By Gowri Krishnan
“I’m not going back to Dortmund to prove a point,” Klopp stressed ahead of tonight’s Europa League clash against his former side. It’s a strong point and a valid one as well. As much as his final season with Dortmund didn’t go as he would have liked to, Klopp was at the forefront of their revival over the past few years.
In fact, he even led them to the Champions League final a couple of years back – an achievement that remains a major highlight of his stint with the German giants. But Klopp is now with Liverpool and tonight’s clash – as big as it is for both sides – will have little influence on ‘Klopp Effect’ that’s about to explode in Liverpool this summer.
When news surfaced that Jurgen Klopp will be succeeding Rodgers at Anfield last October, the entire football world – not just Liverpool fans – rejoiced. It was about time. Remember when Liverpool was a force to be reckoned with? Where’s the Liverpool that shook the world with the Miracle of Istanbul? Where’s the Liverpool that relentlessly fought against Cardiff City to win their 8th League Cup?
Brendan Rodgers may have been a quality manager, but his Liverpool went from ferocious to humdrum, and eventually uninspired. The games became painful to watch. Some say that he didn’t know how to use his players correctly, and thus winning only four out of eleven league games earlier this season. The team needed rebuilding, a new breath of fresh air. This is where Klopp comes in.
The former Borussia Dortmund manager took over last October, with a great deal resting on his shoulders. Although his debut match resulted in a 0-0 away draw against Tottenham, we saw a different Liverpool after such a long time. Even without the likes of Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling, Liverpool became the only team to outrun Tottenham, one of top-form teams this season. Despite the draw, it was evident that Klopp was shaking things up at training, and more importantly, the players were listening to him.
Towards the end of October, Klopp led Liverpool to their first victory under him and made it to the League Cup quarter finals, and then a few days later beat Chelsea 3-1, away, marking their first Premier League win under the German. Last weekend, the now confident-caped and ferocious Liverpool trashed Aston Villa 6-0 at Villa Park.
TalkSport juxtaposed the performance of both managers after 11 games (both home and away) with Liverpool, and the result isn’t so shocking.
Wins: Three with Rodgers, seven with Klopp
Draws: Six with Rodgers, three with Klopp
Lost: One with Rodgers, one with Klopp
So how did this happen, given that Klopp had the same squad that Rodgers had?
There’s a lot that goes into a team’s performance, and Klopp understands that. His arrival at Anfield reversed the dreary atmosphere. He high-fives the players, puts his arm around them and does not subscribe to the “I’m your boss” mentality. He is modest, a barrel of smiles and a ball of goof. Steven Gerrard said in an interview with Mirror UK that “Klopp has lifted the staff, the players and the fans”. He even called Klopp a cuddler! It may have been a difficult start for Klopp, but Liverpool will soon be a robust force.
The Klopp effect is indeed unfolding into reality; Liverpool is starting to look more like a Klopp-team. They are organized, and hungry for success. Although Benteke leads the Liverpool goal chart with 7 goals, there is no Vardy or Costa in the team. The next goal scored could come from Coutinho. Or it could be Firmino. Could be Milner. Could even be Kolo Toure. And that is a sign of solid team play.
But of course, they’ve had their moments of inconceivable mistakes as well. The beauty of Klopp though lies in his preparations. He knows what’s lacking from the squad, he knows what needs to be done this summer. And while Liverpool still have 10 games to go this season, excluding the possibility of progressing further in the Europa League, the focus is already on next season.
Tonight’s affair will be feisty, that’s a given. But beyond what could happen on the pitch, this tie represents a symbolic transition for a manager that thrives under passionate environment. We know how boisterous the Dortmund fans can get. But we also know how incredible the KOP End can be on match days. Put tonight aside, the Klopp effect will actualize this summer.