Matthew Sinton analyses Liverpool’s progress since Jurgen Klopp’s appointment a year ago.
This Saturday, it will be a year since Jurgen Klopp took over from Brendan Rodgers as Liverpool manager, and what a ride it’s been so far. Nobody could quite believe at the time that we were about to get one of the best and most famous managers in world football.
Fans’ pessimism and frustration suddenly became optimism – the future looked bright. But what has changed since that famous Thursday afternoon a year ago? Let’s take a look.
Klopp’s Liverpool career started with a lot of promise; the first game of his reign against Spurs saw us already playing the high pressing style of football he is so famous for. But there were, of course, flaws to begin with and the game ended 0-0.
We went on a short run of games without defeat and managed two huge away wins, 3-1 at Chelsea and 4-1 at Man City. However, as should have been expected with another manager’s squad, it was a season plagued with inconsistency – with the 4-1 win over City and 6-1 over Southampton came a 3-0 loss to Watford or 2-0 to Newcastle – and we ended the Premier League season in 8th place.
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You shouldn’t pay too much attention to that position, though. We played a lot of second-string sides towards the end of the season with our main focus being the Europa League and we still only finished six points off the top four. No Europe was a blessing in disguise anyway, in my opinion.
It was the Europa League run, in fact, that was the most impressive thing about Klopp’s debut season here. After quite a dull start in the group stage, we well and truly sprung to life in the knockout stages. A precious 2-0 victory over Manchester United in the round of 16 was followed by one of the most exciting games, and the best comeback I have seen since I started watching Liverpool, a 4-3 win over Dortmund.
We also came back from 1-0 down in the first leg of the semi-finals and beat Villareal 3-0 at Anfield. Three excellent performances (well, the Dortmund game wasn’t the best all-round performance but you get what I mean.)
But that all came crashing down in a 3-1 loss to Sevilla in the final. They were all poor goals to concede, but you could argue we were extremely unlucky; Lovren’s goal in the first half which would have put us 2-0 up was disallowed and 3 penalty appeals for handball were not given.
In the end, it just wasn’t our night. We had also lost the League Cup final to Man City after a poor effort in the penalty shootout. At the time, it seemed like the end of the world, but overall it had been a season of great progress; the team spirit had really returned. Young players Divock Origi, Sheyi Ojo and even Kevin Stewart had broken through and made themselves serious first team options. And a good transfer window was to follow.
Klopp was very smart with his business this summer. The squad was cleared of lots of deadwood, with the likes of Andre Wisdom, Lazar Markovic, Jordon Ibe and Christian Benteke either loaned out or sold. Our incomings included some very worthwhile additions in Sadio Mane and Gini Wijnaldum, and a new first-choice(presumably) goalkeeper, Loris Karius.
Many fans complained about the lack of a new left-back and defensive midfielder, but the excellent recent performances of James Milner and captain Jordan Henderson in those roles have made most eat their words. Klopp really does know what he’s doing.
With no European football and the league being our main focus this season, we have made a very positive start. From our first seven games against the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs away, we have managed 5 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss.
Sadio Mane’s wrongly disallowed goal (I think it was!) in our draw at White Hart Lane would have given us the win, and our loss to Burnley was a bizarre game where nothing would seem to go in for us.
We are on the same points tally as we were at this stage in the 2013/14 season, and we all know how that went. It’s certainly a better time to be a fan than it was this time last year. Let’s hope we can make the top four, or who knows, even push for the title.
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