As of today, it has been eight weeks since Liverpool hired Jurgen Klopp to manage their struggling team. While that’s not a terribly long time in reality, we should begin to see the new manager’s effect on the team at this point, and what an effect he’s had. It’s also a fair time to look because Klopp has now had 11 games in charge, the same number of games that Brendan Rodgers had before getting sacked. This includes cup matches as well.
Since taking over on October 8, Liverpool have lost only once. A large part of this is down to the new-found defensive solidarity under Klopp. While they still allow goals, most of these are down to individual errors and even those have been largely cut out. Looking at the results, we can see that since Klopp became Liverpool manager, Liverpool have allowed 8 goals total, or .73 goals per game. Under Rodgers, Liverpool allowed 13 goals, or 1.2 goals per game. While .73 goals per game isn’t excellent, the current defensive leaders in the league (Tottenham) have allowed 11 goals in 14 league games which comes out to .79 goals per game.
Besides becoming tough to beat, they are also beginning to score goals again. Klopp’s Liverpool team have scored a total of 21 goals since he has taken over, which is 1.91 goals per game. Compare this to the 11 goals that were scored while Brendan Rodgers was in charge, coming out to 1 goal per game, and we see Liverpool have scored almost a full goal per game more. This number becomes even more impressive when we look at the last five games, where we can see Klopp has fully integrated his style. In the last five games, Liverpool have scored 14 goals total, 2.8 goals per game. For comparison sake, Liverpool scored 2.66 goals per game in 2013/14 when they almost won the league. Again, just for comparison sake to show you how incredible that stat is.
So what’s the reasoning behind the stats? Well, that’s largely a threefold answer. First, Liverpool’s players weren’t that bad to begin with. I refuse to believe that the team that scored 101 goals and placed second in 2014 was entirely built on the back of Luis Suarez. A lot of the underperformance comes from simply demotivation and players being played out of position. This isn’t a bash-Rodgers article, but he clearly was struggling to get the best out of players like Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana, to name a few. His insistence on certain players starting over others, even when terribly out of form (evident in Lovren starting over Sakho and Lucas Leiva being shunned on the bench), also had a negative impact on many of the players in the squad. In a previous article, Liverpool were caught in a weird limbo, and it clearly affected the players. With Klopp coming in, many of these players have a fresh start, and a fresh opportunity to fight for their position.
This leads into the second reason for the uptick in form. Jurgen Klopp, as a manager, is very much the motivator. His players love him, and he clearly loves them back. You’d think it’d be hard to find that many examples, but it really wasn’t. I didn’t even give examples of players from Dortmund. Klopp is a manager who expects a lot from his players, but will always pick you back up. You could see this with Daniel Sturridge this week. In the one link above, after having discussed Sturridge’s injury woes, Klopp makes a point to state how phenomenal Sturridge is. This is a manager that other teams’ players would run through a brick wall for, let alone his own players. This new energy around the club has lifted everyone, and is incredibly infectious.
Finally, a lot of credit needs to go to the new formation and style. With Klopp preferring his midfield to house at least one dedicated defensive midfielder, we see a lot more defensive stability. Not only does this allow fewer goals, it gives the attacking players more confidence to go forth and attack. There isn’t the nagging fear that losing the ball will result in a goal almost instantaneously. This is then coupled with the famous gengenpressing. While the constant onslaught of high octane pressing can wear out the pressing team, it does the same to the opposition, both mentally and physically. Because of this, Liverpool often receive the ball higher up the pitch, where they can quickly, and lethally, counterattack. Another added bonus is that it breaks down the opponents attack further up the pitch, before it has a chance to worry the defense. It’s effective both offensively and defensively.
Liverpool are currently in the middle of a blossoming period, where they are playing attractively and effectively. While some people are getting a little excited (exhibits A, B, and C), it’s not entirely out of the question and should be considered among the favorites for Top 4 this year. It really is a crazy season, who knows what could happen.