The German took over a disjointed and mediocre squad from his predecessor back in October and oversaw an initial period of inconsistency – that matched what we had seen from the side under Rodgers until his sacking.
But we have recently seen an upturn in form from Klopp’s side that has been coupled with more belief and confidence – and that suggests the players are understanding more what is expected of them by the German.
Klopp had been criticised for not improving matters sooner and his points per game stats were actually worse than Rodgers – but he has surpassed the man whose squad this really is. We are scoring more goals on average, not far off twice as many, and are now averaging more points.
It cannot be overlooked that Klopp has recently seen the likes of Sturridge and Coutinho return to fitness, but in his first few months he suffered a mass of injuries that will have adversely affected his results.
Things are starting to look better, despite the penalty shootout defeat by Manchester City at Wembley, and Klopp is looking more and more the right man for the job. His enthusiasm is infectious and it looks like the players are carrying out his instructions better than in the initial period.
The Wembley loss against City was followed up with a defiant 3-0 win over the same team at Anfield a few days later. The late win over Palace clearly owed a debt to fortune, but it also cannot be denied that the team showed purpose and determination after going behind and down to ten men. Of course it helped that Alan Pardew’s side hadn’t won in eleven league games prior to that, but a folding would have been the outcome earlier in the season.
Klopp is yet to make any additions to his squad since taking over, but he already has Joel Matip and Marko Grujic on their way in for next season. Jonas Hector and Timo Horn of FC Koln are being strongly linked and they look like the sort of players to add solidity to the backline. He will also have a good knowledge of them thanks to his time in Germany – and his reputation there will no doubt help encourage them to move abroad to play for him at Anfield.
The improvement of some of the current squad under Klopp’s management cannot be overlooked, however. Dejan Lovren is looking a far more composed centre-back under the German and the clangers that typified his game previously have been absent of late. Roberto Firmino also looks a different player, although his slow start can fairly be attributed to his adjusting to a new league and culture. But the Brazilian has certainly flourished in 2016 and the management of Klopp has undoubtedly played a part in that. The confidence Klopp inspires in his players cannot be underestimated – he clearly is a manager that players want to play, and work, for. Adam Lallana has looked a more purposeful player under the German and he has added more goals and assists to his game of late, which is great to see. The England international has been criticised for a lack of contribution in that department and he needs to provide given his £25m price tag.
The two games against Manchester United at Anfield in 2016 could be pointed to as a microcosm of the change in confidence and belief under Klopp. The 1-0 defeat thanks to a late Wayne Rooney goal was similar in balance to the 2-0 Europa League win, but a key difference was the self-belief in the players. United played the waiting game and knew a chance would come from a mistake in the league game – but they would not be afforded such an opportunity in the continental encounter. Klopp’s men set about them from the off and, aside from the opening spell of the second half, dominated their rivals.
The intensity of the pressing against the other Manchester club in the 3-0 was very impressive – and possibly even more so than the 4-1 in the reverse fixture. The likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Raheem Sterling barely got a second before they were swarmed by energetic Liverpool players. Sterling was so overrun that he was withdrawn at half-time. Jon Flanagan laid an early marker down with a storming challenge on Sterling that drew plenty of noise from the fans – and that was the intention from the player who should surely have been handed a new deal by now?
There was an interesting opportunity for Liverpool fans to get a glimpse of what the future might hold with Borussia Dortmund’s 3-0 dismantling of title challenging Tottenham Hotspur right before the win over United. Ok, so Thomas Tuchel is now in charge of Dortmund but he has deviated as far from Klopp’s style as the path his predecessor trod to the Westfalenstadion (Tuchel moved from Mainz to Dortmund as well).
Dortmund showed a high pressing game that seized on space and led to confusion in the opposition ranks thanks to the speed of movement and pressure that barely allows players to draw breath let alone track their opponent. Marco Reus showed again why he is so high on wanted lists around the continent with two very well taken goals. #SignReus was being tweeted plenty by Reds following his performance.
If Klopp can get a squad of players he played no part in building to carry out his instructions as well as they have in certain games since his arrival, then imagine what he will be able to do with his own signings? It bodes well for the future and it looks like we have a man with a plan and something to look forward to.
Compare that to a disjoined Manchester United squad which Louis van Gaal has spent £300m+ putting together and things look even better. Rodgers was slated for the amount spent on the current squad, but the United boss deserves a lot more negativity for the shambles he is overseeing at Old Trafford.
A strong finish to the season would set us up nicely for a Summer of change and a positive outlook on the next season.