Jurgen Klopp’s been Liverpool manager for just over a year now. When he arrived, Liverpool were rudderless, directionless, and most importantly, without identity. Now, 12 months and some change into the job, Klopp hasn’t worked miracles, but he has installed a true sense of self back at Anfield. They’re still not the finished product, but Leicester’s Premier League win last year proved that doesn’t really matter. Liverpool are title contenders. For real.
Sir Alex Ferguson feels the same way. Speaking to German magazine Kicker, Ferguson proclaimed that Klopp has “revived Liverpool’s enthusiasm” since his arrival in October of 2015.
“For two decades, Liverpool changed managers without building their own identity,” Ferguson said. “You can now sense you truly have to count them in this year.”
Before their 2-1 loss to Liverpool, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte called the Reds the “worst team to play now,” and it’s obvious why.
Liverpool’s game is absolutely terrifying for opposition teams. They press high up the pitch, swarming and overrunning opposing defenses, committing overwhelming numbers to the attack. Their hectic style is tough for anyone to match, and, with a full pre-season under Klopp, they don’t just have the mindset and desire to run just about every single squad they come up against into the ground; they have the fitness too. The Reds have run the furthest and made the most sprints of any team this season, and the results on the pitch have reflected those stats.
Liverpool aren’t just a collection of headless chickens sprinting around the pitch though. They also have one of the best collection of attacking players in the league. Any one of the sparkling collection of Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana, Divock Origi, and more can change the game at any point, and they all have done at different points so far in this young season.
The Liverpool is what makes the Reds deadly, but they also have plenty of quality in midfield. Jordan Henderson has continued his steady improvement into one of the Premier League’s most consistent players, and Emre Can has oh-so-surprisingly performed well once allowed to play his natural position. Add in Georginio Wijnaldum, the young Marko Grujic, and even almost-forgotten man Lucas, and they have the quality to take on anyone in the league.
Their defense is probably their weakest point, but even that unit is looking stronger and stronger with each match. After a rough start defensively, they’ve conceded just four goals in their last six league matches. Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip are settling into their partnership, Nathaniel Clyne continues to perform well, and newly converted left back James Milner has made that spot his own with some strong performances.
From the moment Klopp touched down in Merseyside, he’s gone about making Liverpool his club. So far he’s managed to finesse his way around the notoriously difficult FSG management and their transfer committee, bringing in players that fit his style and ideals. Loris Karius, Joel Matip, Georginio Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane have already become key components to this Liverpool side, but perhaps his most important job has been to efficiently cull through the players already in the team that don’t fit his vision, and successfully integrate those that can do the job for him.
More than anything, Klopp is a fantastic man-manager, and his abilities on that front have truly shone through now that he’s had a bit of time to settle in and work with Liverpool’s squad. He’s getting the best out of Philippe Coutinho, who’s become one of the Premier League’s most exciting players, and under his tutelage, Liverpool’s midfielders Can and Henderson have elevated their games to a new level.
The biggest question about this team outside their defense is whether or not their squad can handle the rigors of Klopp’s incredibly demanding style of play. Running more miles and putting in more sprints than every other team makes them a tough prospect to deal with for opponents, but there’s also the very real danger that Liverpool’s players will burn out before the season ends.
While this is a legitimate concern, it’s important to remember that they don’t have European football to deal with. Without the strain of matches coming thick and fast every three days or so, plus their added strength in depth, Klopp’s team should conceivably be able to go the distance and weather the storm.
The Reds currently sit in third place in the Premier League, level on points with leaders Manchester City and Arsenal. Just like last year though, the league looks wide open, with no clear favorite in sight. Just a bunch of contenders. A bunch that includes Klopp’s men.
Liverpool are still far from the finished article. But what they are is a team playing beautiful soccer, fully equipped and willing to run any team into the ground, and they’re getting better every week. In short? They could be the ones holding the trophy in May.