Klopp: Soon to be ‘Equal’ With Shankly and Successors?

Jurgen Klopp Manager

In this sponsored article, Tamhas Woods looks at Jurgen Klopp and the impact he has made at Liverpoool FC which ranks him as an all time great at Liverpool.

While comparisons between Jurgen Klopp, and the golden dynasty of Shankly-Paisley-Dalglish remain bold calls, Klopp is on course to become one of the Premier League’s greatest managerial sensations. It seems as though nothing can now stop Liverpool from winning their first Premier League title, and what will be the club’s first top-flight triumph since 1990.

Past vs Present

While Liverpool’s current dominance was commonplace in the late 1970s and most of the 1980s, it was in a league where all of Liverpool’s title rivals were light years behind. Bill Shankly had long since set the standard required for every Red man, young and experienced alike, and this echoed for generations.

Jurgen Klopp, meanwhile, is managing Liverpool’s title charge in a much more competitive league, and maintaining a win percentage of nearly 60%, which (in those stakes) puts him behind only Kenny Dalglish (with 60.91%) in the post-war list of Liverpool managers.

In a league bursting with talent that will punish any slip-up in the way Manchester City did last season, Liverpool’s greatest ongoing achievement is an unbeaten run that could ultimately break all records. Most emphatically of all, Liverpool entered their home fixture with Watford unbeaten in 33 league matches, representing the third-longest unbeaten league run in Premier League history.

Once so widely considered uncatchable, Arsenal’s tally of 49 is in sight, and Liverpool’s current momentum suggests that it is attainable. The Reds would need to avoid defeat right up until the final whistle of their trip to Brighton on 18 April (subject to change) to beat that record and give Klopp a degree of bragging rights on top of silverware that his predecessors never attained.

Fortress Anfield Fuel Behind Unbeatable Status

There is also Liverpool’s long unbeaten run at home to consider as ammunition, for anyone who has the bravery to rank Klopp alongside Shankly or Paisley in a heated pub debate. Liverpool also went into the Watford game having gone an incredible 48 Premier League matches unbeaten at home, while dropping just two of the prior 75 league points available.

Whether or not Klopp’s name can be uttered in the same breath as men like Shankly, there are similarities in their approach. While Liverpool’s superior fitness in the 1970s and 1980s gave them more staying power, that also provided them with the impetus to get an early hold on the key games that brought an endless stream of silverware.

That mode of existence, where strong starts are paramount, has been honoured as well as can be expected under Klopp. Indeed, Liverpool have been in front at half-time in over two-thirds of their league matches this season, going on to win all of them, and that rate increases to almost 90% at home. Prior to their home banker against Watford, Liverpool had also scored the opening goal in five straight league fixtures, netting on no less than six occasions within the opening half-hour across those games.

Even in Europe, there is absolutely no relenting – just as there was no relenting back in what still remains the club’s best era of 1977-84. Significantly, Liverpool’s win in Salzburg – a huge test of character that sealed qualification to the Champions League round of sixteen – made it 16 wins in their last 18 competitive matches if counting the Carabao Cup penalty win over Arsenal.

Liverpool also scored at least two goals in 14 of the matches during this run, and it represents a remarkable recovery after a dreadful performance in Napoli on Champions League matchday one, and a great turnaround from a potentially damaging setback.

Modern Culture Will Deny Klopp ‘Trophy Battle’ Win

Naturally, it will not be possible for Klopp to match the haul of trophies practically hoovered by Shankly, Paisley and Dalglish. Those who want to learn how to bet on football, for instance, quickly learn that this is the very nature of modern football, and it is a huge rarity to see one individual coach stick with a single club for decades.

As such, Klopp is destined to lose the battle of the trophies against his predecessors. However, there is one oft-overlooked element that gives Klopp the edge over Paisley and Dalglish – his inheritance.

While Liverpool’s close run to the 2013/14 restored the club’s pride under Brendan Rodgers, after a devastatingly poor start to the 2010s, the bad times would return with a vengeance, as Liverpool floundered badly in the year following that title near-miss.

At the time of Rodgers’ sacking, following a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park that was largely controlled by a composed Liverpool team, the Reds were still susceptible to embarrassing results. Defeats such as 6-1 to Stoke and 3-0 at home to West Ham were as far removed from the ‘Liverpool way’ as it is possible to get, and the rebuild job would always take a man in a million to undertake.

Unlike Paisley and Dalglish, Klopp inherited a poor squad that had little idea of how to play for one another, especially with the conspicuous absence of Steven Gerrard in the dressing room in early 2015/16.

For many Liverpool fans, the way 2015/16 progressed and acted as a launch pad certainly represents the biggest turnaround in the modern era. In the 21st century alone, only the 2004/05 season under Rafael Benitez comes near to matching anything Klopp has done in recent years.

While Benitez’ Champions League win at the first attempt puts him up there amongst the genuine greats, the fact remains that he blew his only real chance of Premier League glory. Even masterminding a league double over the eventual champions proved insufficient, and that will ultimately see him eternally sit under Klopp in the all-time managerial stakes once Liverpool’s title is sealed next spring.

Younger Generation to Decide How Klopp Compares to Greatest Predecessors

Ultimately, Klopp’s title win will merely put him level pegging with Shankly and his close successors. It would take something altogether more substantial to see him overtake them, but current momentum suggests that Klopp will achieve at least one more record during his time at Anfield. While some will never be won over, and always consider Shankly or Dalglish to be the greatest based on their impact alone, it is ultimately the younger generation that will have their say in years to come.

That younger generation, to the benefit of Liverpool FC, has room only for the name of Jurgen Klopp in their utterances, as they witness a new golden age at Anfield.