Jürgen Klopp’s arrival at Anfield changes the entire landscape for Liverpool FC, uniting the club and providing an exciting future, writes Si Steers.
There are some things in life that are just ‘meant to be’ – and the feeling that comes with Klopp’s arrival at Anfield is that there is a hint of destiny in the air.
The enigmatic, charismatic but humble style of Klopp is the perfect fit with a club that looks to its manager as its Leader.
Klopp replaces a man in Brendan Rodgers that was striving to reach the benchmarks the German had set with Dortmund. In 2013/14 Rodgers came agonisingly close to winning the league with Liverpool, which would have been an incredible achievement.
History will be kinder to Rodgers
A lot of people revisit the 2013/14 season with the intent to absolve Rodgers of any credit; which is to all intents and purposes is rewriting the facts of that season. The reason Rodgers had to be replaced as Liverpool manager isn’t that he wasn’t once the right man, it is because the trajectory he was taking the team on dipped below an acceptable level – and there was no clear plan for that to be reversed.
Rodgers will likely look back on his time at Liverpool and recognise that in many ways he was the architect of his own downfall. The difficulty with any kind of success and plaudits is that it creates a sense of invincibility – and it was perhaps that which worked against Rodgers in the end.
His inability to listen and work collaboratively – a perception that was created by his decision making – ultimately cost him his job. Rodgers biggest issue became indecision – he moved away from a blueprint that used his strengths, to one that exposed his weaknesses. And that lack of identity and coherent style left everybody confused about his vision for the team.
In his first press conference Klopp made the point that ‘he likes to listen’ – that will likely be music to the ears of everybody at the Club.
It would be unfair to call Rodgers’ tenure a failure at Liverpool; history will likely judge him as an agitator for change, and one of the architects of some of the best football we have ever seen.
In some ways Rodgers probably took the club as far as he could, for Liverpool to move onto a different level it needed change. It needed somebody that could come in and unite fans and players behind an idea – somebody with respect in the global game – somebody that can carry the weight of expectation and make it work in his favour.
Klopp elevates our level
There is no question that Klopp comes with a reputation as one of the best, most innovative and sought after coaches in world football. What he achieved at Dortmund has in many ways become the blueprint for ambitious clubs across Europe. As he alluded to in his press conference, money doesn’t have to be the difference between success and failure.
Klopp’s enigmatic personality is exactly what Liverpool needs at this moment in time. It is exactly what the onwers, players and supporters need at this moment in time.
Without sounding like a broken record, this is (another) critical juncture in Liverpool’s journey under FSG. If you are going to succeed you can never stop moving forward – the moment you do, mediocrity waits.
There is a fine margin between patience and mediocrity – you can’t expect change to be instant, and any manager will need time to build his ideas or reinvent a plan – that will be true with Klopp as well.
But what you need is to create a culture of belief. As Klopp has said he wants to turn us ‘from doubter to believers’ – if you believe in where the club is heading, you will accept the bumps along the way.
The appointment of Klopp has elevated the stature and the level of Liverpool Football Club. It has shown to the world, that one of the best coaches in the game believes we can be great again. Klopp’s personality is so infectious that players are going to want to run through brick walls for him – players will want to be part of Klopp’s Liverpool.
Klopp’s view of the game is high energy, high tempo and exciting football. He created a fantastic brand of football at Dortmund – his observations about possession seem to be that it doesn’t matter how much you have, it’s what you do when you have it. It will take time for him to create his identity at Liverpool – but it is going to be well worth the wait.
His appointment changes the entire landscape for us.
FSG show intent
I am sure that FSG have learnt by now that they will always have a Jekyll and Hyde relationship with supporters. They are either heroes or villains – when the likely scenario is that they often fall somewhere in-between.
They must expect they will get criticism when the club is underperforming – but the only thing you can ask of them is that they act when things aren’t going well and commit to the promise that they are ‘here to win’.
It is a very complex picture when judging FSG; they have done little wrong in that they have given the manager both time and resources to succeed. When it became clear that the club had stopped moving forward, they acted swiftly and decisively.
They are likely to have learnt a number of lessons in the past five years at Liverpool. One of the biggest lessons is that being ‘the smartest man in the room’ is a great sound bite, but other clubs have done it better.
There is no science to success in football; but if you are going to succeed, you need to have absolute unity on decisions, especially when it comes to player recruitment.
There is nothing that is innovative about the transfer committee at Liverpool; the reason for its dysfunction was that there was a disconnect between its members.
Under Klopp, FSG will expect to see the transfer committee operate in the way it should. There will (hopefully) be less reliance on the English market to recruit players – Klopp built a team at Dortmund that was greater than the sum of its parts – and developed relatively unknown players into world class stars. He’ll feel he can do the same at Liverpool.
Klopp may have more scope at Liverpool to operate at the higher end of the transfer market on occasion; at Dortmund he was very much part of ‘the smartest man in the room’ team – FSG will be hoping he can bring that philosophy to Liverpool.
What FSG have done with this appointment is reignited the belief in the ambition they have for the Club. Although not directly linked to success on the pitch, the construction of the Main Stand is further evidence of that commitment to win.
A lot of the criticism aimed at FSG is borne out of pure frustration – and the structure at the club and some of the decision making has left them open to problems. But the one thing I don’t question is that they want Liverpool to be successful – it’s never going to be easy, whoever owns us, but the ambition is there.
They needed a show of intent to remind everybody of that – and the appointment of Klopp has done exactly that.
One Club Mentality
Over the past few years it has been sad to see that one of Liverpool’s greatest strengths has been lost in the age of modern football. Different factions have emerged within the fan base and it has been difficult to pull together on the club’s direction.
The mantra that ‘we are stronger together’ is one that Liverpool has always been built upon – and with the arrival of Klopp – there is a huge opportunity for everybody connected with the club to unite behind its direction.
If you look at the culture that Klopp left behind at Dortmund, it gives us huge hope for the future. You sense that he is the kind of man that thrives off the relationship he builds with the clubs supporters, he recognises that they are the heartbeat of the football club, and that the way he talks, acts and interacts will be with the mentality of a fan.
Trust is a huge issue for supporters, and with Klopp it is clear that honesty and humility are two things you are always going to get. For a coach of his stature, there seems to be a distinct lack of ego (the normal one) – and that when he says something, it is always exactly what he feels – not what he thinks people want to hear.
There are many reasons that Klopp is the perfect man to take Liverpool forward; he has the clearest mandate of any Liverpool manager in recent times to shape the club his way.
But in addition to his credentials as a coach and a tactician he also has a personality that will unify. He is so enigmatic, you want to be part of his journey with the club.
For the first time in a long time the owners, employees, manager, players and supporters can look positively to the future as one.
Jurgen Klopp may have only been here for five minutes – but that is already an outstanding achievement. What will hopefully be the first of many.
What a time to be a red.