Liverpool finally have a manager in place who can haul them from the depths of mediocrity and get them challenging for silverware. Jürgen Klopp, an embodiment of charm and consistency during his successful spell at Borussia Dortmund, is perhaps the first man since the days of Rafael Benitez who can inspire the Anfield crowd and deliver where Brendan Rodgers did not.
To say Rodgers’ tenure was a complete failure would do a great disservice to the recently ousted manager. One only has to cast their minds back to the 2013-14 season where Liverpool were seemingly on the way to exorcising their Premier League demons by landing their first top flight title since 1990. Instead their charge collapsed in infamy, tripping over the weight of expectation when they looked destined to see off the challenge of Manchester City. A lot has changed since, and Rodgers’ signings in particular have not delivered.
That is despite the Fenway Sports Group shelling out in excess of £250 million to bring them to the club. In truth, Liverpool never recovered from the embarrassment of April 2014, nor the departure of controversial talisman Luis Suarez.
Yet in Klopp they have reason to believe again. Rodgers became a parody of himself, someone with a penchant for puzzling team selections and for his tendency to swap formations to try to alleviate the strain on Liverpool’s faltering back line.
He was also the only Liverpool manager not to win a trophy in his first three seasons in charge, something of great frustration to their supporters. The 48 year old German, on the other hand, will bring a high pressing game stressing the importance of winning the ball higher up the pitch and it will be of a high paced variety which at times typified Rodgers’ reign but so often, particularly recently, was also its undoing.
Unlike his predecessor, Klopp will find a system that suits the players in it and will stick with it. Whether he can get the best out of some of Rodgers’ signings remains to be seen, but adopting a system to get the best out of underutilised striker Christian Benteke is sure to excite a frustrated Anfield faithful.
Klopp himself recently described the challenge as the “biggest in football” which is likely in reference to the ambitious, if impatient, Liverpool fanbase who expect success and soon. It perhaps serves to illustrate as to why Rodgers never fully won over some sections of the supporters.
Now it is worth remembering, prior to his departure from Borussia Dortmund, his final year in charge was underwhelming. But it is hard not to forget how he single-handedly revived their fortunes, winning two Bundesliga titles and overseeing their incredible run to the 2013 Champions League final. Prior to that he also impressed during a seven year stint at Mainz.
His true test here will be whether he can match and then do what Rodgers could not, which is to satisfy the insatiable appetite for success at Liverpool. In the immediate future he needs to show he can handle the pressure of the English media and galvanise a beleaguered squad that is clearly low on confidence. Klopp will be under duress almost instantly given his high-profile reputation, but if he can show signs that they are moving forward, then that will suffice in the meantime.
When he stamps his mark on the squad with his own style and additions, then and only then can Klopp be judged. What is clear is that he is aiming high. By his own admission he knows the challenge ahead but perhaps no one is better suited than Klopp to tackle it. Liverpool finally have the right man in place to end their trophy drought.
Image courtesy of Axel Schwenke