There comes a time where every writer gets lazy and looks for a way to ease the process of writing an article. I had this moment of weakness and I went to Twitter to seek help. I asked my followers what they thought the difference between Jürgen Klopp and Brendan Rodgers is. For my many sins, the people who responded were on the whole woefully unhelpful. That being said, the unanimous response was that Klopp is better in every facet. This is evidence of how Klopp has been received at Anfield – pure acceptance of his doctrine as the enthusiastic German has fully accepted the ‘Liverpool Way’.
The adulation that Klopp has received from the Anfield faithful is a result of the stark contrast that the German has provided to his predecessor. When Klopp came in, he stressed a need for belief from a fan base that had lost faith in its team after a decade without a major trophy. The 2013/14 Premier League disappointment was demoralising. Klopp said that fans needed to believe again if his project at Liverpool is to succeed. The essential difference for me; and this is what it means to be world class, is that under Rodgers fans would chant, “Make us dream,” and under Klopp it has changed to, “Make us believe.” From the unobtainable to the obtainable. That’s what Klopp brings, tangible success.
My older brother; who doesn’t watch football, asked me what it is that makes Jürgen Klopp so special and I was unsure how to tell him in a way that he would understand. So I told him that Klopp goes around hugging people and let’s his players play in an unrestricted way. His reply was to say that Klopp sounds like a hippie and this view could be supported by the charismatic former Dortmund boss turning up to a presser in a Beatles shirt. This is certainly how many opposition fans see him, as nothing more than a man who gives out hugs freely and loses his mind on the side-lines. This is what Liverpool fans love about him though. His passion has endeared him to those who found Rodgers rather dull.
There is quite a bit of irony in the comparison between Liverpool’s current and previous manger. Rodgers used to harp on about his side’s ‘great character’, and yet it seems as if Klopp has instilled an even stronger fighting mentality in sides. What seemed to be one of the first nails in Rodgers’ coffin was the 6-1 loss at the Britannia Stadium on the final day of last season. The defeat was a performance marked by players in the wrong positions and a lack of spirit in a game which was meant to be a send-off for club legend Steven Gerrard. This season, Liverpool have had performances where their character has shown such as the dramatic 5-4 win over Norwich City, the come-back against Crystal Palace after being a man down, and most recently the astonishing effort to overcome Klopp’s former side in the Europa League with some last-gasp heroics on show.
A big difference between the two is that Klopp is a superior man-manager. This is ironic yet again, as Rodgers prided himself on being able to manage a team through personal relationships. Liverpool signed Mario Balotelli for the 2014/2015 season in what Rodgers labelled a “calculated gamble.” The calculation was that for £16 million, it would be worth a go to try manage a fictitious character instead of signing a proven striker for a fee in excess of £30 million. Then on the other hand you have Klopp, who has transformed Joe Allen, Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana, all of whom were massively lacking in confidence under the Northern-Irishman. Furthermore, you have Roberto Firmino, who is joint top with Sergio Aguero and Mesut Ozil for goal involvements. His transformation from a talented player who was clearly lacking confidence, to a prolific number 9 has been extraordinary.
I am impatient to see what Klopp can do with Liverpool. All the positive signs that he has demonstrated has been with a squad that he needs to upgrade and revamp. The summer coming will be one of exodus. Klopp will be looking to cut loose all the dead-wood which has been slowing the progress of a team which has the potential to do a lot. Consistency will be the key and for this, Klopp needs a regular team. Looking at Liverpool’s form guide should come with a disclaimer for epileptics due to the massive and constant variation of colour.
It must be said that tactically, Brendan Rodgers was brilliant at times. The football on show was frequently superb; especially during the season in which The Reds came agonisingly close to the Premier League title, and he always seemed to place equal importance on results and performance. However, his train derailed when he sold Luis Suarez to Barcelona and failed to replace him adequately. Rodgers and Klopp are not dissimilar in their style of play in that both favour counter-attacking football with a high press. Rodgers preferred having more possession whereas now, Liverpool often surrender the ball with the aim to dispossess their opponents in dangerous areas instead of move the ball there themselves.
In short, Klopp is different in that he possesses the knowledge of how to win which he proved in Germany with Borussia Dortmund. Rodgers is yet to gain this experience and he is still a very young manager. Many seem to have entirely disregarded him since his failure at Liverpool which I think is foolish. He was merely out of his depth at Liverpool.
What is to come under Jürgen Klopp is very exciting and seemingly without limitation. Klopp’s desire to make Liverpool fans believe has somewhat taken hold with one cup final appearance this season already. Liverpool have progressed in the Europa League to the semi-finals and have a genuine chance of lifting the trophy aloft come the end of May. This avenue is Liverpool’s best chance of Champions League football for next season. For me, the difference is that Klopp has restored my faith in a club which I believed was slipping into irrelevance.
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