It was Jurgen Klopp’s birthday last week. This week, it will be the first anniversary since Liverpool lifted the Premier League title. It’s been some year.
Klopp sets targets that are achievable
Such landmarks are often superficial, not necessarily a staging post for things to come. However, Klopp has been saying all the right things for almost six years at Anfield. The thing is, he’s acted on them as well. Remember his oft-quoted: “If I sit here in four years, I am pretty confident we will have one title?” Ticked off.
It wasn’t so long ago that targets at Anfield were spoken about in a joyless “fourth place is a minimum requirement” mode. When Klopp achieved that in his first full season in 2016/17, it felt different. There was a sense that this was the start of something. When he delivered third in the latest painstaking and unstable campaign, it felt like a victory against all odds.
The journey with the fans just as important as the the trophies
There was something about Klopp from the first moment in October 2015 beyond the obvious bounce effect. It is an approach that makes good things happen. He changes the prism through which players look at obstacles. And themselves. As he celebrated his 54thbirthday this week, it is perhaps time to take stock and appreciate that the journey has been just as important as the booty delivered.
Klopp has restored something even more tangible than silverware. He has activated the fans to fuel the players. As the man himself said: “If you are only motivated to win the Holy Grail, then something is wrong with you. We want to win football games because we enjoy the ride with the fans.” The German will get his wish soon enough.
Over the last decade, Liverpool have launched three failed title charges five years apart. 2009, 2014 and 2019 might have all go the same way in terms of finishing as runners-up. Rather than using the latter as a “backpack” to weigh them down, Liverpool used the information to win it the very next year. The perfect storms of 2009 and 2014 blew themselves out without any structure to continue the upward trend.
Attention to detail first class
The way that Klopp works is a testament to the improvement that underpins success. Think back to those early days, minutes before his debut against Tottenham when he noted Liverpool’s training kit didn’t fit. This was not a superficial concern. This was detail for a reason. The Reds didn’t look like a first-class team so did not play like one.
The closeness in team and supporter is only truly tested in disappointment. Liverpool were virtually marooned in eighth place after losing to Fulham in early March. They salvaged it because Klopp gave them a belief and a target that was worth fighting for. There is always a better day tomorrow. When Liverpool open up against Norwich in August they will be fuelled by a desire to write a new chapter.