It has been a roller-coaster of events form October 2015, when Jürgen Klopp and his infectious smile came to Liverpool. From the euphoria of a comeback win against Klopp’s old flame, Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League quarter final to the sorrow in a rainy night at Basel. From the ecstasy of finally being part of Europe’s top sides in the UEFA Champions League to tears of losing the final in Kiev. From the slight pain of missing out on the title by one solitary point, to the joy and raw passion of winning the UEFA Champions League after a monumental comeback against Lionel Messi’s Barcelona in the semi-finals. LFC Writer Chijioke Ochubili (@Bruce_Wayne_05) takes a closer look at the Liverpool teams that Jurgen Klopp has managed so far, and the lineups that he has used during those seasons.
There have been highs and lows under the big German but what has always been near constant has been Liverpool’s steady improvement under him. We take a look at Liverpool under Klopp from his first season at Anfield to date. *(All seasonal stats are with reference to the Premier League).
Avg Possession: 55% Goals/Game: 1.66 Goals Conceded/Game: 1.32 Shots/Game: 11.08 GS: 63 GC: 50 Wins/Game: 42% Points/Game: 1.57 Points: 60 Position: 8th
Jürgen Klopp came in to replace the departed Brendan Rodgers after a slow start to the season. He brought his famed counter-pressing he was popularly known for in Germany but it had a bit of a negative effect as the amount of injuries piled up. Key players such as Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and Mamadou Sakho all faced injury lay-off during the season and it affected the club’s league form a bit. Klopp did manage to guide Liverpool to the Caraboa Cup Final in Wembley but ultimately lost on penalties to Manchester City.
The highlight of the season was their amazing Europa League run where they dumped out Augsburg, Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund (coming back from 3-1 at Anfield to win 4-3) and Villarreal. The low point of the season was losing to Sevilla in the Europa League final in Basel.
Klopp primarily used a 4-2-3-1 where the 3 men behind the strikers were expected to form the creativity while the double pivot shielded the defence, with one of the pivots allowed to dictate play from deep. At times it switched to a 4-1-4-1 to create numbers in front of goal.
Avg Possession: 58% Goals/Game: 2.05 Goals Conceded/Game: 1.11 Shots/Game: 15.84 GS: 78 GC: 42 Wins/Game: 58% Points/Game: 2.00 Points: 76 Position: 4th
This was Klopp’s proper first season at Liverpool. As a result of losing the Europa League final in Basel and finishing a disappointing 8th place in the league, Liverpool had no European distractions to contend with. There was significant progress in the league compared to the previous season. The club averaged 2.05 goals per game, averaged 2.00 points per game and they conceded only 42 goals at a rate of 1.11 compared to last season’s 1.32.
This entirely didn’t paint the complete picture as the club still was a work in progress. By New Year’s Eve, Liverpool were 2nd on the log but by mid-February, they were struggling to maintain 2nd place. Factors such as loss of form and Sadio Mane going to the AFCON, affected their form between January and early March. Key players such as Sadio Mane, Phillippe Coutinho, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip had prolonged periods on the sideline, also played a part as by February, the club were out of both the Caraboa Cup and the FA Cup. They eventually finished 4th, the season’s target but with no silverware to their name.
Klopp came into the season with a new 4-3-3 system with Coutinho, Firmino and Mane playing as forwards, with Firmino as a false 9. The midfield primarily consisted of Lallana, Henderson and one of Emre Can or new signing, Wijnaldum competing for the last slot. James Milner filled in at left-back as Klopp’s trust in Moreno cooled off after last season. The creator role of the 3-man midfield fell on Lallana and he thrived in such role with 8 Goals and 7 Assists. James Milner provided width from the flank while Mane provided the much-needed speed lacking from the previous season. This would prove to be Klopp’s “GO TO” system in years to come.
Avg Possession: 58% Goals/Game: 2.21 Goals Conceded/Game: 1.00 Shots/Game: 17.26 GS: 84 GC: 38 Wins/Game: 55% Points/Game: 1.97 Points: 75 Position: 4th
This was a season where Klopp’s charges were virtually breath taking in front of goal. The league position of 4th and a 75 points accumulation will deceive many it was just an ordinary season where they regressed a bit with a points per game ratio of 1.97, but it wasn’t the case. Liverpool had an encouraging 2.21 goals per game ratio (84 goals scored) and with 1.00 goals conceded per game (38 goals conceded).
In the first halve of the season, Liverpool were known for an amazing attack but a soft defence. The defeat away to Tottenham in October 2017, was a huge turning point as the club broke their transfer record for a defender in acquiring the services for Virgil van Dijk for £75M in January, 2018. His presence brought steel and a firm but calm voice at the back that they’ve been lacking since the days of Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carrragher.
Liverpool were very impressive in their return to the UEFA Champions League. They scored a whopping 41 goals from Match-Day 1 to the final at Kiev, where they lost to Real Madrid. The run to the final was very encouraging as they knocked out sides such as FC Porto, Pep Guadiola’s Man City and a very talented AS Roma side. Liverpool had an average of 5.67 aggregate goals per tie, which was very impressive.
Liverpool lined up in a their usual 4-3-3. Their strongest XI on paper had Coutinho creating from midfield while a front 3 of Mane, Firmino and new signing, Mo Salah, destroyed defences. They initially had Alberto Moreno starting till December until injury paved way for Andy Robertson. When the famed Fab 4 started, Liverpool tended to switch from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-2-2 where Fimino and Salah were slightly close to each other. When Coutinho left for Barcelona in the winter window, they played more of a 4-3-3 with Andy Robertson proving a useful weapon down the wing and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming into his own.
Avg Possession: 60% Goals/Game: 2.34 Goals Conceded/Game: 0.58 Shots/Game: 16.26 GS: 89 GC: 22 Wins/Game: 79% Points/Game: 2.55 Points: 97 Position: 2nd
The 2018/19 season will go down in history books as one of the most impressive seasons from a Liverpool side. This was the season Klopp’s side felt they were indeed on the brink of something special. Liverpool had an average possession of 60% as they slightly left their high-pressing game to a more retentive game. Liverpool had an impressive 0.58 goals conceded per game, that resulted to 21 clean sheets for new signing Alisson Becker in goal. This style of play also resulted in a decrease in the shots per game ratio at 16.26. The club were the bookies favourite to challenge Manchester City for the title and they truly did push the Sky Blues to the wire. Ultimately, they finished 2nd with an impressive 97 points behind City’s 98 points. Just one point separated both sides.
In the Champions League, the club were inconsistent in the group stage. They won all their homes games but lost all their away games at Paris, Napoli and Red Star Belgrade. They needed a last day 1-0 victory and a miraculous Alisson save, against to progress. In the knockout phase, they were very professional about their business. They won Bayern Munich 3-1 at the Allianz Arena after a 0-0 stalemate at Anfield. They comfortably dispatched FC Porto in the last 8, 6-1 on aggregate. The semi-final tie against Barcelona will forever go down as one of the greatest semi-final ties in UCL history.
Liverpool went away to Barcelona and played a very good game but ultimately lost 3-0. The painful part of the game was towards the end; when an unmarked Mo Salah crashed his shot at the post for an away goal at 3-0, with the keeper away from goal. A key moment in the game was at the death of the game where Ousmane Dembele was 1-on-1 with Alisson and missed his target via Alisson saving his straight effort. The return leg at Anfield was really something to behold. Liverpool went into the game without Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino due injuries. They needed four unreplied goals against Lionel Messi’s Barcelona to progress. The odds were against them.
Liverpool battled their way to a 4-0 victory after 90 minutes thanks to braces from Wijnaldum and Divock Origi, with Origi’s second the cheekiest goal ever seen in a UCL semi-final. Scenes at Anfield were of pure emotions and euphoria. Liverpool overturned a 3-0 deficit, to progress to the final 4-3 on aggregate. Liverpool faced fellow Premier league side, Tottenham Hotspurs, in the Final at Madrid. Liverpool ran out 2-0 winners thanks to a very early Mo Salah penalty and a late Origi goal to win the club’s 6th European Cup and Jürgen Klopp’s first UCL. A fitting ending to an amazing season.
Liverpool lined up in their usual 4-3-3 where the front 3 maintained itself while the midfield had slight changes. New signing, Fabinho, took the role of the deepest midfielder of the midfield 3 towards the 2nd halve of the season. Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner and new signing, Naby Keita rotated between the flanking CMF roles.
The biggest change was Liverpool creating chances from their fullbacks. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson had a total of 28 assists in the season, with Trent having 15 to his name alone. Both full-backs pushed upfield while their respective flanking CMFs gave them cover due to the space vacated. On paper, Liverpool looked like they played a 2-3-5 in an attacking phase as the front 3 benefitted from crosses from their fullbacks.
Avg Possession: 50% Goals/Game: 2.28 Goals Conceded/Game: 0.72 Shots/Game: 15.59 GS: 66 GC: 21 Wins/Game: 93% Points/Game: 2.83 Points: 82 Position: 1st
Liverpool started the season as champions of Europe as serious challengers for the league title. They didn’t make any signings and everybody understood what was expected of them. There was a sense of professionalism about their game as they weren’t really entertaining but they got the job done. Liverpool won the UEFA Super Cup in Istanbul against Europa League winners, Chelsea, via penalties after 2-2 draw after extra-time. They won the FIFA Club World Cup in December after a Roberto Firmino goal gifted them title of “Champions of the World” in a 1-0 victory over Brazil’s Flamingos.
The club’s amazing start to the season has them 25 points clear off closest rival, Manchester City in second place. The lows of the season so far are an exit out of the Champions League at the hands of Atletico Madrid and the end to their 26 games unbeaten run in the league away at Watford in late February.
The formation remained 4-3-3 with a settled back four led by Virgil van Dijk (who won UEFA Men’s player of the year, 2019) protecting Alisson Becker in goal. The front 3 remained the same but the midfield became quite rigid. The usual combo had Henderson and Wijnaldum as flanking CMFs while Fabinho as the DMF. Both CMFs aren’t known for their creativity but have high energy in abundance to cover spaces left behind by their respective attacking full-backs.
The season is yet to be concluded due to the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus worldwide. Should plans of completing the season become a reality, Liverpool just need 6 points to clinch the league title and become champions of England for the first time in 30 years.
2020/21 and CONCLUSION
Nobody really knows if Liverpool will evolve once more under Jurgen Klopp in the 2020/21 season. We’ve seen him use his 4-2-3-1 in his first season, then change to a 4-3-3 later on. He has changed from depending on bulk creativity from Philippe Coutinho to creativity from the full-backs. The club has steadily grown under his leadership with credit also going to his coaching team and transfer guru, Michael Edward for building a very talented squad.
2020/21 season will see Pep Guardiola challenge hard to get back the league title soon to officially be lost while Manchester United and Chelsea look ready to spend big in the summer. Liverpool have already been linked with talented players in the upcoming window, plus the club have a huge Nike kit design deal in place.
With all these in place, everything is now depended on Jurgen Klopp on what next this Liverpool side needs to keep growing. We await the next chapter of the evolution of Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp.