A lot of Liverpool supporters were riding high after the 6-1 demolition of Southampton in the League Cup last week and it inspired talk of a potential title challenge from the Reds – but was this talk premature and a sign of just how inspiring Jürgen Klopp is to the fans?
The manner in which the German speaks is honest and refreshing. It makes people believe in him and really does support the banner that says “Make Us Dream”. Klopp has instilled a belief into the fans that wasn’t there in the final year or so under Brendan Rodgers.
Klopp arrived at Anfield after a short break following the end of his contract with Borussia Dortmund, where he won two Bundesliga titles and took his side to the Champions League final in 2013. The German club were not a major force when he took over and had been fighting against relegation until he arrived from Mainz in the Summer of 2008.
He took Dortmund back to the top in both Germany and on the continent with the Bundesliga title in 2010/11 before a domestic double in 2011/12. He had taken on and beaten the might of Bayern Munich domestically. He couldn’t quite manage to topple them on the continent, however, as a late Arjen Robben goal won the 2012/13 Champions League final at Wembley.
But despite that heartbreaking loss, Klopp had sealed his place as one of the elite managers in Europe – a status that was never in danger as Dortmund struggled to a seventh place finish in his final campaign with them last season. He decided he needed to make the break from Dortmund and he took some time off over the Summer to consider his next move.
And that next move turned out to be his arrival at Anfield in early October following the sacking of Brendan Rodgers after the 1-1 draw with Everton in the Merseyside derby.
Prior to the announcement of the new manager, most Reds would have rated Liverpool’s chances of winning the league about as high as hitting the jackpot on the slot machines. Almost overnight though, that all changed.
Klopp came in and instantly gave everyone a lift with his vibrant personality and character. He spoke openly and honestly about how he saw the club and squad that he was about to take over – and he could not hide his excitement at the chance he had been afforded. And that kind of enthusiasm and humbleness endeared him further to his new fans.
So following a promising start to life as Liverpool manager, he found himself being asked about whether his side were truly Premier League title contenders following the 2-0 loss to relegation battlers Newcastle United. He answered the question in his typical quirky style by saying “I didn’t say we were title contenders before, so why should I explain now why we are not?” to the reporter. He then dismissed the notion that his new side could win the league as media talk.
Klopp had tried to curb expectation when he first arrived at the club and dismissed the notion that he could take the side to an immediate title challenge – but make no mistakes: he will have felt that it wasn’t out of the question when he took the reigns.
The idea that a side who finished the previous season in sixth place and 25 points off the top of the table could be title contenders the next is usually met with derision. But the Premier League is not the closed shop it has been in the last twenty years or so. Just look at the fall from grace Chelsea have suffered this season as evidence of that.
Manchester City are not convincing anyone that they can walk away with this title – especially when being dismantled by Klopp’s team on their own patch. Manchester United can’t score enough goals and Arsenal is flattering to deceive with their usual mix of pretty football and injuries.
That has left Leicester City as surprise contenders going into the festive period – which is further proof as to why many Liverpool fans are daring to believe that they could see their side pull off a miraculous rise from midtable to champions under Klopp this season.
While Klopp refuted claims that Sunday’s loss was a “reality check”, it will still be construed by many onlookers as one despite the short-lived speculation that his side could take the crown this season. Had the Reds won against Newcastle on Sunday they would be six points behind leaders Leicester with arguably all the toughest away days taken care of.
But thanks to a dire performance and a 2-0 loss, with no help from the assistant referee of course, the Reds dropped to eighth and talk has cooled of a surprise title run. But the fact that anyone considered it even a possibility speaks volumes for the impact Klopp has had on the side he inherited from Rodgers two months ago.
Just about everything has improved under the German. From goals scored to goals conceded, games won to games lost, leads surrendered to leads maintained – Klopp has made everything better and is getting more from the squad than Rodgers was and seemingly could. It’s been a sharp rise in fortunes for the team and fans are watching games with hope rather than out of duty. It’s a great time to be a Red again.
There are clearly several issues with the squad that Klopp will be keen to amend with signings and coaching, but he’s proven FSG correct in their view that Rodgers wasn’t getting enough out of an expensively assembled squad. But, and nobody should be under any illusions about this, the squad is not cut out to lift the title. Not without improvements, fewer injuries and reinforcements.
But if there is any manager out there more capable of building something special at Anfield then I’m yet to see him.
Klopp could not be any more suited to this club. I wouldn’t swap him for anyone.