The Reds are rising under Jurgen Klopp and how charming it’s to listen to You’ll Never Walk Alone in high octane again. How refreshing it is to see a vibrant Kop. A strong Liverpool should be every neutral’s delight. Nine wins in their last 10 matches attest Liverpool’s resurgence. They sit atop the Premier League with 26 points from 11 matches. They have been playing an exhilarating brand of football. This is great news for the world’s most popular football league. This is terrific for English football.
This correspondent is not a Liverpool fan. Far from it… My football allegiance is firmly put at 33 miles eastward, down the M62 motorway—Old Trafford to be precise. But facts don’t lie and on trophy count, Liverpool remain the biggest club in England with 41 major titles, including five European Cups. Manchester United have 40, although they have long stolen a march on their arch rivals commercially. But money doesn’t always buy you success on the pitch, as Jose Mourinho is learning the hard way. Managerial excellence does. And Klopp, so far, has outshone all his challengers in the league.
Sadio Mane encapsulates Klopp’s philosophy, free spirit and optimism. Bought for £34 million, Mane is fast proving to be a game-changer. He roams freely in a 4-3-3 formation. He doubles up as a striker, a reason why Daniel Sturridge is struggling to get a game. The Senegalese is made for Klopp’s ‘heavy metal’ football and the game against Watford last Sunday saw his best. Liverpool gave the Hornets a 6-1 thrashing and Mane lay at the heart of it, cutting inside from his right-wing position, creating chances and scoring goals. Klopp’s football is fluid and everyone is reaping the benefits.
A manager is judged by his creativity and the ability to improve his players. Klopp is brilliantly ticking all the boxes. Mane is an example. Klopp has taken Philippe Coutinho to a different level, so much so that the Brazilian is now valued at £50 million and Barcelona are said to be lurking. Roberto Firmino has become a serious force to reckon with, scoring five goals and making three assists in his last seven Premier League outings. Both Adam Lallana and James Milner are making impact. Even Jordan Henderson looks a different player. Klopp is walking the talk. “My ambition is to turn doubters into believers,” he had said in his first press conference at Anfield. Titles are not won or lost in November. We have to wait until April at least, but the boss is making a noise.
Liverpool started to change towards the end of the last season. Then, they spent judiciously in the transfer market, brining in, for example, Joel Matip on a free transfer rather than going for the £48-million John Stones. Matip is turning out to be the bargain buy of the season. There’s still some scepticism over Liverpool’s ‘leaky’ defence—14 goals conceded in 11 Premier League fixtures. But ask Klopp and he will give it a rapid dismissal. “I have heard this a few times and I lose respect when people say this. We have no defensive problems.”
Gary Neville, a United legend, believes this could be Liverpool’s season. “At the moment, Chelsea and Liverpool, I think, purely are putting themselves out in front because of the fact that they are not playing in European football. They are both confident and they are going to take some stopping because of the fact that they have got free weeks and they have got preparation time,” Neville told Metro.
“I think, at the moment, do I trust any of them to say that you are going to win the league? I would say no. But I think looking at those two, they are going to take some stopping with the fact that preparation time is key for those teams and we have seen it in the past… Liverpool two or three years ago under Brendan Rodgers, when they didn’t have Europe, they were dangerous,” he added.
Klopp has expectedly played down the hype, urging everyone to look at the bigger picture. Also, he wants to look forward. “I know how football works, football is really important, but keep your nerves—everything is good,” he told the club’s official website.
Some fans have started comparing this team with Bob Paisley’s Reds. Already 30 goals this term must be a reason. Klopp once again put things in perspective. “It’s a really good moment and I know that everybody compares with the past, especially at Liverpool. Three years ago, 10, five, 25 years ago—but this team is new, we are new. Our story started a few months ago, so you cannot compare us with anyone else,” he said in his Liverpoolfc.com interview.
Liverpool last league title came in 1989-90. They were very close two seasons back before being done in by the infamous Gerrard slip. It would be too premature to talk about their title charge; still so early into the season. But Klopp’s Anfield revolution is undoubtedly winning millions of hearts across the globe. Liverpool have started believing again.