It wasn’t hard to see how excited Liverpool supporters were about Jürgen Klopp’s appointment at Anfield. After weeks of calling for Brendan Rodgers to be let go, the fans got their wish. Klopp started his run as manager with a 0:0 draw away to Tottenham, not the best result, but it was his first game. Weeks later the club still hasn’t won with Klopp at the helm. These days soccer fans don’t have a great deal of patience, but surely the Liverpool faithful won’t start hiring pilots to fly “Klopp raus” banners any time soon, will they? No probably not.
Ideally, Klopp would already be in the win column with his new team, especially being up a man for a half against Rubin Kazan. Klopp is in charge of a new team for the first time in seven years so there is going to be some growing pains. The question is, how patient will everyone be if the team keeps drawing, or worse yet, starts to lose? The answer to that should be very patient. At least until Klopp has had a chance to spend some money. There will be plenty of rumors in January and over the summer about some of Klopp’s old players coming back to play for him in England. However, these are just hearsay, no use going on about them
Hypothetically, let’s say that Klopp continues to grind out draws and the team still has trouble scoring. In this scenario, Klopp’s biggest problem will be his reputation. It’s unfair to expect Liverpool to play like Borussia Dortmund, but you could argue that a lot of people were expecting Liverpool to come out at White Hart Lane and immediately start playing Klopp’s famous heavy metal football. Dortmund won two Bundesliga titles under Klopp, a German Cup, three Super Cup’s, and pushed Bayern Munich right to the edge in the 2013 Champions League Final. These records gave Klopp some serious clout, but they also raised expectations. When Klopp joined Dortmund after coaching Mainz he was a relative unknown. Not much was expected of him, unlike now.
All of this is totally unfair to Klopp though. No one should have expected a team with a lot of faults in it to immediately challenge for a title, but for Klopp, it should be a long term goal.
After this weekend’s draw with Southampton Klopp said that “Football is not a fairy tale,” and he’s right. Whatever changes Klopp is going to make to Liverpool it will take some time, and in some cases some new players. There are some signs of change already. Liverpool is running more, and they are pressing well. Klopp likes his players to force the opposing team out wide and use his defensive midfielders to win the ball back from there. If it goes well, they are able to transition to attack quickly or at least force the opposition into playing long balls.
The problem Liverpool have in both instances is that the players are not as good as Klopp might want. Specifically talking about the offense, the Reds have a bit of a problem scoring goals. Philippe Coutinho is a quality playmaker, but outside of him they don’t have real quality going forward. Christian Benteke is a very good striker, but he’s a traditional number nine. Without good service coming from out wide, or from a central playmaker, he’s not going to score many goals. Not to mention, we haven’t been able to see what Daniel Sturridge can do under Klopp since he has been injured so that is up in the air as well.
It seems like a foregone conclusion that Liverpool will want to buy a winger in January, or maybe wait until the Summer. Klopp’s 4-2-3-1 is pretty narrow, mostly to get the other team to want to move the ball to the wings, at which point Liverpool press. Offensively, it also allows the full backs to overlap and get into space by confusing the opposition’s wide players. Better wingers would allow for a bigger punch up front and would likely open up more options for players like Coutinho to spread the ball around.
Klopp’s biggest problem though is his defense. The team has some good players, but maybe not enough to make a title push. Goals conceded against Rubin Kazan and Southampton suggest that the backline has trouble dealing with long balls and set pieces. Both goals could have been dealt with if a Liverpool defender got up and won a header. If one of Klopp’s defensive strategies is to force his opponent to resort to long balls, then something has to be fixed.
There is plenty to like about what Klopp is doing on Merseyside. It will just take some time to really see what he’s capable of doing, and it probably won’t be until next season that we get a better look at his team. In the Premier League, it’s always a case of “what have you done for me lately.” There will be some people who start to question Klopp if he doesn’t start winning. Those people should be ignored for the time being. The eccentric manager from Stuttgart has earned his chance. Liverpool fans shouldn’t worry. At least not now.