Jurgen Klopp remains a popular figure at Anfield after guiding Liverpool back into the Champions League. But will he deliver a trophy in the coming season? We put Klopp under the spotlight in our series looking at the managers of the Premier League’s top six.
What happened last year?
Liverpool finished fourth in the Premier League in Klopp’s first full season in charge, having briefly threatened to be Chelsea’s chief challengers for the title. A 1-0 win over Manchester City on New Year’s Eve put the Reds four clear of the third-placed team but a winless January that coincided with injuries to key players ended their hopes of contending.
Klopp’s men also went out of the FA Cup to Championship side Wolves that month as the season threatened to unravel. But wins over Tottenham and Arsenal kick-started the campaign and eight goals without reply in May will have encouraged the club’s supporters that the German has Liverpool moving in the right direction.
What are the expectations?
Liverpool benefited from not having European football to contend with last season so there is an awareness that this could be a trickier campaign for Klopp and his team. But fans will be hoping that Liverpool’s place in the top four can be consolidated while a better showing in the cup competitions would be welcome – it is five years since the club’s last trophy.
What has he done in the transfer window?
Klopp often appears bemused by the obsession with the transfer market and it is true that he favours developing talent rather than buying. But the signing of Mohamed Salah from Roma is a significant one and looks a good fit for Liverpool – adding further pace on the counter-attack and a goal threat from wide positions.
Dominic Solanke has also come in from Chelsea and has already shown what he can do in pre-season, while Andrew Robertson’s arrival from Hull gives Klopp a specialist left-back again. Deals for Naby Keita and Virgil van Dijk have yet to be secured and the success or otherwise of those pursuits could determine how Liverpool’s summer is perceived.
What are the big issues to address?
As indicated by the desire to sign Van Dijk, there remain doubts over Liverpool’s defence. Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren each have their supporters and the Reds took 39 points from the 18 games that the pair started alongside each other last season. But the fact that there were only 20 games that they’d play together is a problem. Klopp needs a stable back-four.
At the other end of the pitch, breaking weaker teams down can be an issue too. Liverpool are at their best against the best. In fact, they were unbeaten against top-eight teams in the Premier League last season. But away defeats to Burnley and Hull as well as shock Anfield losses to Crystal Palace and Swansea damaged their hopes. It’s a worrying trend.
The reverse at Turf Moor occurred despite Liverpool enjoying over 80 per cent of possession – the only team to do so in a Premier League game all season – and that suggests there are issues against organised opponents who defend deep. Working out a way to find the breakthrough in those games could be crucial to their hopes this coming season.
So what happens next?
Liverpool are a 10/1 shot with Sky Bet to end their long wait for a Premier League title and that reflects the fact they remain an outside bet. The challenge of competing on multiple fronts could be problematic for a team so reliant on their heavy pressing game but Klopp will be confident nevertheless. This is a long-term project that still has momentum. – Skysports