New Beginnings for Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp?
October has been a turbulent month for Liverpool, but one that ends with potential of a greater future on the horizon. Jurgen Klopp is becoming established in his new role in taking the reins at Anfield and if The Reds’ 3-1 victory away to Chelsea is anything to go by, his philosophy has reached the players and is starting to pay dividends already. Read on for my review of Liverpool’s performances in October, which individuals have impressed, and where gains can still be made.
Points Tally and Results: 6 / 12 points (3 / 9 points in the Europa League Group Stages, Fifth Round of Capital One Cup)
A disappointing start to October saw the Reds draw with mid-table Swiss side FC Sion in the Europa League, with the usual defensive frailties and lack of finishing product coming to the fore again. A sturdy display at Goodison Park gave Liverpool a derby point in what turned out to be manager Brendan Rodgers’ last game for the club.
The much-anticipated arrival of German boss Jürgen Klopp seemed to have lifted fans and players alike, and even with an injury-decimated squad, the new manager managed to gather his side and battle for a deserved point at in-form Tottenham Hotspur. Another solitary Europa League point followed in Klopp’s first home game, as his compatriot Emre Can netted the first goal of Klopp’s reign in a 1-1 draw with mid-table Russian outfit Rubin Kazan.
Klopp thought he had achieved his first victory in his first league game at Anfield when substitute Christian Benteke emphatically headed in a late goal, only for Southampton’s Sadio Mane to score an even later equaliser to spoil Klopp’s party. The first victory of the new manager’s reign finally came in the League Cup against Premier League side Bournemouth, with Nathaniel Clyne scoring the only goal of the game.
Fortunately, Klopp managed his first league win soon afterwards, a superb 3-1 result over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge at the end of the month. It was the Reds’ only league victory of the month and Klopp will hope it will be a catalyst for the tough months ahead.
Player of the Month – Simon Mignolet (average rating: 7.3)
It has been a very big month for the Belgian goalkeeper. With Thibaut Courtois out injured, Mignolet claimed the number one jersey for the highest rated nation in the world right now, according to the FIFA rankings at least. The Belgian’s form has been pretty consistent of late, and of a consistently high standard too which is all-important.
A wonderful display against Everton and especially Romelu Lukaku in Rodgers’ last game was immediately followed up with a similarly brilliant performance at White Hart Lane against Harry Kane and company in Klopp’s first outing as Liverpool boss. In both games combined, Mignolet made at least half a dozen world-class saves, keeping his side in the game throughout.
The Belgian couldn’t keep a clean-sheet against Rubin Kazan, Southampton and at Chelsea, but did his fair share and looks to be more confident and communicative with every passing game. This can only bode well for Klopp as the manager seeks to solidify a leaking defence. Even as Mignolet is rightfully Liverpool’s Player of the Month for October, the Belgian shot-stopper will be looking over his shoulder as Adam Bogdan is proving to be a very reliable No.2 – especially after the latter’s superb display against Bournemouth. The form of the ex-Bolton ‘keeper should prove useful in motivating Mignolet to constantly improve his own displays.
Flop of the Month – Divock Origi (5)
Unfortunately for the young Belgian striker, Coutinho’s showing late in the month has seen the Brazilian just edge ahead of him at the bottom of the form charts. Origi started the month well with a decent showing against FC Sion, but in that game and in the other Europa League match against Rubin Kazan, he missed simple chances to score.
Origi was unlucky not to have opened his account against Spurs, after his header was kept off the line by Hugo Lloris. Besides that however; and in the subsequent Premier League match against Southampton, Origi did little to impress and seemed to be more of a burden for the team. His lack of form throughout the month led to his total exclusion from the side that travelled to Chelsea, with youngsters like midfielder Joao Teixeira and even right-back Conor Randall taking his place on the bench.
With Firmino and Benteke taking turns for the number nine position at Stamford Bridge, Origi will face a battle to regain his place in the first eleven and at best might have to make do with a chance emerging off the bench.
Undoubtedly, it has been Klopp’s arrival at the club. Finally, a highly-sought after manager with proven title-winning credentials and sufficient pulling power joins a team seemingly lacking in ambition and inspiration. The German has already added some of his own stamp to this side, evidence being the increased closing down and high pressing. The victories may not be here in great frequency yet, but at least the Reds look a little bit more secure at the back, though admittedly much work still has to be done. The players seem to be more willing to fight for the new manager, and his aura can only rub off well with the club as a whole.
The other highlight for the club definitely is a rare victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Granted, the Reds were lucky to score late in first-half stoppage time and escaped being reduced to ten men, but Liverpool simply overran Jose Mourinho’s side from the 10th minute onwards. Coutinho’s two goals and overall performance could be a catalyst as he seeks to rediscover his form.
Even as several key players under-perform, there is one bright spark – that is summer signing Nathaniel Clyne. Having looked a little reserved during the first two months of his Anfield career, the former Southampton and Crystal Palace full-back has appeared much more comfortable and increasingly willing to take risks going forward.
Clyne started the month pretty poorly as fatigue took its toll in the home leg against FC Sion, where his conceding of possession led to Sion’s goal. However, the England international right-back regained his form with consistent displays thereafter, and gave a match-winning performance from an unfamiliar left-back position in the League Cup against Bournemouth. Clyne’s form will hopefully give Klopp one less issue to ponder. The right-back berth must now surely pick itself week on week.
Areas for Improvement:
The inability to turn draws into wins is very frustrating at the moment. Even with the new manager at the helm, the Reds’ inability to score even with a plethora of chances is alarming. Rubin Kazan, Southampton and even Rodgers’ penultimate match against FC Sion should all have been victories rather than 1-1 draws. Even the League Cup tie against Bournemouth should have been won more comfortably.
Granted, the long-term injury to Danny Ings and consistent injury plight of Daniel Sturridge is hampering Klopp’s offensive plans, while Benteke and Firmino are only starting to return to the side and to full fitness. Klopp will hope Firmino’s presence will help ease the burden off Coutinho, and help add to Liverpool’s mild goal threat.
After a mild end to Rodgers’ tenure at Anfield, Klopp has steadily improved the Reds’ form that culminated in a superb victory at Chelsea. The defence looks a little bit more solid, with a more stable back four and fluid midfield shape helping fortunes. The hope is the return of Liverpool’s forwards to fitness and form can help drive Klopp’s side up the table in the next few months.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Ian Walker