By Moshood Akinleye– Many reasons could be claimed for wanting to beam the flood light on a team out of many who have probably done well in the 2018/2019 season, but for the purpose of a European victory, for the purpose of many failed attempts at finals in years past and for the purpose of the fashion in which the club swam into victory at the tail end of the season, it is worth dedicating paragraphs to.
Jurgen Klopp has led Liverpool to her sixth Champions League trophy, her first since 2005 and her first trophy since the Carling Cup triumph in 2011. The Merseyside reds are in a euphoria they will never want to end.
But Liverpool have come a long way, from the heavy downslide since the post-Alonso and Benitez era, to a lavishing 6th to 8th premier league position and a long break away from the European scene. Jurgen Klopp took over in October 2015 from a Brendan Rodgers who almost led the reds to their first premier league title in the 2013/2014 season. The German Manager inherited an average team that was having a lackluster season and dragging her feet in the group stages of the Europa League.
JurgenKlopp changed the style of Liverpool’s play. He introduced what many including him calledGeggenpressing. A style of play with high intensity and more of attack. With this style, he saw off the Liverpool team to the Europa League final in 2016 losing to Sevilla in the process. He had also lost the Carabao Cup final to City on penalties the same year. After his first season at the Merseyside which started midway, Klopp has ensured Liverpool are consistent on the European scene.
Klopp has seen Liverpool through to two Champions League final back to back and after failing to lift the trophy last year, the trophy is finally at Anfield this term. But away from the stories of how they did it, JurgenKlopp has learnt a great deal from the failure of last season and has built a stronger team than we saw in Kiev in 2018. He made every player play an important role in this season’s success. And here’s how.
Solving the Concussion-striken Karius
In the 2018 UCL Final, Liverpool goal keeper, Louis Karius reportedly had a concussion as a result of a collision with Real Madrid captain, Sergio Ramos. The concussion unnoticed later led to the errors of the German which probably resulted inpoor goalkeeping that led to the loss of the trophy to Real Madrid. Karius cried his eyes out after the game, clapping his hands in front of the Liverpool fans, perhaps knowing full well that his days in the club were likely numbered.
So, as part of the preparations for the 2018/2019 season, JurgenKlopp imported Alison Becker from As Roma in a world class transfer of about 68 million pounds, making the Brazilian the most expensive goal keepers at the time before the arrival of KeperArizzabalaga at Chelsea for a bigger price. Becker was a seven goal recipient at the semifinals of the 2018 Champions league in the hands of Liverpool, his new employers.
Alison has been a sensational goalkeeper this season, with 21 clean sheets in the premier league and conceding only 19 goals and winning the Golden Glove in the process. He is also in the UEFA Champions League squad of the season. He has proved his price.
Fixing the Defensive headaches and the VVD Influence
Prior to the arrival of Virgil van Dijk for a record fee of 75 million pounds, Liverpool had suffered goal concession season in, season out especially from area balls. Half of the goals scored against the Merseyside reds were scored from corner kicks or set pieces. Virgil needed only a little number of games to settle in, his goal at his debut against Everton added to his confidence and up, he went.
Since his arrival, the trio of Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and even the Conundrum Lovren have become better players. He is a team mover. The Dutch has been able to stabilize the Liverpool’s defense alongside the highly improved Joel Matip and Joe Gomez thereby contributing largely to the 21 clean sheets Liverpool had in a 38 game season.
A Bigger Midfield Squad
Flashback to the 2018 Champions League final, Liverpool played the Kiev clash with capable but tired midfielders. The combination of Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum were Liverpool’s most consistent midfield throughout the season and the same men played in the Champions League final. It was a major setback aside the Salah injury and Karius’ concussion.
In the summer of 2018, Naby Keita arrived from Leipzig while Fabinho Tavares was also imported from AS Monaco and so came a more flexible and alternative system for Klopp in the middle of the pack. The German successfully rotated the midfield and easily fielded another midfielder when one was injured.
So, together, Liverpool deployed Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Gini Wijnaldum, Naby Keita and Fabinho Tavares through the season with each player making significant impact for the club.
There are special observations however. Observations about the club than meets the eye. The ones that actually make this Klopp’s team so special and many may not be inquisitive enough to know. Enjoy some of them
The Power of Scintillating Full Backs
Before now, the last time the premier league had a powerful and result oriented full backs was in the Ferguson era. In fact, Manchester United did much with wing football, doing most of their attacks from the flanks and set pieces.
But Klopp has even made more out of that. He has shown again that full backs can be disciplined defensively and still be productive going forward.
The duo of Andrew Robertson and Trent-Alexander Arnold played a pivotal role in Liverpool’s fantastic season. The two full backs added more energy and lethal to the Liverpool attack without neglecting their primary duty in the defense department. Andrew Robertson contributed 13 Assists for the season (11 in the premier league and 2 in the Champions League) while Alexander Arnold finished the season with 15 assists (12 in the premier league and 3 in the Champions League). Together, the young lads were the defenders with the highest number of assists in leagues across Europe this season. Both full backs made the 2018/2019 Premier League XI of the season and the 2019 Champions League XI of the season. What more proof do we need?
A Mysterious Origi
DivockOrigi was a good page in the book of Liverpool’s 2016/2017 season. The Belgian scored and assisted a number of goals even though he wasn’t the star man of the season. However, after going on a loan spell in Germany for most part of the 2017/2018 season, the Kenyan origin Belgian returned to Merseyside at the start of the 2018/2019 season and while being given only a little playing time, DivockOrigi made his mark within the shortest period of time possible.
While the Merseyside derby was tied at 0-0, he came on as a sub and headed in one of the most dramatic winner of the Merseyside derby against Everton. In the penultimate game to the end of the premier league, Origi also came in as a sub while the game was tied at 2-2 and headed in a winner against Newcastle at St. James’ Park ensuring that the title was still open till the final MatchDay of the league. Origi was the reason why Liverpool kept the chase on City till the final MatchDay, and could have been a major reason why the reds won their first premier league title, if they did.
After losing 3-0 to Barcelona at the Champions League semi-final at Camp Nou, Divock Origi stood in for the injured Roberto Firmino and played a pivotal role in perhaps the greatest comeback of the Champions League knockout stages ever, scoring 2 goals including the winning fourth goal in the 4-0 demolition of Barcelona at Anfield. The Belgian further confirmed his bravery in the Champions League final after he replaced the unfit Firmino and scored a late goal against Spursto seal Liverpool’s status as European champions.
But you will have to marvel at the position of a fringe and messiah-like striker who cannot get a starting position in the front three already primed for Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohammed Salah. With what he has done in the 2018/2019 season, an average manager should draft Origi in his starting line-up, but how do you do that when you already have an established and working front three in Mane, Firmino and Salah.
Meanwhile, considering the weight of his contribution in the 2018/2019 season, will DivockOrigi like to remain a fringe player at Liverpool? Or will he seek regular football elsewhere? Only time will tell.
The Lucky Ones!
Yes! the lucky ones. Open to argument, JurgenKlopp is one of the best Managers any good player would wish to play under. A manager who gives his players the freedom to have fun without disturbing training schedule, a manager who will yell at his players at training and then hug them so tight for doing well or even for not doing too well in the game, a manager who has won the heart of the fans so well that even the blind can feel the connection. He told them on his first press conference as Liverpool manager, that the fans must change from DOUBTERS to BELIEVERS. Steven Gerard said he felt unlucky not to have played under Klopp, that he was a little too old to stay longer than those few days after his arrival. Captain Fantastic wished he played for Klopp.
So, who are the Lucky Ones?
All players who have played under Klopp from October 2015 till date are the lucky ones but like in the animal farm, some are luckier than the others.
- Andrew Robertson
Signed from a Championship side Hull City at 8 million pounds, Andy Robertson arrived in the summer of the 2017/2018 season with his head held up high. After a few days of no activity, he complained to the Manager that he wanted to play, and since he was brought to the club as a permanent solution to the left back position which James Milner had been filling in all season long in 2016/2017, Klopp gave Robbo the shot and he proved his worth, thereby relegating Alberto Moreno to the bench permanently. He is such a lucky guy to have come from a Championship side to play for Klopp’s Liverpool, won a champions league in the process and become arguably the best left back in Europe at the moment.
Also signed in the summer of 2018/2019 season from a relegated Stoke City for 13 million pounds. Even though he was rumoured to be heading for Liverpool at the time he joined Stoke from Bayern Munchen, it was designed as though he was destined for greatness at the Merseyside red. The Swiss International made 24 premier league appearances, scored six goals and assisted three. Despite not starting in most of his appearances, Shaqir is largely remembered for his brace against United as a sub and his huge contributions in the 4-0 demolition of Barcelona at Anfield. He is also one of the few who won a trophy with Liverpool at his debut season.
Although he signed for Liverpool since 2016 but also from a relegated Newcastle side, joining for 23 million pounds after Newcastle signed him for 15 million pounds a year before. The Dutch midfielder has proved himself as a powerful and ball holding midfielder, helping Liverpool in the premier league pursuit in the 2018/2019 season and playing a key role in the 4-0 demolition of Barcelona at Anfield. Gini replaced Andy Robertson in the second half of the Champions League final and went ahead to score two goals in three minutes. The Dutch International was the only Liverpool midfielder who made the UEFA Champions League team of the year.
- Alison Becker.
Signed for a record fee of 68 million pounds as the most expensive goalkeeper at the time, Alison left AS Roma, the team from where he conceded 7 Champions League semi-final goal in the hands of Liverpool his new employers. The Brazilian didn’t only prove himself in the league, he did the same in the champions league. His late save against Napoli at Anfield was the reason the reds made it to the Knockout stages which in turn shot them to the finals and eventually glory. Alison won the Premier League Golden Glove for the 2018/2019 season and also made the Champions League XI of the 2018/2019 season. Being his first season, it was victory all through. The unique thing about this Liverpool team is that Jurgen made every play pay a vital role in the fantastic season. All hands were on deck. Now thatJurgen has broken the trophy jinx at Anfield and he needs to continue to win things. He has won the heart of the Liverpool fans and he needs to win it more by clinching more trophies for the club, most especially the premier league title. August awaits for the next title race.