How Jürgen Klopp has fared in his first year in England | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 06.10.2016
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How Jürgen Klopp has fared in his first year in England

He's been in the country for twelve months and Jürgen Klopp is fast becoming as popular in England as he is in Germany. As he celebrates a year in the job, we take a look at Klopp's highs and lows at Liverpool.

A shade over a year ago, on October 4 2015, Brendan Rodgers was sacked by Liverpool after a 1-1 draw with city rivals Everton that left the Reds 10th in the Premier League.

On October 8, the club announced that Jürgen Klopp would end his sporting sabbatical after five months and take charge at Anfield. The day after that, the former Borussia Dortmund manager strolled in to his first Liverpool press conference, called himself the "Normal One" and asked for patience, suggesting it may take four years for him to bring silverware to the club.

It took him four games to get his first win but, after that slow start, Klopp's impact has been rapid - Liverpool reached two major finals last season and currently sit fourth in the Premier League table. This season in particular they have found a potent, full-throttle formula that has some talking them up as title contenders.

Liverpool fans have heard - and said - that before but, even if pipping Pep Guardiola's Manchester City, Jose Mourinho's Manchester United and Arsene Wenger's Arsenal may prove too tall an order, expectations are soaring on Merseyside. And that's largely thanks to the man who started his managerial career in Mainz.

Right man, right club

As well as their recent upturn in results, Klopp has made Liverpool a happier club now than it was towards the end of his predecessor's reign, according to the Guardian's Sachin Nakrani, a Liverpool fan who has written a book – We're Everywhere, Us – on Liverpool's 2014/15 season and hosts the Anfield Index podcast.

Jürgen Klopp jubelt mit seinen Spielern beim Spiel Chelsea vs Liverpool

Klopp has proved popular with his Liverpool players

"His arrival lifted the gloom and frustration that had built up at the club during Brendan Rodgers's final full season there," Nakrani says. "His personality cheered the supporters up while his achievements with Borussia Dortmund gave them immediate hope that the club could progress in the league and win trophies."

Klopp's exuberant character has seen him make moves which would be seen as cheap publicity stunts were they done by other bosses, wearing a Beatles t-shirt to a press conference for example, seem endearing and genuine. As there was with Dortmund, there's a sense that Klopp and Liverpool fit, as the man himself told the English newspaper the Daily Mail last month.

"Without being the most confident person in the world, I think I am the right person for Liverpool," Klopp said. "I am not saying I am the best manager in the world. But I’m quite good."

Falling in to place but still a finals hurdle

From a tactical perspective, one of the 49-year-old's biggest triumphs has been finding an solution to the testing puzzle of the unbalanced squad he inherited. A strikerless formation featuring a rotating array of attacking midfielders, central midfield stalwart James Milner at left-back and a deeper-lying role for Adam Lallana have been among his successful innovations.

In addition, his signings in his first off-season transfer window already appear shrewd. Saido Mane has offered a direct attacking threat that dovetails perfectly with Klopp's preferred style while free transfer Joel Matip already looks every inch the defensive leader Liverpool have lacked since the days of Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher.

Although the garden appears largely rosy, there are a few stubborn weeds poking through, most notably in the shape of Klopp's continued failure in finals. While most Liverpool fans were happy enough to see their boss prioritize cup competitions when it became clear they couldn't qualify for the Champions League through their league position last season, losses in the final of the League Cup and the Europa League were not so easy to swallow.

The defeat to Sevilla was the fifth consecutive final in which Klopp has come off second best, prompting questions about whether his famous Gegenpressing style tires players out towards the end of campaigns.

Both substance and style required

For now though, Liverpool fans are excited by Klopp's trademark style, as Nakrani explains. "Liverpool have become a far more aggressive, fast-tempo team under Klopp, playing the ball quicker than they did under Rodgers and pressing higher up the pitch. This has made them thrilling to watch - Liverpool scored 24 goals in their opening eight games of the season, with 10 different players contributing. They are an all-action unit, akin to Klopp's great Dortmund side." 

Jürgen Klopp Liverpool UEFA Liverpool FC vs Sevilla FC

The Europa League final loss to Sevilla was a low point for the German coach

While that Dortmund side were exhilarating, they combined their pleasing aesthetic with tangible success, winning two Bundesliga titles and a German Cup in the Klopp era. As much as the German has bags of goodwill from fans, club and media alike, Nakrani says it's clear what is expected now.

"Get Liverpool into the top four and/or win a trophy," he says. "The fans adore Klopp and believe fully in what he is doing, but equally they want to see tangible progress, and that means getting back into the Champions League sooner rather than later and securing silverware. There's only so long any manager, Klopp included, can fail to do either."

Despite the questions over Klopp's record in the biggest games and the defensive issues that remain in his Liverpool side, right now it seems hard to imagine that Liverpool fans will have to wait four years for his labors to bear fruit.

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