Connect in the back of the net

On the 8th of October 2015, German coach Jurgen Klopp agreed to become Liverpool manager after the reds sacked Brendan Rodgers.

The German arrived with a strong reputation, with his time and success at Borussia Dortmund. Optimism was high as Klopp was expected to reignite Liverpool’s glory years and deliver trophies back to Anfield.

Fast forward two years and Liverpool are positioned in a similar situation where the German founded them. Although there were signs of improvement (two cup finals and a fourth place finish), Liverpool have not really kicked on as expected from the hype, surrounding the appointment of Klopp.

This piece will focus on Klopp’s two years at Anfield, to see whether is he a success or has he failed to live up to expectations.

 

Early success?

Jurgen Klopp ended his first few months at Liverpool with two cup final defeats (League Cup and Europa League).

Although, one can point at those defeats as failures, Klopp reignited a spark that faltered during Brendan Rodgers final season in charge. Liverpool had a stuttering start to the 15/16 season, despite spending big (though, the spending was accumulated from the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona).

Nevertheless, Rodgers paid the price as he became the first manager to not win a trophy with Liverpool after three seasons. Klopp almost accomplished what Rodgers didn’t within the first few months but fell short.

In his second season, Klopp guided the reds to a top four finish, which guarantees a Champions League playoff position (in which they qualified to the group stage). This brought Liverpool back into the fold of the European elite, something the reds faithful believe they deserve to be due to their prestigious history.

With Klopp having two full years under his belt, fans will be expecting silverware at least, come the end of the season.

 

Tough to beat?

Since his arrival, Klopp has made Liverpool tough to beat against the so-called “top six”. Last season, Liverpool went unbeaten (5 wins and 5 draws) against their domestic rivals.

Additionally, they were the only team out of the top six to stay unbeaten, which says something to Liverpool’s character in big games. Although they were hit for five at the Etihad stadium this season (Sadio Mane’s red card contributing to the high goal tally), Liverpool still proved they are the team to beat in primary fixtures, with the demolition of Arsenal at Anfield demonstrating this.

Despite having a strong record against their domestic rivals, their form against the rest of the league is mixed. Liverpool seem to struggle or break teams down in games they were expected to win.

Defeats to Burnley and Bournemouth last season were examples where Liverpool were caught off guard. Similarly, draws at Watford and Newcastle this season  further employs the reds drop points in games they are expected to win, something a champion would not do if they want to win the title.

However, the season is still early and Klopp has time to turn around a slow start before reaching for the panic button.

 

Not shrewd enough in the transfer market

Klopp’s experience in the transfer market with Liverpool has been mixed at best.

On the one hand the acquisitions of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah were pivotal buys for the reds. While on the other hand, A lack of reinforcements in the defence has proved problematic, if not calamitous for Klopp and Liverpool.

Since his arrival, Klopp has had four transfer windows to tinker with his squad, particularly the back line. The results of those windows included Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan. Although the former has done respectfully ok in the back, it is by no means enough.

Though, one can argue that Liverpool do not possess the riches of their rivals, the fact that Liverpool have done little in that department is worrying. Without a sound defence, a team cannot be successful. Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle in the 90s and Rodgers almost title success three seasons ago are two examples to suggest all-out attack is not enough.

If Klopp wants to be a success, he needs to build a team in all areas or face a disjointed team.

 

Being left behind

One issue that has been clouding Klopp’s arrival is being left behind by their domestic rivals.

With both the Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Tottenham strengthening their already strong squads, fans of Liverpool will fear that they may be left behind.

Again, the financial issue comes into question. Liverpool lack a billionaire owner or the commercial revenue of other clubs (Manchester United), which affects their progress.

This prevents the club to spend as free-willing in comparison to their rivals. In today’s game, money talks more than a club’s reputation (although this is not the case all the time). This affects a club’s recruitment policy and the competition of teams vying for the same player.

Secondly, and mentioned above, Liverpool have a lack of depth in the defence department, where as the likes of Manchester City addressed this issue due to similar failings last season.

Finally, failing to get results against the “minnows” of the league disrupts any top teams progress in obtaining the title. Chelsea addressed this issue last season, whereas Manchester United and Manchester City seem to have the right formula against lower opposition.

Although, mentioned previously, it is still early days and Liverpool could go on a strong unbeaten run that deflates this argument, but as it stands, Liverpool are harpooned.

 

Overall verdict

Overall, it is far too early to judge Jurgen Klopp’s time at Anfield a failure. However, one would be foolish to say he has been a huge success at Liverpool.

Although, any logical person would say, give a man time and success will come, the fast pace and the ferocity of today’s game does not allow this logic to be implemented.

If Klopp fails to win a trophy this season, he will become only the second man at Liverpool not to win a trophy in his first three seasons, the first was his predecessor.

 

Written by James Reidy

Like O-Posts on Facebook

You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts