And so it is done.
Finally after 30 years and a pandemic pause, it’s time to celebrate the achievement of a sensational team and an exceptional manager.
Since King Kenny last secured a top flight crown, Liverpool have been through Souness, Evans, Houllier, Benitez, Hodgson and Rodgers, as the club searched for a new saviour. Then in 2015 the club made a brilliant decision by going after and securing, what 5 years on, in Klopp, is the perfect fit.
Sweet Jesus… it could’ve been so different. A year earlier, Manchester United tried to sign Klopp by sending a former hedge fund manager to woo a working class hero from the Black Forest. As Ed “Don’t worry, I’ve got this” Woodward clumsily introduced Old Trafford as a Disneyland for adults, Jürgen visibly wilted and later referred to the proposal as totally ‘unsexy’. At the heart of this decision was Klopp’s belief that he must stay true to his socialist roots. Then, less than a year later, it would be confirmed there would be no better place for him to work his magic than at Liverpool.
There is so much to admire about what Klopp has done in his time at Liverpool. On an emotional level, he just gets football-people. In fact, he just gets all people. At his unveiling press conference, he sounded more like a baptist preacher as he asked for the doubters to become believers again. Klopp instantly understood the powerful dynamic of the fan base and tapped into some well-used Shankly ideology. No other club believes in the transformative powers of a manager more than at Liverpool.
Some other fans mocked him when he lead the players out to applaud the Kop after a 2-2 draw at home with West Brom early in his tenure. However, this shrewd move extended an olive branch to the baying mob in a coliseum long starved of success. His message was simple: We are all in this together and we need you. The collective was formed.
So then, to his methods. Intensity from the crowd will only come from desire on the pitch. The heavy metal football that he spoke of slowly began to take shape in his first full season and is now at its absolute peak. Klopp’s tactics can’t accommodate dissidents who won’t submit to the team approach. This season is a visual representation of a group of players who are totally committed to the high demands required of them.
The training ground has always been sacred to Klopp and there can be no distractions. Henderson and Milner have flourished as the role models setting the example of the work ethic needed to succeed. Even the standard rondo drill at Melwood has been renamed ‘The Milly’ after the Yorkshire terrier’s daily insistence on starting as the odd one out to win the ball back.
Then to the wave drill, in which 8v8 play on a small sized pitch with a third team waiting on the sideline. When the attacking team loses possession of the ball it’s aim is to win the ball back before the other team can cross the half way line. Intensity is everything. This high press mentality crucial to the stranglehold Liverpool have placed on its opponents throughout this season. The idea being that the team no longer defends their goal, but the half way line instead. The addition of the imperious Van Dijk, marshaling the back line as the gate keeper, has seen the team progress to the next level and removed the previous vulnerability that haunted this team.
Embracing innovation on and off the pitch has also been key to Liverpool edging ahead of City. One of the things I most admire in Klopp is his insistence to play down his influence and always remain humble. Moving away from the cult of personality so disgustingly portrayed by Mourinho. Klopp has openly welcomed the presence of other expert staff to help enrich the ability of the squad. From a specialist throw-in coach to elite nutritionists, every aspect of the coaching staff has been improved since his arrival to get every last drop out of this team. The ‘normal one’ continues to demonstrate a self deprecating nature that remains a breath of fresh air in a sport littered with self obsessed egotists.
Finally, it’s what comes out on the pitch that counts and this team has changed all our perceptions of what full backs can do. In most attacking transitions, the team is set up in a 2-5-3 with the development of Robertson and Alexander-Arnold has been simply sensational. When you consider the two cost the club a combined cost of £8million (for the world’s two best full backs), you must applaud the coaching skills that have clearly gone into these two players. Klopp embraces the theory that if you can’t compete financially, you must improve what you have.
Jurgen, I salute you as our savior even though you would most likely somehow deflect the praise to others first.
To summarise the 30 year wait, I will turn to the words of the great prophet (and singer) Lenny Kravitz:
“So many years we’ve tried,
so many tears we’ve cried,
but baby it ain’t over till it’s over”
Well it’s over now baby. It’s over.