New season, new hope. That’s Liverpool’s mantra ever since they last won the league some 26 years ago. But for the most part it would seem like a false alarm. Specially with all the off field troubles that had plagued the club over the years. Ambition from the previous owners after the opportunity that presented itself post that dramatic champions league night in Istanbul sustained only for 2 years and the gamble of appointing an exciting young manager backfired because of the nerve required to manage a club of this stature. Yet, the new season brings with it, an optimism unheard in recent times. And all that revolves around one man, the enchanting Jürgen Klopp. Liverpool’s charismatic manager has managed to turn the tide on what was a un Liverpool like crowd since the departure of their enigmatic front man Luis Suarez. There is belief that the wretched run of form will finally be arrested. But it is not a “Next season is ours” kind of belief. This is more measured and a patience to wait and stand by their passionate manager. How far can Liverpool go this season?
With no European football and a squad well equipped with Klopp’s preferred Gegenpressing style, expect Liverpool to go all out in all their matches this season. They played the most number of matches for any club in Europe last season and yet managed to reach two finals with a squad that fell well short of those standards. His knack of making better players out of the ones in his disposal showed in the way he shaped the likes of Adam Lallana, Divock Origi, Dejan Lovren, Emre Can and Roberto Firmino. Expect the same for all his summer recruits this season.
His lack of enterprise in the summer transfer window, although not surprising (Klopp was never a big spender), it did seem a little unwanted because the owners had money and he could have really bought in a couple of world class talents paying a hefty price. But he resisted that urge and it showed in pre-season with the performances of Marko Grujic and Ragnar Klavan. Sadio Mane is always a big talent and given his wealth of experience in the premier league he was expected to slot in quickly and he did that perfectly. He added more muscle to the back line with the addition of Joel Matip and Klavan while midfield was bolstered by the towering presence of Grujic and the energetic Wijinaldum. Despite that Klopp could have done well in the full back department by adding another left back during this time and not letting Jon Flanagan go on loan. Yet, it seemed like good business given he has also cleared out a lot of players for very decent money. The 75% clause on on-loan players and buy back and first denial on younger players showed why a top club like Liverpool needs a top coach in charge. This is his team now and he won’t complain one bit. He praised the quality of the squad left by Brendan Rodgers even though most of us cribbed and managed to out-perform. It will be all too exciting to see how his team does this season. What his recruits secretly show is that Liverpool are no longer dependent on the two world class talents in the team to bail them out all the times, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge.
There is healthy competition for places given the likes of Lallana and Henderson will be fighting for places and not automatic choices. Yet despite all of this there is no guarantee on where would Liverpool finish this season. They should be in Europe next season although it is still not clear in what competition. Antonio Conte had remarked that Klopp has had 9 months to work his style in the team and that gives him a clear advantage and he may be right. Guardiola and Conte are new to the league and Mourinho is new to a club that does not necessarily subscribe to his philosophy. Klopp will have no excuses if he missed out on Champions league next season because of limited game time. He would realise that it is his best chance of taking the next step towards Liverpool greatness. Also expecting a good run in the cup competitions given the squad strength & quality and the development of academy youngsters. Expect youngsters to be fighting for places in the cup competitions despite the availability of seniors. A cup and a champions league spot looks ideal but it is also far from guaranteed. But one thing is for sure. Jürgen Klopp’s transformation of Liverpool is progressing faster than expected and that is hope.