Ask any Liverpool fan who is the greatest manager they have had in the Premier League era. Jurgen Klopp’s name will be clear at the top. The man is held in the same regard as the likes of Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley. The man who transformed them from “doubters to believers”. Yet this season he faces his most testing time at the Anfield club.
A few years ago, if you questioned Klopp’s credentials at Liverpool, you would’ve been laughed at in your face. After winning the sixth European Cup in 2019, the charismatic German ended the club’s 30-year wait for a top-flight title in 2020.
But such is the nature of modern day football, that two years after that glorious achievement, Klopp’s time at Liverpool is under the scanner.
Liverpool’s stuttering start under Jurgen Klopp
After being the closest challengers to the near-perfect Manchester City for years, Liverpool have stuttered early on this season.
They began the campaign with two draws against Fulham and Crystal Palace. A chastening defeat followed this to Manchester United in the third game.
Napoli piled on more misery in Europe with a 4-1 rout. While results and form can vary, it is their performance in these games that is a worry.
They looked off the pace in their loss to United and couldn’t keep up with the intensity of Napoli in the Champions League humbling. Playing with low-key energy and being run over is not something you associate with a Jurgen Klopp side.
They have come up with thrilling wins over Newcastle and Ajax this season, but even then they looked unconvincing and needed last-minute rescue acts.
Although the Reds have dominated possession in most games, they have looked out of sorts up front, except for the 9-0 thrashing of Bournemouth. Even more worrying is that they appear lethargic in the midfield.
Reason for the slump
Of course, people will point fingers in many directions when a team goes through a rough patch.
Sadio Mane’s departure has had an effect. The talismanic forward was an important cog in Klopp’s style of play. Even though Mohammad Salah was the one scoring most of the goals, Mane’s contribution cannot be understated.
His high press and ability to draw out defences meant Salah was able to flourish.
But now Salah is left to do a lot on his own. He is still able to create a lot of chances for his teammates and score himself, but clearly the absence of Mane has changed the dynamic up front.
Still, that is not the major worry. Their midfield is being made to look weak. James Milner appears to be finally slowing down, while Henderson is looking short of pace. Thiago’s lack of fitness has hurt the team, with only Fabinho being consistent in that department.
Constant injuries to players like Thiago, Naby Keita and Oxlade Chamberlain haven’t helped the cause either, with the gaffer needing to rotate his squad in this tightly packed early season.
Apart from this, a worrying sign for Liverpool fans is that this team may have run its course. Klopp’s teams have a tendency to fall off pace and look short on energy after a few years. Given the fact Liverpool have been playing full-throttle football for the past 4-5 years, this team might be at the end of their cycle.
This happened with Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund as well. After sweeping the Bundesliga twice in a row and reaching the Champions League final, things went downhill.
In Klopp’s last year at the club, they were in the relegation zone halfway past the season. However, they managed to recover and finish in a Europa League spot. History could be repeating itself here as well.
Can Jurgen Klopp turn things around?
If there is one manager who could turn around this for Liverpool, it is Jurgen Klopp himself.
It has only been a few games into the season, so there is a long way to go. A lot of football is to be played and more than football tactics, it will require the motivation the German can infuse into his squad to have them performing at their best.
A few adjustments like using Harvey Elliott consistently in the side over Henderson and Milner could be a way to start. The side has performed well when Elliott has started.
Also, a return from injury for Diogo Jota could go a long way to address the small issues upfront. A front three of the prolific Jota, along with Luis Diaz and Salah, can break through any defence. Not to forget the big Uruguayan Darwin Nunez could yet prove to be a game changer for them.
The club’s board and fans will show their full support to Jurgen Klopp. He deserves the time and trust of everyone, having restored them to the upper echelons of European football.
But with Arsenal looking and Manchester United looking more consistent and Tottenham making a strong start, Klopp has a fight on his hands. This is something he will relish as he looks to overcome his biggest challenge at Liverpool since arriving at the club.