Jürgen Klopp is celebrating two years in charge of Liverpool. He signed a six year contract extension last year, suggesting the club's owners are behind him. But what has he achieved since October 2015?
Klopp has had two summer transfer windows to build Liverpool in his image and the additions he has made have largely strengthened both the first team and the squad's depth. Sadio Mane has been the standout purchase, filling the goalscoring-midfielder void left by Steven Gerrard. Klopp has also successfully integrated Joel Matip from Schalke, Georginio Wijnaldum and, this season, Mohammed Salah. But there have also been more suspect signings including Loris Karius from Mainz and Ragnar Klavan from Augsburg, and he must prove that the €39 million splurge on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Arsenal wasn't a deadline day rush of blood to the head. The failure to sign highly-rated Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk was the main disappointment of the last transfer window, but holding onto Philippe Coutinho – even if the player wanted to join Barcelona – was a plus.
Under Klopp and Liverpool's owners Fenway Sports Group, youth is playing a key part in Liverpool's long-term strategy. However, we are yet to see many young players infiltrate Klopp's starting XI on a regular basis. Young English defenders Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold have begun to make starts this season but Klopp is yet to be able to call on an academy product who can significantly improve his options. Striker Dominic Solanke, who joined for a nominal fee from Chelsea, may not be a Liverpool youth product, but his arrival is further proof that Liverpool are embarking on a long-term project under Klopp.
Klopp inherited a Liverpool team still coming to terms with the losses of Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard a year earlier. That made the achievement of reaching the Europa League final in 2016 even more impressive - but the question now is whether Klopp can build on that promise in the Champions League. Returning the club to the competition after a three-year hiatus via a potentially tricky playoff game against Hoffenheim was the first hurdle cleared, but thus far the performances in the group stage have been lukewarm. A favorable group and Klopp's penchant for cup competitions suggests Liverpool are expected to reach the knockout phase. Anything less will be deemed a failure.
Klopp remains popular at Anfield and, besides a few dissenting voices, the German has the support of everyone at the club. The main source of frustration from the supporters is that Klopp continues to persevere with a defense and goalkeeper that are clearly substandard. If the German boss is serious about winning the Premier League, which he said was possible within "three or four years” at his unveiling in October 2015, then its an issue that many feel must be addressed. The fans are on his side for now, and there's an appreciation on Merseyside that the project is moving in the right direction, but whether they're still with him at the end of the season is the big question.
The term ‘gegenpressing' was a buzzword around Anfield for about six months after Klopp took over from Brendan Rodgers. Klopp has certainly made his mark tactically at the club, with an immediate emphasis on winning back the ball as quickly as possible and playing at a higher intensity than under previous management. The result has been some eye-catching, attacking football that is very easy on the eye – but it's not come without constant exposure of their defensive flaws.
Klopp is building something at Liverpool, but if he's not careful those around him may run out of patience. Reaching the Europa League final in 2016 was his finest achievement to date but the pressure is on to improve on that this season. That means at least reaching the knockout phase of the Champions League and finishing in the top four of the Premier League again. Klopp's new signings also have to hit the ground running and he must sign at least one top class defender in January to stop Liverpool leaking goals. Losing Coutinho would be a blow, but the impending arrival of Naby Keita from RB Leipzig is an exciting one. Klopp's task now is to turn potential into tangible results