How Jurgen Klopp Rejuvenated Liverpool

When Liverpool departed Bordeaux following a colourless 1-1 draw in their first Europa League encounter on September 17, Fenway Sports Group were already hugely concerned – just six games into the season – that the squad was grossly underperforming.

The Reds had been bulldozed by West Ham 3-0 at Anfield and then easily dispatched 3-1 by Manchester United at Old Trafford. The squad was quite evidently bent, broken and devoid of belief.

The owners realised sweeping change was needed, which was further highlighted by the fixtures that followed the stalemate in France. Liverpool limped to a 1-1 draw on their own turf against Norwich and needed penalties to oust lowly Carlisle in the League Cup, despite racking up a ridiculous 47 shots at goal.

The Anfield atmosphere was toxic, the fanbase was divided and FSG had to act fast. Who could come in and completely transform the climate around the club? Who could immediately reshape the mentality of the players and supporters? Who could ultimately restore Liverpool to where they belong?

The top two candidates to succeed Brendan Rodgers, who was axed on October 4 following a goalless Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, were Carlo Ancelotti and Jurgen Klopp.

The former (Carlo Ancelotti) was considered on the basis of his steady hand and his calming presence. It was the latter, though, that intrigued John W Henry, who twice tried to sound him out previously about becoming Liverpool’s manager.

The German was the antithesis of Ancelotti: wild, unpredictable and effervescent. His differences did not only set him apart from the Italian, but provided all the answers FSG were seeking.

Klopp, they believed, was the only tactician who could walk through the Melwood doors and provide the voltage needed to spark the club. A meeting between the owners and the 48-year-old took place in New York’s Madison Avenue – an area synonymous with advertising – and he marketed himself expertly.

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The former Borussia Dortmund coach’s understanding of Liverpool and his enthusiasm over the team confirmed FSG’s thinking. Klopp was adamant the Reds already had enough quality to get something out of the season. Having seen what Emre Can and Roberto Firmino were capable of in the Bundesliga, he was certain they could elevate their performances if used properly in England.

He identified that Dejan Lovren simply needed a conversation reminding him of his qualities; the Croat needed to feel that he was trusted. Klopp believed that Divock Origi, with a little bit of elbow grease, could be transformed from a raw striker into a nightmare for defences. In Adam Lallana, he saw an architect essential to his high-intensity pressing system – not a £25 million waste.

Where others would have found fault and emphasised investment, the man from the Black Forest was genuinely enthused by what he stood to inherit on Merseyside. “It’s very important step on Wednesday,” he said in his pre-match briefing.

“I came here because I was really convinced about quality of these players. I was the only person.”

Klopp knew how he would reconstruct Liverpool, and FSG knew there was no-one more suitable for the task. He was unveiled on October 8 and, seven months on, he will lead the team out at St Jakob-Park to contest the Europa League final against Sevilla.

It is the second showpiece of his short tenure, and the overwhelming feeling within the club and around the city is that there will be several more to come under Klopp.

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FSG would not have expected the chance to win a continental crown this soon into his reign. They did believe Liverpool could possibly clinch a top-four spot in the league when making the appointment, and while the club finished a miserable eighth, Klopp has kept alive the goal of Champions League football.

The path back to Europe’s Top elite is not as important as Liverpool actually returning to a competition they have won more times than any other English club. They are the country’s pre-eminent force on the continent and their haul of five European Cups is only bettered by Milan and Real Madrid.

It is a stage that Liverpool have historically decorated with dominant performances.

Only Sevilla – a side Jurgen Klopp has failed to beat in four attempts – stand between the Reds and a return to what the club perceive is their rightful place.

Liverpool’s preparations for the final began immediately after their 1-1 draw with Chelsea in their penultimate Premier League game of the season. The 11 expected to start against the Liga outfit did not travel to the Hawthorns for Sunday’s draw with West Brom, aside from goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who was named on the bench.

They remained at Melwood and trained under first-team development coach Pep Lijnders, affording the club nearly a full week of preparation for the final – a luxury they have not otherwise been able to enjoy during an intensive season.

It is worth remembering that it took Klopp 133 days in the job before he could field an unchanged line-up for the first time given Liverpool’s injury problems. It is a staggering statistic that makes their achievement of reaching the climax of the Europa League all the more laudable.

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There is no doubt they are deserving of the opportunity to lift the trophy at St Jakob-Park, having outplayed Manchester United, shocked Borussia Dortmund and surgically dismantled Villarreal in the previous three rounds of the tournament.

“Rarely does the team that wins have an easy route to the final,” said Klopp. “So I’m happy for these difficult experiences for which we have found solutions.

“This team has developed really well on frozen pitches in Sion, after a long flight to [Rubin] Kazan – and always with playing a Premier League game three days later.”

Klopp has suffered defeat in his previous four finals, admitting he has “a few too many silver medals”, but he knows that statistic is meaningless in Basel.

“The longer you go without winning anything, the harder you try and the more likely you are to succeed. That’s what I believe,” he said.

“We would love to be the team to make the supporters’ dreams come true. I can promise that we will try everything.”

The manager has Liverpool touching glory again, and regardless of the result at the final whistle against Sevilla, there is no question FSG made the right call in October.

Under Klopp, the overwhelming feeling is that every little thing’s gonna be all right.

Liverpool fans can dream again!

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