“Outside the Shankly Gates
I heard a Kopite calling :
Shankly they have taken you away
But you left a great eleven
Before you went to heaven
And the red men are still playing the same way”
An excerpt from the famous Fields of Anfield Road. Most of us haven’t seen Shankly’s side play live. But the level of football we are seeing from Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool is nothing short of breathtaking. And with a little bit of luck & character(pun intended), Liverpool can finally end their Premier League drought.
A lackluster Liverpool somehow scraped a draw (1-1) against a rampant Everton side at Goodison park. Brendan Rodgers kept his unbeaten record against their neighbors, but couldn’t keep his job. Cue Klopp’s beaming smile & suddenly Kops had something to look forward to. His first match was going to be a tricky one, against a rejuvenated Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Injury-stricken but gritty, they went for every ball & recovered, a new methodology was evident. Klopp got Liverpool’s first clean sheet in 9 games. Now 66 games under his belt, and multiple broken glasses, Liverpool are the leaders of England.
Heavy Metal Football
Like heavy metal, Klopp’s football has two main traits, it’s energetic & it’s engaging .It knows how to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Klopp has termed his philosophy “Gegenpressing” , the German word “Gegen” meaning to counter. In other words, pressing is intense and organized and flips defending into counter attacking rapidly to catch the opposition defense unorganized. This is similar to what Brendan used in 2013-14, but more direct. It’s the art of attempting to regain possession immediately after losing it. Gegenpressing needs a trigger, here Klopp uses a rather simple one, press when the opponent is receiving the ball with his back to Liverpool’s goal. This is the simplest to implement, as it’s more difficult for the receiving ball-player to view or access the game behind him. It reduces his passing options and makes it easier for the ball to be regained. If the ball is not won back quickly, then it forces the opponent into a backwards pass and gives the team additional time to re-structure. Liverpool have a team of fast, agile players capable of taking advantage of the transition phase. As hull city captain Davies pointed out, “Liverpool have that mix of nice little passes and then people who will run and run at you and beat you as well. Like Mané. Like Coutinho.” and the outcome?
Goals, Goals, Goals!
Liverpool have found the back of the net for 30 times this season in just 11 games & are on course to get that number to triple-digits. The most interesting aspect being Daniel Sturridge, their main target man(previously) didn’t score a single league goal. So where are the goals coming from? The answer is, everywhere.Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana are all not only scoring but creating for others this season. Even Emre Can is a continuous goal threat these days as he finds spaces rather easily. Philippe Coutinho has been the standout performer for me. From being an inconsistent player with spurts of brilliance like last season, he has turned into one consistent player with sheer magic at his feet. He has always been a good creator & now he has added goals to his game. Fans are finally seeing this little magician realizing his full potential. Adam Lallana too looks a different player now. From being a 60 minutes man he has turned into one hell of a Box To Box midfielder. Supplement of the front three. Someone who helps out in defense & quickly shifts gears to change them into a successful attack, a vital cog in Klopp’s well-oiled machine. Out of form, out of sorts, and when he played, out of position, this sums up Roberto Firmino under Brendan Rodgers. The German, however, turned a not so celebrated Brazilian into the spearhead of a deadly trio. 4 goals & 3 assists already in this season & if his current form is any indication, expect those numbers to be in double digits by the end of the season. Klopp gave Firmino the central role, position he excels at. Add to that his brilliant link up play with Coutinho & Mane and his rejuvenation isn’t all that mysterious. Few players have made as impressive a debut in Liverpool colors as Sadio Mane. A crucial 4th goal to take all 3 points from the Emirates was the highlight of his debut & he hasn’t looked back since. In an inflated market, getting a player of Sadio Mane’s caliber for £30m is money well spent. His deadly runs can trouble any defense, as we are witnessing for the last couple of months. 6 goals & 2 assists in 10 matches is impressive for any player. But for someone who adds so much to the team apart from scoring is what makes his feat look exceptional.
One For All, All For One
For a legendary club like Liverpool, not having a single Premier League title is rather glaring. But with an eccentric genius at the helm, the dream doesn’t seem very distant anymore. Of course, Brendan did bring Liverpool agonizingly close but that was led by the individual brilliance of a certain Luis Suarez. Klopp’s Liverpool, however, isn’t affected by a couple of stars. This team is the star. And as for Klopp & his men, their main aim would be to manage their expectations,to know their limitations & work on them. Whatever the outcome may be, at the end of the season, one thing is for certain, Anfield will still be singing You’ll Never Walk Alone at the top of their lungs.