What would Klopp do? Dortmund response of 2011 proves Liverpool boss has been here before

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As Liverpool head into one of their biggest games of the season on the back of a tough run of form, Jurgen Klopp can look to his successful past to inspire a turnaround.

Managers up and down the British Isles, from the Premier League to the muddy touchlines of Sunday League, have all no doubt asked themselves the question at one fleeting moment.

What would Jurgen Klopp do?

The Liverpool boss has been a trailblazer of the game ever since his bold model was nurtured at Mainz and introduced to the world via the yellow of Borussia Dortmund.

Since coming to England, Klopp has stuck by his principles and methods and achieved a constant stream of success with the Reds like no other.

The self-proclaimed problem-solver has earned rave reviews and jealous snipers in equal measure, yet now, after three dizzying years of constant upwards trajectory, Klopp needs to ask the question of himself for the first time.

What would Klopp do? The answer will be formulating in the mind of the German while you read these very words.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 13, 2020: Liverpool's Curtis Jones looks dejected after the FA Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC at Craven Cottage. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool, for the first time in a relentless period of acceleration, have hit a troublesome patch.

Troublesome that is, because to define it as anything greater would purely be hyperbole. Defending champions Liverpool now sit three points adrift of a resurgent Man United having played the same amount of games.

City lie in wait, just one point behind the Reds, and have played a game fewer.

It’s far from ideal, but if this is to be Liverpool’s rough patch then Klopp needs to act quickly and decisively.

Headlines this season, of all seasons, are fickle. City were written off in the early period with their lethargic play and two careless defeats.

United, likewise, started the campaign in dire fashion, with an apparent aversion to winning games at home. They were slated left, right and centre.

Both sides are now seen as flavours of the month following strong runs.

And so now the attention turns to injury-ravaged Liverpool, who are no doubt just a purple patch away from becoming the pundits’ hot tip once again.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, January 4, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (L) and Mohamed Salah after the 1-0 defeat during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St Mary's Stadium. (Pic by Propaganda)

Following the Southampton defeat, Klopp was frank and matter-of-fact. He told the Sky Sports cameras immediately after the whistle: “Our decision-making was not good.

“I heard one second ago we had one shot on target. Of course we worry, these are our problems. But football problems you solve with football.”

It was an eloquent response from the Liverpool boss and straight to the point. It’s important in moments such as these to cut through the noise and isolate the task in hand. It’s also important to appreciate that Klopp has been here before.

In the 2011/12 season, fresh off the back of shaking up German football and storming to the title with Dortmund, all eyes were on Klopp to keep the yellow machine spewing out results.

He had won the league in such a manner, breaking the Bayern Munich stronghold with a youthful team playing chokingly aggressive football, that many presumed it would be difficult to maintain.

So three defeats in the opening six games certainly didn’t help. Dortmund dropped points in another of these, being held to a goalless stalemate at Bayer Leverkusen.

26.03.2011, Allianz Arena, Muenchen, GER, 1.FBL, FC Bayern Muenchen vs Borussia Dortmund, im Bild Franz Beckenbauer (Bayern) mit Jürgen (Juergen) Klopp (Trainer BVB) , EXPA Pictures © 2011, PhotoCredit: EXPA/ nph/ Straubmeier ****** out of GER / SWE / CRO / BEL ******

Naturally the knives came out. Klopp was questioned, Dortmund scrutinised. The noise became manic but inside the Westfalenstadion an aura of peace and tranquillity remained.

Dortmund worked out their issues, ironed out a few persistently jarring problems. Robert Lewandowski rediscovered his scoring touch and Klopp’s side reapplied their regimented approach to winning games and, crucially, seeing off the inferior-yet-difficult sides in the division.

What happened next? Dortmund, with the pressure of just having lifted a league title weighing heavy on their shoulders, went the entire remainder of the domestic campaign unbeaten.

Eight months, 28 games. Bayern defeated twice in the process. Dortmund had their rough patch and took character from the process.

They drew six and lost three times that season, retaining the title with an eight-point margin. Liverpool, at present, have drawn six and lost two. Dortmund learned, adapted and responded like champions.

A vital part in the process was the unwavering trust between manager and players, and the belief they held on to throughout.

30.04.2011, Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, GER, 1.FBL, Borussia Dortmund vs 1. FC Nuernberg, im Bild die Dortmunder Mannschaft feiert Dortmunds Trainer Jurgen / Juergen Klopp (GER) und wirft ihn hoch, er ist na? von einer Bierdusche, EXPA Pictures (C) 2011, PhotoCredit: EXPA/ nph/ Scholz ****** out of GER / SWE / CRO / BEL ******

Dortmund knew they were good enough to go for gold again, just like the current crop of Liverpool players – recently displaying Champions League and title-winning medals in their home trophy cabinets – know they’re good enough to do it over.

The obvious difference between Klopp’s 2011 turnaround and now of course is the minefield that is COVID-19 in sport, and a rapidly rising injury list.

Liverpool are, arguably, one solid centre-back away from a true title defence. Or, looking at it in a more cynical way, one more season-ending injury away from a full-blown crisis.

It’s a test like no other and unquestionably the biggest of Klopp’s 20 years in management.

Recent reports suggest the Anfield hierarchy are resolute in their unwillingness to ‘spend irresponsibly’ and recruit a stop-gap defender with no real future at the club.

This in itself is a separate debate, but feeds back collectively to the initial question: what would Klopp do?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, November 25, 2020: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the pre-match warm-up before the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and Atalanta BC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The German is already revered as a miracle-worker by large parts of the fanbase, but now is time to keep a cool head and make a weakened Liverpool team worth a whole lot more than the sum of its parts.

The Reds found a way to stack win upon win last season, come hell or high water. Klopp must solve this problem by giving Liverpool their identity back, regardless of the XI he selects.

There’s no bigger occasion for it. As United come to Anfield it is crunch time, and victory could inspire Liverpool to embark on a 2011 Dortmund-esque run.

So, with an undefeated home record on the line, what would Klopp do? In a matter of days all will become clear.

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