Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Can Klopp Save Liverpool?

By Justin Sherman (@JShermOfficial)

Liverpool and its supporters live by the slogan “you’ll never walk alone,“ but for many of the club’s managers, that motto has’t quite matched reality.

Another season arrived, and with it came the hefty expectations of a club trying desperately to recapture past glory days gone by. The Brendan Rodgers era officially ended last week as the board (led by Fenway Sports Group and founder John Henry) decided to sack the Irishman just 11 games into the campaign. Despite splashing out $123 million in the summer transfer window, Liverpool has only managed to win four games thus far in 2015.

Rodgers was appointed boss in 2012, succeeding club legend Kenny Dalglish. His tenure started with promise, as he led the club to a seventh placed finish in his first season, one better than the previous, before leading an unexpected second place finish the following season, earning a return to the Champions League for the first time in five years. His side scored 101 goals while boasting a staggering goal differential of +51.

The last twelve months have been another story altogether. Luis Suarez departed for Barcelona, seemingly taking all of the club’s goals with him, as Liverpool finished 6th in the table with a goal differential of just +4. Lost was the aggressive style of play, consisting of buzzsaw defending and free flowing passing, that not only capturing the hearts of Liverpool supporters, but fans of soccer worldwide. Rodgers instead leaves the club as the first manager not to have won a trophy in three full seasons in charge since the 1950s.

In comes shiny new toy Jurgen Klopp, with renewed expectation and limitless dreams.

Ownership even went as far as issuing a line of merchandise devoted to the German within 24 hours of his appointment as manager. For many, the adulation and anticipation is warranted. Klopp comes over only four months into a sabbatical after seven years with German side Borussia Dortmund. While there he won two Bundesliga titles, a DFB-Pokal, three DFL-Supercups, with a runners-up finish in the Champions League.

Still, despite all that success, looking across the coaches box at Jose Mourinho is a tad bit different than Martin Schmidt. To Klopp’s credit, this is something he understands, saying as much in his introductory press conference.

“There is no doubt, this is a huge challenge, for me and my coaching team,” Klopp said. “We knew that full well [when we accepted the job]. Liverpool have not had any success for a long time and they’ve changed the manager all the time. And now they have appointed a German who is no miracle worker. Progress is not possible without a bit of time.” 

Time he may have, but a lot of it may be asking too much. Liverpool have not won a league title since the 1989-90 season, or silverware of any kind since the 2011-12 campaign when they captured the Capital One Cup. Klopp is the best hire Liverpool could have made, but the desire for a savior is powerful and dangerous.

Untempered belief fosters overreaction when the desired standards are not reached. The amount of anger- at least on social media- of Liverpool fans got downright scary towards the end of Rodgers’ tenure.

For now, Jurgen Klopp is the cute new girl at your high school that every guy wants to chat with. With just a little time and patience, a true connection is something that can be achieved to the benefit of everyone. 

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