There were positive signs throughout Klopp’s first season at Anfield, but there was always a feeling he was working with parts he had inherited. The manager has made clear that after a summer’s overhauls, this is now his squad. What changes do you expect to see from the team in Klopp’s first full season in charge of Liverpool Football Club?
Last year we caught glimpses of Klopp’s grand vision of heavy metal, gegenpressing football, particularly in both league matches against Manchester City. I expect that, with a full year and a full offseason to better train players along with bringing in a few key players like Sadio Mané over the summer, we’ll see this squad get cranked up to 11 on a few important occasions this season.
I’m also excited to see how Loris Karius looks between the sticks after his hand heals. Speaking of healing, in theory the lack of European football will provide more time to recover from minor knocks, which hopefully translates into fewer injuries. Poor goalkeeping and a baffling amount of injuries were major factors working against Liverpool last season, so even a marginal improvement in both areas would likely pay big, possibly even silvery, dividends.
Liverpool will press more and play with increased togetherness this season. But they’ll also, hopefully,be more consistent—last year we saw some excellent displays, but there were a lot of clunkers mixed in. With more experience under Klopp, the squad should solidify its identity as an up-tempo pressing side and provide a product that shows up to play every weekend.
Goals. I’m expecting a gaggle of goals. Not since 2013-14 have we had the type of finishing quality in the squad available this season. After an awe-inspiring 101 goals in that magical year, led by the terrifying attack of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Phillipe Coutinho, and Raheem Sterling, the team stumbled to tallies of 52 and 63 league goals in the following seasons.
This year, Mane and Gini Wijnaldum bring 22 league goals to the side between just the two of them, while players like Marko Grujic look exciting with their finishing quality. A continuation of Origi’s blossoming under Klopp, progression from Firmino in his second year in England after a 10-goal maiden season haul, and a carefully managed Sturridge are further encouragers.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, the manic pressing that will come with the full implementation of Klopp’s rock and roll football will lead to the sorts of panicked defenses and counterattacking goals we were all witnesses to from that 2013-14 side.
Fitter, happier, more productive. We will be faster. Our speed will be sustained for longer. We will be more aggressive because we’re a bigger and stronger side now. We should be winning a majority of the high balls in the middle of the pitch and clearing more balls from set pieces.
Running. Heads-up running. Passing and running. Lightning-fast reaction times. Neurons conditioned for nutmegs in and around the box. Always running. There will be no stopping. Even the keepers will be expected to do jumping jacks during our long stretches of infinite dominance in the opposition half.
Press press and more press. Sacchi-shortened field counterattacks. Goals out of nowhere with three touches or less from the moment possession is regained. F the black mamba, we’re the Inland Taipan. Of course, against the truly bunkered sides this often doesn’t work so well.
Someone learning to deliver a set-piece would do much to assuage any worries about our ability to break down the Tony Pulises of this world. Even so, expect us to be more lethal in attack with Mane, an improved Firmino and Coutinho, Origi, and a semi-healthy Sturridge. Wouldn’t surprise me to see Lallana kick on this season, either, after he improved immediately following Klopp’s arrival.
On the defensive side of the ball, I’d hope to see some better defending on set pieces with the arrival of Matip and Karius, which makes the double blow of their injuries all the more frustrating.
One of the more impressive elements of Klopp’s stewardship over the latter half of 2015-16 was his ability to put players in positions where their strengths are allowed to outshine their shortcomings. This was not a magical touch with an infinite reach, else we would not be wondering where Christian Benteke and Mario Balotelli are headed, but while Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana are far from perfect players, they both appear to play with a much greater degree of focus than they exhibited earlier.
With Klopp presumably having had a guiding hand in bringing the most recent crop of recruits to Anfield, and with a full preseason with the squad under his belt, I’m expecting some surprises in terms of players who make a quantum leap to "I didn’t know he could do that" status, coupled with maybe a couple who will likewise reveal themselves as (unfortunately) not destined for a long-term future under Klopp. I think we’ve already had a small taste of that in Sadio Mané’s preseason exploits, and I can’t wait to see what else this squad has in store.
More. Like everyone else it seems, I’m expecting more. More running, more pressing, more tackles and shots and just more moreness. The foundations were laid last season, but some of the old inconsistencies and insecurities still cropped up far too often, and this summer’s signings have sent a crystal clear signal about what it is Klopp wants to add as he builds on those foundations.
Last season, Adam Lallana was the personification of Klopp’s pressing game, but end product was often lacking. So Klopp brought in Sadio Mané, who will press and run and harry and press just as hard but who scored 15 goals last season from a support position. Last season, Jordan Henderson’s injuries left a hole in midfield. So Klopp brought in Gini Wijnaldum, a tireless player who can line up just about anywhere—including Henderson’s spot if the captain can’t regain his form—and scored 11 goals last season.
Perhaps Lallana and Henderson will push on; perhaps they will be supplanted. But either way, there will be more. More running and pressing and tackles and shots. A refinement and expansion of 2015-16’s foundations. And, added to that, there will be more goals. Or at least that seems the plan. It’s certainly the expectation.
Monday - Part 1: Transfer Business
Wednesday - Part 3: Player Expectations for 2016-17
Thursday - Part 4: League vs. Cups
Friday - Part 5: What Would Make 2016-17 a Success?