Since finishing second in 2009, Liverpool have only one top 4 finish in the Premier League: In 2014, when Luis Suarez came very close to pulling off a historic season and lead them to a 19th league title, and their first since 1990. Jurgen Klopp, still not one year at the position of club manager, believes he can get The Reds back on their perch without following the massive signing arms race going on among the big clubs in English football.
Even without TV money, Premier League clubs have been ahead of everyone in Europe except for a number of elite or super rich clubs, that didn’t represent the spending power of their league. But the new TV money is “helping” clubs like Leicester wave around €50 million offers like it’s just another day in the office, and even smaller clubs, without Champions League football or achievements like the Foxes had last season, aren’t afraid of spending.
With the transfer deadline approaching, Liverpool are going to finish the summer with a plus in terms of players sold and bought, which is rare in this league, and especially for a club that is usually one of the biggest spenders in England, even if the results don’t show. Luis Alberto will soon be sold to Lazio, and if Klopp doesn’t sign a left back like everyone wants him too in the next 48 hours, Liverpool are likely to end up selling players for more or less £20 million more than they spent on new signings.
Klopp, who joined Liverpool last October, hasn’t been able to do much better than the “final days” of Brendan Rodgers. He has won 25 times out of 56 with the club, losing 13 times, including to Burnley to open the season with a win, draw and loss before the international break. It took him time to turn Borussia Dortmund into champions, finishing twice ahead of Bayern Munich, and even make the Champions League final. But the competition is more difficult in England, and patience, despite the six year extension he signed in the summer (keeping him and the staff until 2022), might not be plentiful as it was in the Bundesliga.
Out of the £62 million Liverpool have spent this summer, £53 million was spent on two players: Georginio Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane. Liverpool’s problems, however, seem to be defensively, especially when it comes to handling crosses and set pieces. Joel Matip was brought over for free, Ragnar Klavan was signed from Augsburg, and Loris Karius was purchased in attempt to displace Simon Mignolet from the goalkeeper spot, but for now, Karius is out injured.
With Chelsea, Arsenal (yes, even them), Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham and maybe other clubs boasting what might seem like more impressive squads, could Klopp’s accurate approach at trying to sign the right players without going after bigger stars going to work? Is his belief in his system and tactical knowledge that strong? Probably, although his approach to deciding lineups, systems and in-game decisions could be the most important thing, as in what he needs to work on the most.
Liverpool looked terrific in the season opener against Arsenal, winning 4-3. They finished in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham this weekend, but were robbed of a goal that should have been allowed, and were better for the most part of the match. The third match? Away at Burnley, the only team out of the three not set out to open up their formation against Liverpool, and it turned out that Klopp’s achilles heel from last season, and his final two years in Dortmund, bit him and the club once again.
And it might be this – The ability of Klopp to stick to his high pressure, intensive counter attacking tactics, while being able to make his team play effectively against teams that don’t offer the kind of opportunities Arsenal, Tottenham and other possession heavy teams do – that determines whether Klopp will be the manager that brings Liverpool back on track. Not necessarily a championship right away, but winning back their place in the top 4, which used to be almost a given during the first decade of the new millennium.