There’s a point to all the apparent fuss surrounding this season’s edition of the Premier League, to the effect that Arsene Wenger has christened it the World Champions of Managers. While it may spring up infinitely intricate permutations and combinations of who finishes where, what I’m more excited about is that this watershed moment is harbouring the ultimate reservoir of the most quotable quotes anywhere in the world.
I can already picture it, Jose Mourinho being to be an impudent t*t on the touchline, while an incensed Antonio Conte levels him with a hard left. Elsewhere, Arsene Wenger taking offence to Jürgen Klopp’s impassioned knee-slide in front of the Arsenal technical area at The Emirates, deems him “unprofessional”; to which Klopp merely offers an equally impassioned, full-teethed guffaw.
2016-2017 is going to be everything but prim and propah, and we are going to bloody well enjoy it. But, none more so than Liverpool fans, we suspect. And here’s why.
Factors that took away most of the momentum of Liverpool’s campaign under Klopp are three in number: One, the injuries they incurred to their more important players at crucial junctures. Two, a consequent lack of cutting-edge and goals. Three, a vacuous defence.
Liverpool have had a recent history of ignoring the blatantly obvious, ridiculously so. Markedly, Klopp’s first order of business was to rope in one of the best ball-playing defenders in the Bundesliga, Schalke’s Joel Matip for a free transfer and has since added the hard-as-nails, Ragnar Klavan into the mix for a meagre sum. While these two transfers have largely been understandably understated considering the sheer madness that has gripped the transfer window, they will provide an unerring sense of calm, more-than-competent technical ability and authority which the mind-numbing, Liverpool defence have sorely missed. Loris Karius, arguably, the second-best goalkeeper in the Bundesliga behind Manuel Neuer, will embolden the defence with his mental resilience and command of the air – two traits the floundering Simon Mignolet desperately lacks. While the addition of Marko Grujic add much-needed physicality, drive and a goal threat from midfield.
The Liverpool side were guilty of ponderous play in the final third, as for all the collective graft of Adam Lallana there was a clear lack of incisiveness in wider areas – most noticeably, a lack of pace and movement to run in behind the last man – it was abundantly apparent that Lallana’s one-man show wasn’t enough. While his improvement was there to be seen, his ability or lack of to shield the ball; overly-elaborate Descartian dwellings with and on the ball; lack of an end-product saw too many counter attacks come to nothing – partly down to a lack of support with too few in numbers ahead of the ball. Sadio Mane and Genie Wijnaldum have 32 goals and 16 assists between them last season, and would add to the Klopp’s forward momentum.
Klopp’s astuteness in pinching two of the best player conditioning consults in the modern game, in Bayern Munich’s Andreas Kornmayer and Mona Nemmer will show discernible results this season, through state-of-the-art player nutrition, rehabilitation and strengthening schemes.
Klopp has laced this Liverpool side with a plentiful helping of pestilent pace – a ploy notably executed to perfection at his time at Dortmund – being the forte of his side’s attacking forays, as well as means for their quick-fire fortification in the geggenpressing tactics. Such shock-and-awe approach on the wings disoriented teams who overload the centre or sit back with two banks of four – something many of the lower rung and modestly mid-table teams will find out at their own expense.
Interchangeability – Installing the Dortmund Template
The versatility of Mane and Wijnaldum gives Klopp the ideal base to plaster his Dortmund attacking-template on Liverpool. Klopp used two focal points in attack to unsettle opposition defences: one, a lead centre-forward, the other, an attacking midfielder who is incessantly interchanges his role with a wide-forward – wrecking confusion and havoc against teams who man-mark, and resorting them to switch to zonal marking – allowing players like Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Reus, Götze, Kuba, Lewandowski to always find the quick one-two and the pockets of spaces to exploit – resulting in a flurry of goals.
Liverpool with Coutinho, Mane, Firmino, Wijnaldum, Ojo, Lallana, Origi and Sturridge have the will fit Klopp’s attacking modus operandi like an arse in a bucket – and potentially, tearing teams asunder.
Chinks in the Armour
Liverpool still need to address their two major concerns: One, a left-back cover for the errant Alberto Moreno. Two, a central defensive midfielder to shore up the gaps in midfield. Two areas too many teams have exploited last season
While the jigsaw seems to be falling into place for Jürgen Klopp – he’d be well advised on a couple of more additions to bolster their ranks considering the ready frequency of injuries picked up in pre-season, and his high-intensity style that pushes his players to their physical limit.
If he does so, with no European commitments in the equation, the genial, gregarious German may indeed be having the last laugh, and it may finally prove to be Liverpool’s year.