Jurgen Klopp has been at Liverpool only a few months and it has been a tumultuous time – emphatic wins such as that against Aston Villa mixed with disappointing defeats, including the FA Cup exit at West Ham. But the German is putting together a thoroughly modern team – it’ll just take a while considering what he inherited.
Klopp is dealing with the legacy of the confused transfer strategy that eventually did for his predecessor, Brendan Rodgers, by foisting on him Mario Balotelli and not a striker better suited both for Rodgers’ high-tempo football and the pressure of top level football in general. Buying flavours-of-the-month, such as Dejan Lovren in defence or Christian Benteke in attack, wasn’t the answer either, and Rodgers’ tenure reached the point where his tactical flexibility, a boon as the Reds challenged for the title in 2014, only bred inconsistency.
But in Klopp’s first 30 games his idea is clear to see. While he has to solve the Benteke conundrum – and it may only be solved in the manner Rodgers dealt with Andy Carroll, a permanent exit – the intention is plain. Liverpool press higher and faster than even Rodgers’ team managed at their best, and in the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Robert Firmino and Daniel Sturridge, there’s the makings of a fluid, thrilling front three.
The commanding win over Villa was the best evidence of what Klopp is trying to achieve, but unfortunately for the ex-Borussia Dortmund trainer, he can’t play the Premier League’s worst team every week. That 6-0 victory was nevertheless impressive, roughly equivalent to winning 3-0 against a competent team, reminiscent of the excellent 4-1 win at Manchester City. Villa are poor but Liverpool made them appear worse than any other side have this season. Klopp’s side still had to take advantage of the sorry state of the Midlands side.
Keeping Sturridge fit – or finding a more reliable replacement if Klopp decides that’s simply not possible – is the next challenge, closely followed by maintaining the development of Emre Can, who could yet become a midfielder of genuine class, the orchestrator of the controlled frenzy that is Klopp’s style when it works to its maximum. After that comes working on that rickety defence, and making a decision over Simon Mignolet.
Klopp was left a long list of tasks by Rodgers – and, in truth by Rodgers’ predecessors and the transfer committee that has bequeathed such a misshapen squad. If anyone is capable of carrying out the rebuilding work required, fighting his superiors at times and placating supporters at others, it’s the likable man in the Anfield dugout. Liverpool could be on the verge of something great – but the peaks and troughs will continue a little while yet.