Klopp's Impact on Liverpool's Season So Far
Don’t look now, but it’s mid-November and Liverpool is atop the table.
Since resuming Reds managerial duties in October 2015, boss Jurgen Klopp has emphasized a more team-driven approach in his first full year with the club. That ideology more than seems to paying off, and the players finally seem to be clicking with a Liverpool manager in a way that hasn’t happened in a number of years.
After suffering just one loss in the opening three months of Premiership play, Klopp and his improved squad have an invaluable chance to take a firm hold of the table’s top spot forthcoming: their next seven BPL matches are all against clubs that finished outside the top six last season. And with no European play to distract and wear down the roster, Liverpool may be daring to already dream about something that hasn’t happened in over 25 years: a league title.
One of the big reasons being accredited for the turnaround is Klopp’s more tactic-based approach to training. Small-sided games have been thrown out in place of heavy tactical preparation for the opposition. And with no European season, two training sessions a day are now possible.
Striker Daniel Sturridge said to The Mirror, “In football, not many clubs do double sessions during the season, but we have the opportunity to do it with no Europe and we can use that time. The first session is usually a bridge session for the second one. It’s more relaxed. The second session is more intense.”
Klopp’s response to being top of the table in mid-November? Take the pressure off his squad as much as possible (image: Teamtalk.com)
This strategy has certainly had much to show for it. No club in the Prem has scored more goals (overall and both in and outside the box), taken more shots on target, or made more passes.
But on the other side of the ball, the defence has only scantily improved. Liverpool has the fewest clean sheets in the league and at this point last year the same amount of goals, 14, had been allowed. However, this just goes to demonstrate the importance of having a strong attack above all else in this league. Given how rock solid Klopp’s defences were in his league championship years at Dortmund, it also may just be a matter of still trying to get in the right players.
The Reds’ reformed play has not only seen their supporters’ spirits rise, but also the faith put in them by the gambling public. Sports betting has becoming increasingly popular along with classic online pokies games where the chances of winning real money are good. Liverpool is now the betting favourite at online sportsbook around the world at 5/2 odds compared to 20/1 odds before the season.
A New Motto
However, as even Sunday football league managers know, the most brilliant tactics don’t mean a thing without a strong sense of team. Since taking the reigns, that’s something Klopp has worked tirelessly to do: instilling a sense of togetherness that had been missing in tenures prior.
Assistant coach Peter Krawietz recently told the Daily Mail, “'We've tried to create an atmosphere among the squad which is always really competitive. As a team, we know that the only way we can reach anywhere is by working together.”
Underlying that mission is the tried but true motto of TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More.
'We try to "live" this in our coaching team, to be a good example of how you can all work effectively as a group,” Krawietz says. “It's an essential attitude because we aren't playing tennis, we're not playing an individual sport - we are playing football as a team.”
Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho have been shining under Klopp’s management style (image: aderonkebamidele.com)
A Players’ Manager
While most managers get the axe due to poor results on the field, often what that stems from is poor performance in the locker room - bosses usually don’t last long when their own players don’t have their back. It’s of course easy to say while spirits (and table position) are high, but that seems like anything but an issue with Klopp, who sees no shame in adjusting his training philosophy or admitting his errors in judgement.
“When I came here the players had a few days off,” says Klopp. “I changed it and said: ‘How can they have three or four days off or something?'
Now more accustomed to the physical nature of the English game, Klopp has adjusted his coaching style to take full advantage of any and all breaks that come to them.
“It was a silly decision. It’s only because I was not used to it. Now we are proper English coaches, we know about the fixtures, the intensity of the next few months. Each possibility for a little break, you have to use. That's what we have to do.”
For those players that didn’t get a national team call-up, Klopp is even rewarding them with an extended training break.
With other title contenders embroiled in strenuous European campaigns and trying to out-train their deficiencies, it will be interesting to see if Klopp’s more laissez-faire, yet focused, approach will pay off in the end, and create an impact to be felt around the rest of the league.
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