Jürgen Klopp’s sterling transfer record since joining Liverpool as manager 2 ½ years ago is such that one almost needs to weight the impact of each recruit as more than just the addition of a single player. While the gushing (albeit, slowing) flow of TV money has been a tide that has lifted all English top flight boats in the competition for talent, Liverpool have had to resign themselves to coming off second-best to their oil-greased rivals in the top six, with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United trading domestic success amongst themselves.
The vicious cycle of low league finishes, less lucrative sponsorship deals, empty trophy campaigns and relatively smaller revenue streams has meant that player recruitment at Liverpool has required an eagle eye for unearthed talent, an excellent sales pitch and willingness to take on a few high risk, high reward fliers. For every Luis Suarez or Roberto Firmino there will be a few Paul Konchesky’s, Stewart Downing’s and Sebastián Coates’.
Barring all of those admirable qualities, you can also just get yourself a Jürgen Klopp. When you have as clear a vision for your football as the German manager does, you know the precise skill sets you need to fill the gaps in your squad and you know the exact players who can provide them. And when these players arrive and they play together, the maths don’t add up: they’re more than the sum of their parts.
40 minutes into a 2-0 win over Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle, but with the scoreline still goalless, an example of the slowly realizing vision flashed into play when a clash in the center circle between captain Jordan Henderson and Newcastle’s Jacob Murphy led to the ball bouncing fortuitously to first year Red, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Do remember when we all scoffed at the persistent links to the ex-Arsenal player? Why on earth would Klopp want a player who can’t even consistently get into the side for (former) 4th-Place Kings, Arsenal? We need top talent! What does this no-end product, no-talent flop even bring to table?
Ox dips the shoulder, allowing the ball to roll past him and then, ever the proactive, immediately bursts forward to take an attentive Mohamed Diamé out of the play with a combination of guile and raw acceleration. Pushing onto his right foot, the midfielder arrives on the edge of the box and feints a shot, causing central defender Jamaal Lascelles to hesitate for a fraction of second, leaning the weight of his body marginally to his right to block Ox’s path and consequently moving away from Mohamed Salah in the box to his left. Must prevent an the attempt on goal! he’s naturally thinking.
Oxlade-Chamberlain never intends to shoot, however, calmly rolling the ball to the Egyptian, now alone in the penalty area.
We want Julian Brandt! We want Christian Pulisic! You promised them to us and didn’t get them! Mohamed Salah, the Chelsea reject? You’re having a laugh; £36.9m is too much money! #FSGOut.
17 goals and 12 assists is what Mohamed Salah managed for Roma last term, a wand of a left foot and elite end product in the final third. Yes, he may have needed the volume to get there but the 25-year-old’s fearsome pace on the break and superior understanding of timely positioning means that he’s always held the dual titles of Speed Merchant and Tap-In King.
Salah has seen the run of Oxlade-Chamberlain and has edged away from both him and Lascelles, staying onside and waiting, not running anywhere. He doesn’t look up as the ball arrives at his feet, somehow squeezing the shot between the goalkeeper’s legs in that fortuitous way a player with 32 goals on the season tends to do.
What did Jürgen Klopp need going into this season to continue actualizing the seven year plan in his head ? For one, he needed more pace on the wings to reduce his side’s reliance on Sadio Mané for the counterattacking thrust and more end product from his forward line in general. He needed dynamism in midfield to utilize against the teams that sat deep and compact; someone who would run at defenders when his “team of artists” with their intricate passes couldn’t find their way through.
Oxlade Chamberlain— Wavy Firmino (@TheLiverpoolEra) March 3, 2018
12 games started - 3 Goals ⚽️, 5 Assists
21 games started - 4 Goals ⚽️, 7 Assists
Arsenal fans will tell you Chamberlain hasn’t improved and Ozil is still the best CAM in the world.
What else did Klopp need to realize his vision for the side? He needed defensive solidity at the full back position, players who would bomb forward and provide width and delivery from the wings but who will never, ever get caught out of position on the break. He needed a calming influence in the heart of defense, a center half comfortable with large amounts of space behind him, possessing the pace, size and tackling technique to snuff out the inevitable counterattack Klopp Liverpool sides expose themselves to with their playing style.
Well after a rocky start, Liverpool have conceded a total of three goals (one of which was erroneous penalty) in the past six matches that world record defender, Virgil Van Dijk has started for the Reds. Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have defied their price tags, performing at the top end of the league at their positions.
The raucous and shirtless traveling Newcastle fans were finally silenced with almost 35 minutes still to go when another Klopp signing in Mané did that thing he does where he falls down when shooting to slot home and seal the points.
These are Klopp players; everyone fits exactly where they’re supposed to. The square plugs for round holes are slowly (and lucratively) being turfed out and the quality retained. This is the sort of vision the great leaders posses. This is the result of a committed, world class manager backed by committed, enamored owners; both parties displaying the same patience, clear-sightedness, decisiveness and ruthlessness in the transfer game that their players show on the pitch. (As a counterpoint, take a look at the players who’ve spent time aimlessly wandering in the wilderness at the likes of a Manchester United: Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw…)
Jürgen Klopp toppled the mighty Bayern Munich in his third year in charge at Borussia Dortmund. Given his mid-season appointment at Liverpool in 2015, he will technically be unable to match that mark at Anfield by the time October rolls around this calendar year. However, when every player he brings on essentially has “1.5x” in front of their name, the maths suddenly start looking pretty good.