Jurgen Klopp begins his first full season in English football at Liverpool with competition fiercer than ever. However, after summer spending and a full pre-season of integrating his methods into the blood of this current crop, the Reds could be ready to make the leap back into the mix for the Champions League places and beyond.
Sadio Mane, Georginio Wijnaldum and Joel Matip are the stand-out purchases this summer and their squad is starting to look in great depth again after a couple of seasons of transition following their title challenge in 2013/14 and Luis Suarez’s exit. Add the flair and pace of Phillipe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi to the attacking armoury and it all looks very promising.
This came to light after they came away from the Emirates with a stunning 4-3 win. A double from Coutinho along with an Adam Lallana strike and a wonderful debut goal from Sadio Mane left Arsenal in tatters and showed off the dynamic and fleet-footed attack in Liverpool’s side.
There were glimpses last year of Klopp’s high pressing game, or ‘gegenpressing’ as he refers to it as, in their sublime drubbings of Manchester City in the league and home games against Arsenal and Everton. At the Emirates yesterday, it came to the fore again and they were clinical at the end. A quiet first half was saved by a
world-class free-kick from Coutinho. Then, they seized the opportunity to get at The Gunners and proceedings became ferocious. Three goals in a blistering 20-minute start to the half was arguably the best Klopp’s Liverpool have played since he came to England.
The third and fourth goals typify this slick and interchangeable front-line. Lallana and Wijnaldum combined on
the right to feed the overlapping Nathaniel Clyne. A fizzed cross found the on-fire; and furthest forward, Coutinho to volley home. Then, it was Mane dashing down the wing from Lallana’s ball, he cut inside past two and unleashed a brilliant hit into the top corner.
The second goal found Firmino deep and Wijnaldum forward crossing for Lallana, the way their attack could chop and change roles frequently was too much for Arsenal’s inexperienced centre-back pair especially. Their 4-1 beating of City last season showed they do not need an out-and-out centre forward with Firmino operating as the central frontman, but often dropping off and allowing team-mates to run past him. This came into full effect yesterday as they made an emphatic statement on game one.
The Brazilian took time to establish himself in English football but now is a key man in Klopp’s system as the Bundesliga connection seems to be working wonders. Daniel Sturridge is still able to utilised as well as Origi who came off the bench, so the wealth of talent and formation changes available to Klopp is vast with his tactics clearly rubbing off fast on these players. They put four past Barcelona in pre-season and now have hit Arsenal for the same on the opening weekend of the season, so what can they really achieve this campaign?
No European football is a plus as it proved in their previous title push, allowing Klopp to focus his attention on the league and getting Liverpool back towards the top end of the Premier League. He has changed the belief,
optimism and hope around the club already in under a year and with the style of football they are playing, you can see why fans of this English giant are starting to feel revitalised under the self-professed ‘Normal One’.
Manchester United may have just spent a world record fee to bring Paul Pogba back, City may have the almighty Pep Guardiola and Chelsea do have the animated Antonio Conte, yet, when it comes to passion, drive, determination and excitement, there may be no better than Liverpool this season. The club from Merseyside look in good stead to bring back glory days to Anfield sooner rather than later.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Stefan Willoughby