The Magic of Ousting a Centurion: the Liverpool Case

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“If I sit here in four years, I am pretty confident we will have one title.” Those were the exact words of a new Liverpool FC boss on 9th October 2015. Jurgen Klopp had been confirmed as the successor to embattled Brendan Rogers. With him came a wealth of experience from the Bundesliga but this was the first real test of English football and it wouldn’t have come at a worse time. 

Manchester City were bankrolled with Sheikh Mansour’s bottomless financial resources, Manchester United although in transition could afford any player and had Jose Mourinho in sight, Chelsea still had Abramovic’s billions to spend and high profile managers in their fray. Tottenham Hotspurs were having the best run in nearly 50 years under Pochettino and were playing Champions League football with increasing regularity.

Arsenal was still the same unpredictable team under Wenger; mesmerizing and disheartening fans in equal measure but remained a formidable force. Effectively, what was initially perceived as the BIG FOUR was now the BIG SIX. So how then did Klopp change the fortunes of an English powerhouse where many like Benitez, Rodgers and Hodgson had failed?

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Klopp’s work was clearly cut out. It wasn’t going to be easy by any stretch of imagination yet he needed to grab this opportunity by the scuffle of the neck. To be the best, you have to beat the best. Liverpool’s hopes of winning the premier league were pegged on ousting Pep Guardiola’s centurion Manchester City. To oust a manager who had ever only lost out a league title once in seven seasons before coming to England was not going to be easy. To make the task tougher, Manchester City continued strengthening the team with marquee signings. But Klopp had a plan; first, he needed to take the bull by its horns. He needed to defeat City to instill a belief in his team that the Cityzens were beatable in the title race. In the last three seasons, Manchester City’s visits to Anifield have been miserable. The reds have piled misery on City in a manner no team has done in Guardiola’s managerial stint. As of now, Jurgen Klopp remains the manager with the highest number of wins against any team coached by Pep Guardiola. The Champions league double victory over city in the 2017/2018 season was particularly tough for the sky blues as they were outclassed both at home and on the road. It is safe to say no team gets better preparation than Liverpool in Pep’s training program at the Etihad campus.

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Largely, Klopp has made incredible signings to aid his course. Signatures of players like Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane. Van Dijk, Georginio, Alisson Becker, Robertson, Fabinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain have raised the bar at Melwood. While players like Naby Keita continue working their way into regular contention, the aforementioned stars have brought immeasurable quality to the Reds. In Salah and Mane, Klopp signed widemen with incredible workrate, pace and deadly finishing. Fabinho adds still to the midfield while Georginio’s energy and drive is precious. Van Dijk has brought calmness and defensive astuteness to a backline that was leaking too much for Klopp’s liking. With the addition of Brazilian shot stopper Alisson Becker in goal, the defensive frailties that bedeviled the Reds are gone.

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With this pool of players has come an incredible amount of consistency. The reds have matched a city team heralded by others as arguably the finest in the premier league era after they amassed a hundred points. Liverpool only lost the title last season by a solitary point. They also only lost one game across a 38-game league accruing 97 points in the process. It would have been interesting for the reds to go unbeaten and not win the title. This season, Liverpool has continued with the same vein of form and has only lost once in 31 games. If the Reds keep up their current form and win just 5 of the remaining 7 games, then a new premier league point’s record will be set. Many within the upper echelons of football believed it was impossible to create a bastion of invincibility and match the City centurions but Jurgen Klopp’s gladiators have done so with some aplomb. This is a fact that has not eluded the Liverpool skipper as he had this to say about their title capture on Sky Sports:

“After the Champions League final, I said it wouldn’t be possible to win it without the manager, and that is no disrespect to the managers before him, but I felt from day one he came in the door he changed everything and we have all followed him.”

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The Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola took time to congratulate Liverpool while noticing their passion and consistency during the course of the campaign:

 “After we won those titles maybe we didn’t have the same passion as Liverpool. After two seasons the gap is big. We were not consistent like the previous seasons. Liverpool won the Champions League and were given confidence. They played every game like it was their last game. In the beginning, we didn’t play like that way. Congratulations to Liverpool for this great season.” (BT Sport)

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Jurgen Klopp has galvanized a team wallowing in the haze of underachievement, mid-table mediocrity and perpetual failure at the last hurdle.  He has brought with him the mentality, tactics and personality that a club of the history and statue of Liverpool rightfully deserves. While a promise he made four and a half years ago may have seemed a pipe dream, the German has gotten Liverpool into two Champions League finals, a Europa League final and a “Premier League final” last season against City. During his stint, the former Dortmund coach has won the FIFA Club World Cup, the European Super Cup, the Champions League and the Premier League. The German’s gegenpressing style of football has suffocated teams in the league in a manner not seen before. Klopp has also motivated a team made of both youngsters like Trent and seasoned professionals like James Milner to great effect.

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This week, the Liverpool galaxy will celebrate a premier league title that had remained elusive for 30 years. Whether the long wait was due to the wrong men in tracksuits in the dugout, the wrong type of players or inept tactics remains unclear. But what is crystal clear is Jurgen Klopp deserves every rave review coming from Merseyside, a fact even Robbie Fowler agrees with albeit blasphemously. 

“I think I’m going to have to relinquish this God shout now, give it on to Jurgen. Jurgen can be called ‘God’ now, can’t he? I’ll let him have that, I’ll let him have it. I honestly feel brilliant, I know we haven’t played for Liverpool for a long time but to be here and witnessing what we’ve witnessed, it’s absolutely incredible, it really is,” he told Optus Sport 

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