some dealings during Rodgers’s reign, will remain.
One wonders however just how long the nature of that committee, where for instance stats are analysed to see if a potential player has the mental attributes to play at Anfield, can co-exist with Klopp’s force of personality.
Galvanise a regressive Liverpool side
Klopp will be asked to quickly galvanise a team that has regressed since coming agonisingly close to winning Liverpool’s first Premier League title in 2014. Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez have since departed after featuring so significantly in that campaign and Rodgers has paid for last season’s regression as well as a slow start to this term despite splashing out £80 million in the summer.
Boasting just one win in their last nine in all competitions and looking woefully passive in defeats to West Ham and Manchester United, Liverpool are in desperate need of the injection of energy Klopp will certainly provide.
He inherits a team with vast potential albeit desperately short of form, with Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson to return to fitness and Phillipe Coutinho harbouring the ability to be match-winner. The task for Klopp will be to coax that out of the Brazilian regularly, as well as finding a way to unlock consistent form from the likes of Adam Lallana, Danny Ings and Christian Benteke rather than just flashes.
Roberto Firmino, the £29 million summer capture from Hoffenheim who Klopp would have witnessed first-hand in the Bundesliga, is urgent need of direction as he struggles to find his feet in the Premier League.
Liverpool managed just 52 goals last term and only Watford and West Brom have managed less than them so far this campaign out of the clubs currently out of the relegation zone. Although with a defence that desperately needs to restore confidence it is the attack that is in urgent need of addressing.
If he is to get Liverpool to challenge the top four places an immediate priority for Klopp will be to get his forwards firing again.
Adapting to the Premier League
Furthermore just how Klopp, a 6ft 4 inch package of boundless charisma, adapts to the Premier League will be interesting. He will engage with his witty interviews and press-conferences and, a consummate motivator, he is likely to draw an immediate reaction from his players to his demands for the style of high-intensity pressing that brought him success in Germany.
Although the wheels eventually came off his Dortmund odyssey in the nightmarish campaign of last year his squad remained loyal to the very end.
The main question will be though how Klopp’s full-throttle “gegenpressing”, a swashbuckling style which he famously likened to “heavy metal”, will work in the Premier League where the pace is naturally fast, the games arrive frequently in a packed schedule and there is no winter-break.
Designed to make the pitch as small as possible for the team in possession, requiring high energy from all players across the field, the philosophy, with Klopp unwilling to compromise it, caused regular injuries at Dortmund and eventually contributed to the eventual burnout of his players. Thomas Tuchel, Klopp’s successor in Dortmund, has slowed the play down and his team look refreshed as a result.
The German will also have to deal with a league that has four teams capable of winning it rather than just one like in the Bundesliga. Though his new owners are belatedly attempting to address the financial imbalance that saw them post the league’s fifth-highest turnover in the year that saw them nearly crowned champions, Klopp will still be working against five clubs armed with ample more resources than him.
FSG have got their man and they will be desperate for him to get it right after Rodgers’s eventual failure, but while the German seems to be just the man to fight the short-term fires, the bigger questions will present themselves in the longer-term.
Watching him attempt to answer them is undoubtedly going to be a lot of fun.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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