Heavy Metal Football has arrived at Anfield. Owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) have outdone themselves, pulling off what was the cluba s biggest managerial signing of the Premier League era.
Never before has a coach or manager with such a glowing resume been signed up by the Merseyside club
In the coming months, there will be a lot of talk of Klopp needing new signings to gain success with this club. Most of this talk will be from the ever-transfer-hungry masses, who often feel the only way to improve results is to add some new faces to the mix. An interesting consequence of this can be seen in the fact that, near the end of his tenure, Brendan Rodgers was mocked for his poor transfer dealings. Little attention was given to the fact that he had excelled at getting the best out of players like Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, and of course, Luis Suarez.
Jurgen Klopp shares a similar trait, in that he has shown in the past that he can take a talented but far from finished player, and turn him into a world-beater. His list of successes is even more impressive, with players like Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski all having been transformed into exceptional talents under the care of the German.
Herea s a look at 5 things Liverpool FC fans should expect under their new manager, Jurgen Klopp:
Gegenpressing & The Narrow 4-2-3-1
Under Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool fans are used to seeing a lot of tweaks in the formation (at times to their dismay) depending on opposition and player availability. Hea s used a 4-3-3, a 4-4-2 diamond, a 4-2-3-1, a 3-4-1-2, and a 3-4-3 formation at different points in his tenure. He was deservedly recognised as a good tactical tinkerer.
Under Jurgen Klopp, things will be slightly different. Chances are, that the team sheet will show the same formation for almost 90% of the games. Chances are, that this formation will be 4-2-3-1. Klopp has stuck to this formation for nearly his entire tenure at Borussia Dortmund. The only times hea s switched to a different formation (either a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-1-1) has usually been against Bayern Munich, where he did his best to stifle Pep Guardiolaa s men in any way possible.
Klopp will first and foremost focus on installing his philosophy of gegenpressing and counter-attacking. In simple laymana s terms, the idea is to swarm the opponent as soon as they have the ball, win the ball and then launch a counter attack from that position. So, if ita s implemented right, expect to see 3 to 4 Liverpool players descending on any opposition defender who dabbles on the ball for more than a few seconds.
Now, because gegenpressing calls for players to swarm oppositions in groups, ita s important that the midfielders and forwards are not spread out too thin, else this becomes infeasible. Hence, the 4-2-3-1 under Klopp tends to be fairly narrow.
The Formation Is Nearly Inconsequential
Just because he tends to stick to a 4-2-3-1, do not take this as an indication that Klopp is one who does not adjust his tactics based on the opposition. His teams will attack and defend (the two can be tough to tell apart under him) as a unit. As such, the unit will be given pointers as to what weak-points they should focus on exploiting.
In 2012, when Real Madrid came calling in the UEFA Champions League, Klopp knew that they would be playing Michael Essien out of position at left-back, and made sure his team knew it too. Robert Lewandowski kept drifting closer to that flank, while Gotze and Reus went charging into Essien every time he got the ball at his feet. This badly skewed Reala s midfield as Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric had to help provide cover to Essien. Dortmund exploited this shift and scored a 2-1 victory.
In different situations, the team will be taught to seek out different weak-points — a defensive midfielder who strays too far forward and leaves space behind him, full-backs that are being left isolated by their wingers, or a poorly performing centre-half whoa s not nearly commanding enough in the air. The 4-2-3-1 may remain constant, but the approach will shift nearly every time.
The Benteke-Sturridge Situation
The obvious question that comes up after discussing a 4-2-3-1 is regarding who the centre forward will be? Rodgers was a frequent proponent of two-striker systems, and has built this squad accordingly, with 4 senior strikers available.
The first question is, who will be Kloppa s preferred centre forward? It turns out Klopp tried to sign Christian Benteke back in 2013 (both him and Firmino, in fact). Ita s hardly surprising, with the big Belgian sharing a lot of traits with Robert Lewandowski, though he is of course not nearly as finished a product. Daniel Sturridge is, however, a finished product to a great extent. And having played Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the lone striker last season, Klopp clearly doesna t have a problem with letting the team be spearheaded by a pacey, rather than powerful, striker.
So one of two scenarios is likely. Either, Sturridge is going to lead the line, and Benteke will have to settle for the bench for a while. Or, Sturridge will be given a Reus-like role, where he will shuttle between wide positions and becoming a second-striker. There is the third, far less likely alternative, which is that Klopp shifts to a two striker system; but ita s really hard to see how he can do that and yet retain the gegenpressing approach.
In this entire equation, ita s Divock Origi and Danny Ings whoa ve drawn the short straw, as they get pushed way down the pecking order. Atleast Origi has a chance of perhaps adjusting to play as one of the line-of-3 behind the striker (as Aubameyang has done on occasion). Ings will simply have to bide his time for now.
Lucas Leiva, Emre Can or James Milner?
In Kloppa s 4-2-3-1, the central two have included either one or two holding midfielders. He regularly played one or both of Sven Bender & Sebastian Kehl, who are proper defensive midfielders, and one of either Ilkay Gundogan or Nuri Sahin, who can play either as defensive mids or as central midfielders. Whoever the two players are, you will regularly find them taking turns dropping deep, at times sitting between the centre halves.
This is going to be an area of concern. Liverpool FC have very few faces that can perform these roles well. The most natural fit for one of the two roles is the captain, Jordan Henderson. Hea s got the sort of frantic energy Klopp will love, and at his best (as in the 2013-14 season) can thread balls through to the attackers very well.
That leaves one position open for one out of Lucas Leiva, James Milner and Emre Can (ita ll be an immense shock if Klopp uses him in the back-line as Rodgers did). Lucas Leiva might seem the natural choice, being the only proper defensive midfielder in the ranks, but his style of play is not exactly a perfect match for Jurgen. While still an excellent defensive shield, Lucas offers little to none movement, and rarely has anything to contribute in setting up the attack. Emre Can is the exact opposite, being someone who will inject a great deal of energy in that area mixed in with some good tackling, but his defensive positioning and awareness leave a lot to be desired.
The most likely scenario is that Klopp will alternate between Lucas and Can, depending on the opposition– Lucas against the bigger opponents, and Can against the bottom half teams.
This leaves James Milner, who will have been shocked to lose the manager who signed him, promised to play him centrally, and made him vice-captain. Hea s still more than capable of contributing to the team, but it might not be in the central role, and he may no longer be assured a spot in the starting 11. He seems a good fit for the right attacking role in the narrow 4-2-3-1, where he can alternate between drifting wide to deliver crosses and moving to central areas when needed.
Ibe Can Be An Excellent Super-Sub
While Milner may be a good fit for the band of the 3 attacking mids, whether he will be a sure-shot starter is far from certain. Even if one assumes Klopp starts with only one of Benteke and Sturridge in a 4-2-3-1, 2 of those three spots are sure to go to the teama s best midfielder Philippe Coutinho and Kloppa s former transfer target Roberto Firmino. That leaves Milner fighting Adam Lallana & Jordon Ibe for the third spot.
Ibea s pressing and contribution in central areas is not as refined as that of Adam Lallana, so ita s hard to see him getting a starting role. He could, however, be a key substitute for Klopp. Typically, if things werena t working out for Dortmund, one of Kloppa s typical second half tactics was to throw on a wide-man, usually Jakub a Kubaa Blaszczykowski. The formation would then shift to a sort of 4-2-4, with either Reus or a substitute striker making a striker pairing. Ibe seems perfect for this task, being the only real wide-man after Lazar Markovic was loaned out during summer.
Competition For Places
Right about now, youngsters like Jordan Rossiter, Joe Gomez & Jon Flanagan (though hea s still not back from injury) might be wondering what the future holds for them. After all, the manager who had shown them faith and given them chances in the first team has just left the club.
But fear not, for Jurgen Klopp is, more often than not, in favour of having competition in each part of the pitch. Hea s not one to let a player remain in the starting lineup simply on past merit. Not to mention the fact that he has an excellent record in youth development; the caveat here being that the English youth system is not nearly as evolved as the one in Germany.
Expect a lot of internal competition. While the back four is likely to remain as Rodgers left it (Moreno, Sakho, Skrtel and Clyne), any loss of form would be an opportunity for someone else to force their way in. While the youngsters have a good chance, the fate of fringe players like Jose Enrique and Joe Allen is left to anybodya s guess.
Conclusion: Exciting Times Ahead
No matter what happens, irrespective of where the club end up finishing at the end of the season, this is going to be a hell of a ride. One of the best managers in the world, has been handed the keys to one of the former European powerhouses, at a time when they have a number of young players loaded with potential in their ranks.
Ita s time to get the Kop singing at the top of their lungs again. Leta s hope someone can do a heavy metal rendition of a Youa ll Never Walk Alonea on the jiffy.