The date was October 9th 2015. Just 5 days after the sacking of Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool Football Club’s new manager was making his debut in front of the media; his name was Jurgen Klopp.
Mesmerised by the German, journalists wondered if he could be the next manager to take the Premier League by storm.
Comparisons were drawn to Jose Mourinho’s first press conference as Chelsea manager; epitomised by one journalist asking him what his take on the Portuguese’s self-proclamation as “[The] Special One” was. They listened almost as if hearing the words of a religious teacher, when Klopp charmingly referred to himself as “The Normal One”.
With the utterance of those words, the headlines were already written, and the media had their story.
However, there was a comment that the German made almost under his breath, one that didn’t receive as much attention as it probably should have. Jubilant as ever, he remarked, “When I’m sitting here in four years, I think we [will have] won one title in this time.”
His follow up joke that if he fails then he might try his luck in Switzerland is probably the reason why this quote wasn’t talked about much but it still has importance.
Jurgen Klopp is a manager who has confidence in his abilities. He wouldn’t have taken the Liverpool job if he didn’t think he could turn the club around, and he’s spoken well of his managerial ability in the time he’s been in charge.
Four years on from his joking promise, can most likely be interpreted as the end of the 2018/2019 season…which is next season.
It might sound insane but there’s reason to believe that his words could in fact be taken seriously. There’s a buzz around Anfield, and if you listen closely enough then you might be able to hear the whispers.
While trying to avoid as many clichés as possible, here are the five reasons to believe that Jurgen Klopp is building a side capable of winning the league next season.
1 – A Deadly Attack
Probably the most renowned trait of this current Liverpool team. When each piece of the side’s current front 3 was brought in, most people outside the club didn’t think too much of it.
Roberto Firmino was relatively unknown outside of Brazil and Germany. Liverpool supporters were excited because he was exotic and played for his national team, but even they didn’t really know what to expect.
The signing of Sadio Mané was met with groans as many fans were left dissatisfied with the acquisition of yet another Southampton player, especially when Mario Götze was on the market.
And Mohamed Salah’s forgettable stint at Chelsea was still very much in the minds of the media, despite his brilliant exploits in Italy.
What’s so special is the fact that once Jurgen Klopp started working with these players, their benefit to the team was immediately made evident.
They weren’t all signed together. Each was signed in one of the past three summer windows, but it didn’t take long for them to form a frightening trident.
At the time of this being written, the club has already gone into the triple-digit category for goals scored this campaign, with 68 of them being scored by the aforementioned trio.
The future of these 3 players is of incredible importance to the immediate future of the club. The thought of them playing together with the added experience of a whole year under their belts is sure to frighten the rest of the league.
2 – An Improving Defence
Slightly below, if not on par with Liverpool’s reputation to score goals under Jurgen Klopp, has been their reputation to concede. Scores like the 3-3 draw with Sevilla, and the 3-2 win over Leicester have happened more times than the average fan will have liked.
The club sought to address this in the summer of 2016 with the signings of Loris Karius and Joel Matip. However, it was quickly made evident that just the two of them would not suffice.
The following summer saw Andrew Robertson brought in to provide a more permanent solution at left back, and Virgil Van Dijk was made a primary target.
The Dutchman eventually joined the side in January; and while the time frame since his arrival is short, the defence seems to be steadily improving. With the team having only conceded 1 goal in their last 4 matches in all competitions.
Van Dijk seems to be bringing organization and confidence to the backline, as others look to be benefiting from his presence in the squad as well as on the pitch.
Dejan Lovren has seemed more assured and capable in this run, and it’s only a matter of time until Joel Matip hits his best form for the club.
Maybe the most promising improvement however, has come from Loris Karius. The young German endured a turbulent debut season in England but is now showing drastic growth in this consistent run that Klopp has given him.
If he keeps improving at this rate then Liverpool will have a young, talented shot-stopper in goal next season. Erasing one of the most redundant narratives that the media has been holding on to.
3 – New Signings on the Way
In addition to some of the incredible talent in the squad, there’s plenty of excitement to be had with the prospect of who will be joining in the summer.
One signing that’s already wrapped up is Naby Keita. The Guinean midfielder will be joining from RB Leipzig in a deal that was completed last summer. And if he’s a taste of what’s to come, then this could be a truly incredible transfer window.
Keita will bring an element sorely missing in the Liverpool midfield. Possessing a dynamism similar perhaps to Oxlade-Chamberlain, he has the class and guile to match.
Able to break through opposition lines with the ball at his feet, he makes dribbling seem effortless at times. Also not afraid to get stuck in a tackle, he has a reputation for a bit of a nasty side; something this team lacks.
Discussing any potential signings would simply be meaningless speculation at this point. However, there are certain positions that Klopp has surely noticed need strengthening.
Particularly, in the centre of midfield where the team would benefit from having a player capable of providing cover for the defence. A winger who would be able to provide both competition and cover for both Mané and Salah is crucial. As well as a centre forward who would be able to step in when Firmino’s not on the pitch.
Given Klopp’s track record so far at the club, it’s fair to assume that the players coming in will be just what the team need to push on.
4 – Assuring Self-Belief
Jurgen Klopp was in charge of Liverpool for seven months in the 2015/2016 season. One thing that quickly distinguished his team from the one coached by Brendan Rodgers for the first portion of the campaign was the sense of belief that they had in themselves.
Only one month into his tenure, Liverpool travelled to The Etihad and strolled to a 4-1 victory. Playing with a confidence that truly stunned the league.
In addition to guiding his new team to the League Cup Final, he was able to also do the same in the Europa League. And while they didn’t win either of those trophies, they had some serious team-defining performances.
Particularly, the 4-3 victory over Dortmund in the 2nd leg of the quarter final. Being 2-0, then 3-1 down, the players on the pitch and the supporters in the stands embodied every characteristic of their colourful manager and clawed the game back.
His team has been notorious for stepping up whenever facing top opposition. As big an indication of any that they believe in their ability and know what they are capable of; from manager, to players, to fans.
Additionally, throughout his time in charge, this team has been exceptionally good at bouncing back from disappointment. You’d be wise to bet your money on a Liverpool win if they just lost the game prior.
His comments after the 2016 League Cup Final defeat to Manchester City probably best encapsulate the mind-set he has brought to the club:
“You have to feel a defeat. You cannot say ‘I don’t care, it’s not important’. It was important and we lost, so that feels not too good. You always have to strike back…you know you can fall down and then you have to stand up. That’s the truth, but it’s completely normal – only silly idiots stay on the floor and wait for the next defeat.”
5 – His Pedigree
With all that has been said, from individual players, to goals, to mentality. There’s a chance that none of it would matter if the manager was below par; and he is anything but that.
Let’s not forget that when Liverpool hired Jurgen Klopp, they hired one of the most sought after managers in football. This is a man that was linked with some of the biggest clubs in Europe, with his German rivals Bayern Munich being one of the main names.
However, an already very successful team like that never really seemed to suit Klopp’s style. It makes sense why he was excited to join Liverpool, when his work at Borussia Dortmund is remembered.
He took over in 2008, after the club could only manage a 13th place finish in the Bundesliga. One of Europe’s most storied clubs was languishing in mediocrity at the time of his arrival – sound familiar?
That all changed when just three years later, he won them the Bundesliga title. He followed that up by doing it again the following season, in addition to winning the DFB-Pokal.
After drawing the attention of the football world onto himself, Jurgen Klopp went on to guide Dortmund to the UEFA Champions League final in 2013.
This is the type of manager that Liverpool hired two and a half years ago. A manager capable of taking a club from mediocrity to excellence; without needing to spend exuberant amounts of money.
Granted, he has more financial resources at Liverpool than he did at any other point in his career. But that just might be something to get excited about. Imagine what he could be capable of delivering when he has all the necessary tools available to him.
And with things now finally seeming to change on Merseyside; fans are more hopeful than ever that something will be delivered sooner rather than later.