Jurgen Klopp’s appointment as manager of Liverpool in October 2015 was met with euphoria and excitement.
The Reds had just drawn at Everton and were 10th in the Premier League. Yet, fans seemed upbeat about the prospect of a potential Merseyside version of Alex Ferguson or – whisper this softly –Bill Shankly.
Klopp, after all, was coming in with some credentials. His Dortmund team had won the Bundesliga twice over Bayern Munich and reached the Champions League final in 2013 on limited budget and an exciting, cavalier brand of football. Further, he checked the charisma box in his very first press conference proclaiming himself the Normal One and the media duly lapped it up.
Three years into his reign, Liverpool have yet to win a trophy. They have gone close admittedly, reaching the finals of the two most prestigious European club competitions as well as the League Cup. But, as the manager of a massive club with an impatient fan base that has seen limited success in the last three decades, the German’s lack of silverware attracts little criticism compared to other big-name managers in the league. Why is this so? Here are a few possible reasons.
Charisma that lets him get away with almost anything
Klopp has charisma, lots of it. From the booming laugh to honest, sometimes controversial statements, he always offers a good byte. Also, his charm is such that he tends to get away with bad decisions. For a long time, his gung-ho approach meant that his players often lacked energy as the season wound down, a time when champions usually pick up their game.
His my-way-or-the-highway gegenpressing worked wonders with bigger teams but struggled with lesser lights unwilling to commit forward and give up space. Today, Liverpool are better in this regard. But, even when they were not, the dissenting voices were murmurs at best.
Endearing love affair with the fans
Fans love him. He is someone the Kop can feed off. The pumped fist for a committed tackle. The looking away when a home penalty is being taken. These are cues for Anfield to get worked up and the stadium unfailingly obliges. Maybe he is playing to the gallery but the fans don’t seem to care and readily do his bidding. Anfield has become a fortress.
Reverence from players and respect from the board
Klopp took Dejan Lovren off at half-time against Tottenham in October 2017, after the worst 45 minutes by a defender for a big club in living memory. The Croat came back later on in the season to play his best football since joining the Reds and took that form to the World Cup where Croatia reached the final.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a rocky start as a Liverpool player but grew in stature and was playing as well as he has ever done before the unfortunate injury against Roma in the Champions League semi-final. Andrew Robertson came from relegated Hull City and by the end of the season was arguably the best back in the league. Klopp also gets the best out of the owners and the board, judging by how they spend to get his transfer targets and the way they have given him control over the club.
This is a no brainer. Liverpool are a neutral’s delight much like Dortmund were when the German was at their helm. You can’t help but be arrested by the breathless tempo of their play, the brilliance of the front three, the rest of the limited parts punching above their weight, all backed by a vociferous crowd. It does have its limitations as evidenced in the Champions League final when Salah went off early and Kroos and Modric ran over a Henderson-led midfield. But, when it all clicks, it can be a lot of fun. Just look at what they did to Man City and Roma at Anfield.
Progress and imminent success?
Trophyless they may be but Liverpool are already better than what they were last season and have progressively improved every year since the German’s arrival. Van Dijk joined in January and has bolstered the defense considerably alongside a maturing Joe Gomez.
Neither Lovern nor Matip, first choices at the start of last season, looks like replacing any of the current pair. New addition Alisson is a much better keeper than Mignolet or Karius.
The midfield has more options that at any time during Klopp’s tenure. All signs point to a surge of quality and success and of Liverpool breaking the trophy hoodoo. They better do for Klopp’s sake. Even the most powerful charms eventually wear off.