HOW KLOPP TURNED DOUBTERS INTO BELIEVERS
Thursday, 25th June 2020. That was the day Liverpool ended a 30-year wait to finally become champions of England once again. It’s been a long and painful journey, but they have once regained their perch. October 8th, 2015. Another important date in Liverpool history- the day Jürgen Klopp was appointed Liverpool manager. In one of his first interviews he promised to deliver a title in 4 seasons, otherwise his next job would have been in Switzerland. Into his fourth full season, he’s delivered on that promise, and turned the Anfield faithful from doubters to believers.
However, it was not an easy, overnight job that Klopp orchestrated at Merseyside. It has taken years of meticulous planning off the pitch, intense training sessions on it and having to endure a few more heartaches before achieving eternal glory. Let’s delve into the key factors that took Liverpool from the brink of midtable obscurity to champions of England, Europe and the world during Klopp’s unforgettable reign.
Getting the fans back onside
If ever a club needs a manager that has a connection with the fans, it is Liverpool. Throughout history, the managers of this famous club have not only had to provide instructions to the 11 players on the pitch but have had to carry the weight of a city that lives and breathes football on their shoulders. Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Kenny Dalglish and Rafael Benítez truly understood what it meant to be Liverpool manager. They were able to rally the fans around the players, help the community through disasters such as Hillsborough and ensure the famous Anfield atmosphere struck fear into the opposition.
Following a lacklustre 2014/15 season under Brendan Rodgers, where a title challenge was once again followed by an average season with a lack of real investment, many Liverpool fans had become disillusioned with the club. It was a sight that was far too familiar for the red side of Merseyside, and many questioned whether they will ever win anything again.
Enter Jürgen Klopp. He made a plea to the fans, calling for them to turn from doubters to believers. Klopp recognised the importance the Anfield crowd could have as a true 12th man. He experienced the same situation at Dortmund and their famous Yellow Wall. He knew getting the fans back on side would help them power through games and inspire the players to give everything they could in every second of every battle. The results were almost instant.
Fans felt they had a manager and a group of players that would cover ever blade of grass, and the fans responded by giving the players all the help they needed. Since then, they’ve written several “I’m going to tell my grandkids” stories on the pitch before the glory days that we are witnessing at the minute. Dortmund in the Europa League’s certainly at the top of the pile.
All hope was lost with 25 minutes still to play, but with the Kop forcing the ball into the net, they managed to get over the line. This was just the first of a long line of fantastic results, the most recent being the 4-0 demolition job of a Messi-inspired Barcelona.
It’s this reconnection with the fans that has created the mentality monsters. Liverpool are a side who don’t know when to give up and how to. All they do know is that they’re willing to go until the last whistle for every possible point.
Heartache is a lesson
Prior to last season’s Champions League win, Liverpool were slowly becoming the ‘nearly team.’ Defeats in the Champions League final, Carabao Cup final, Europa League final and agonisingly missing out on the league last season meant 4 years into his reign, Klopp had yet to taste success. Some were even starting to label him as a ‘flop’ and a ‘bottler’, a stick that the cynics used to beat the German gaffer even before he arrived on English shores due to his unfortunate record in finals.
After every defeat, after falling just short every time, Klopp fought back with the same message. “We will be back.” This wasn’t just an empty rallying cry to the fans. This was a fact. A statement of intent. Klopp had harboured a squad of hungry, ambitious players. He made them remember what defeat felt like. To come so close to achieving their dreams only to fall short, he made sure they remembered it so they would not want to feel it again. After every failure, Liverpool grew stronger. They came back better, and there seemed to be a feeling that this was not going to be like the side of 30 years prior. They were not going to let a small blip in the road knock them off the stride.
So often, teams never recover from a massive heartache. Spurs are the perfect example of this. Failure last season has resulted in a poor season with no trophy once again. Not this Liverpool side, however.
Klopp has harboured and built over years to give rise to this group of mentality monsters. In the face of any adversity, they rise above and get the job done. Its credit to Klopp’s unrivalled man management style, but also huge praise to the players. They have taken everything the manager relays to them as gospel. They learn from their mistakes, but never forget them. This mentality is the mentality of winners and will only see Liverpool continue to win in the coming years.
Since Klopp’s arrival, Liverpool’s net spend sits at £107.58m, 14th highest of the current Premier League teams. Whilst they have spent big on some recent signings, such as Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, they have had to sell before they can spend. With that being said, it makes their recent successes even more impressive. Whilst a lot of work clearly goes on the training pitch to nurture these players into superstars, recognition must be given to the backroom staff, especially a figure like Michael Edwards.
The analyst isn’t a football brain by any stretch of the imagination. His field is numbers. However, he is the perfect man for the ‘Moneyball’ model that Liverpool have used to achieve such enviable success in the transfer market. It’s a fact that they cannot afford to spend like the Manchester clubs, and need to buy smart, guaranteed targets. When you consider all, the first team players who have been signed by Klopp, none of them have been underwhelming; Karius potentially, but at £4million, it was a risk worth taking. This is not by luck. Targets are drawn up, numbers are analysed, and Klopp, Edwards and chief scout Barry Gordon all have an equal say in deciding on the final target. It’s an organisational structure that works, and one that sides in the rebuild process, such as Arsenal, should be imitating from top to bottom.
An example of this method working wonders is simply by assessing the Andy Robertson story. The Scottish full-back was relegated with Hull and expected to spend another season in the Championship before Liverpool surprisingly signed him for £8million in the summer of 2017. At the time, many were shocked. No one expected anything of the signing. Rather, the expectations were that the Scotsman was too small a fish in a big pond and would fizzle out like many-a-squad players do. 3 years on, and Liverpool have one of the best full-backs in the world, who has more than quadrupled in value and is a key cog in this well-oiled machine.
It’s these types of successes that have allowed Liverpool to go big on other players, and each signing was that well analysed and discussed that they were bound to be hits.
Not only are Liverpool well run on the pitch, they are arguably the best run side off the pitch, factors that have been key in the transformation of a truly great club.
As a bizarre yet fantastic campaign draws to a close, everyone surrounded with Liverpool is looking forward to next season. The fans, players and management have finally experienced the elusive Premier League title, but one gets the sense they will not rest on their laurels with just one. This is a side that is made to challenge every season. The goal is clear: making sure this isn’t a one-off and building the next great dynasty in English football.
The Reds aspire for years and years of unrivalled success at the top of world football. They demand it as Klopp has turned Liverpool from doubters to believers, to winners.