Jürgen Klopp has masterminded Liverpool to a Champions League final but how did it happen? Here’s an in depth look at how Klopp has transformed the Anfield outfit in such a short space of time.
Back in 2015 Liverpool fans were beginning to anger over how the club was being run. The 2014/15 season saw Liverpool humiliated in the Champions League under the leadership of Brendan Rodgers and they felt the full brunt of the sale of Luis Suarez.
That season ended with Liverpool finishing sixth and uninspiring in all competitions. To make matters worse, the feud between Gerrard and Rodgers culminated with the Liverpool skipper heading to the USA to live out his final days as a player.
Liverpool’s season was typified by the pain of seeing the frontman rotate between Rickie Lambert, Mario Balotelli, Fabio Borini and Raheem Sterling. By the summer of 2015 it came as a surprise to most that Brendan Rodgers remained as manager.
The acquisition of Christian Benteke as Liverpool’s new main man was a step too far. Just two months in to the 2015/16 season Brendan Rodgers was sacked.
The sacking of Rodgers brought joy almost unanimously to Liverpool fans but that joy was nothing compared to the delight when Jürgen Klopp was unveiled as Liverpool’s new manager.
The Klopp Years Begin
During Jürgen Klopp’s unveiling as the new manager of Liverpool he said something which struck a cord with all Liverpool fans. “I want to turn doubters in to believers” he exclaimed and in doing so inspired millions of Liverpool fans to believe in how their new manager could transform their fortunes.
Liverpool fans were desperate for some hope and inspiration after years of misery going back to when Roy Hodgson took charge in 2010. An invigorating yet fruitless 2013/14 season brought back memories of more glorious years but it came to nothing and the pain grew further when Luis Suarez left for Barcelona.
Klopp’s first year in charge didn’t exactly go to plan as he struggled to get his inherited squad to adapt to the high demands of his playing style. Liverpool went on to finish eighth in the Premier League that season. However, despite the disappointment in the Premier League Klopp managed to guide the Reds to two cup finals in his debut campaign.
Managing to reach two cup finals in what was considered a disappointing season was a sign of just how much Klopp had raised expectations since he joined. Not only did Klopp get Liverpool to two cup finals but he got Liverpool to their first European final in eight years.
2015/16 was another trophy-less season for Liverpool and they failed to secure Champions League football for the following season but it would take time to recover from the mess that Rodgers had created.
The German Revolution
Klopp’s priority in the summer of 2016 was clearly to mould the squad in to something he could work with. By trimming the squad size significantly and making some shrewd acquisitions he managed to generate a net profit all whilst improving the squad.
There were six signings that summer, four of which came from German clubs as well as Wijnaldum and Mané whom he tried to sign while at Dortmund. Not only had Klopp convinced the fans to become believers but he had also convinced the transfer committee.
During Rodgers’ tenure the committee were reluctant to allow the manager much control over transfers, however Klopp seems to have near free-reign. Putting all their faith in Klopp, they allowed him to dispatch of Benteke, Balotelli, Joe Allen and Martin Škrtel all of which were important members of the team. He was even allowed to sell one of the club’s brightest prospects in Jordon Ibe.
With a squad much more to his liking and a full pre-season to teach Gegenpressing, Klopp began his first full season at Liverpool in good shape. With no European football to worry about Klopp put all his eggs in one basket and focussed solely on achieving a top four finish, he even sacrificed the League Cup and FA Cup to give Liverpool the best possible chance.
The season was a success as Liverpool finished fourth. However, they were left wondering what could’ve been after they spent much of the season in a title challenge before a dreadful Christmas period got the better of Klopp’s small squad.
With work to be done and much to improve upon, Klopp entered an important summer in 2017. He faced the prospect of having to take Liverpool up another gear despite securing Champions League football for Liverpool for only the second time in eight years.
Back Amongst Europe’s Elite
After putting the foundations in place last summer, Liverpool were now in a position to put the building blocks in place to form a much stronger and competitive team.
The priorities this time were a goal scoring right winger, a creative midfielder, a commanding centre-back and a reliable left-back. All boxes were well and truly ticked none less so than a world class winger in Mo Salah.
The commanding centre-back that Klopp was after didn’t arrive until January but he was well worth waiting for, Virgil van Dijk transformed the second half of the season both for Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp.
With all the pieces of Klopp’s jigsaw now in place, including getting goalkeeper Loris Karius in top form, Liverpool were now able to lay down a gauntlet and play the rest of the season with the genuine belief that they could beat any team in the world.
That belief rippled throughout the team and created a team spirit that hadn’t been seen for over a decade. It also helped Liverpool break out of bad habits. In previous seasons and indeed earlier this season Liverpool struggled to recover from adversity and were often left wallowing after poor results.
Not only were the players reaping the rewards of the team spirit but it also helped Klopp. During much of his time in charge of Liverpool he had struggled to make any formation other than 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 work. However, with the players in unison a huge variety of formations were now clicking. Whether it was a back three, 4-4-2, 4-1-4-1 or 4-2-2-2 Klopp seemed to have a formation to bemuse any opposing manager.
Liverpool are now rubbing shoulders with Europe’s elite clubs after an incredible run of form which sees them play Real Madrid for Champions League glory this Saturday evening in Kiev. Whether they win or lose it can’t be underestimated just how much Klopp has transformed Liverpool in the short period he has been in charge.
To put things in to perspective, the last time Liverpool played Real Madrid was in the Champions League four years ago. This is the team Brendan Rodgers selected for that match;
Mignolet; Manquillo, Touré, Škrtel, Moreno; Lucas, Can, Allen; Lallana, Markovic, Borini
Since then Klopp has managed to assemble a team that has earned the right to play Real Madrid for the Champions League trophy. For comparison, this is the most likely line-up for the final;
Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Milner, Wijnaldum; Salah, Mané, Firmino
So, whatever the outcome of the Champions League final Liverpool can be safe in the knowledge that the Hodgson and Rodgers days are long gone.