In no uncertain terms, Liverpool FC are currently flying. Still top of the Premier League after a busy Christmas schedule, the Reds remain four points clear of Manchester City and have a mouth-watering tie next month against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Coupled with their best-ever start to a league campaign, last season’s talisman Mo Salah has returned to top form, and manager Jurgen Klopp seems as energetic as ever. But does this scintillating season mask a bigger problem for the latter, and should he come in for more criticism?
Now in his fourth season with Liverpool, having taken charge in October 2015, Klopp has failed deliver any silverware to Anfield, having lost three finals in that time (the Europa League and League Cup in 2016, Champions League in 2018). In today’s managerial climate, it would not be a stretch to argue that the majority of other top European clubs would have sacked the German by this point.
Antonio Conte was sent packing by Chelsea last summer despite winning a Premier League title and an FA Cup in his two years at the helm, and, although the West London club are notorious for drastic managerial changes, it serves as a reminder that Klopp hasn’t really added anything noteworthy to put alongside his Bundesliga titles on his C.V. A timely reminder of the high demands for success was served up just before Christmas with the sacking of Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. Like Conte, the Portuguese won two trophies in the time Klopp has been at Anfield, and his team finished six points above Liverpool just last season, yet the German has outlasted both his counterparts.
The desire of Liverpool fans to win any trophy, let alone the Premier League, is evident, having not tasted victory in any competition since the League Cup in 2012. And, with their loss to Wolves in the FA Cup 3rd Round earlier this month, the Reds are only left fighting on two fronts. Many fans and pundits were unhappy with Klopp’s decision to field an inexperienced line-up when the competition arguably represented an easier chance of silverware than the Champions League.
In spite of this, credit must be given to Klopp for his transformation of this Liverpool team. He has clearly identified the areas needed for improvement, and although enormous fees were required for his acquisitions, they so far appear to have been worthwhile investments. £75 million centre-back Virgil Van Dijk is consistently praised as one of the best in his position in the Premier League, and indeed Europe, whilst goalkeeper Alisson boasts the most clean sheets, 13, following his arrival in July 2018.
As well as this, Klopp has managed to purchase other key players on comparatively smaller fees, such as Andy Robertson and Sadio Mané, and continues to promote players from the club’s youth teams, the standout example being Trent Alexander-Arnold. It could be argued, too, that Liverpool may well have been the current Champions League holders, had it not been for several costly errors which can’t be legislated for.
This article may seem strange given the club’s current predicament, but ultimately, football clubs like Liverpool are measured against their silverware and success, and until that happens Klopp’s criticisms will continue to persist. I guess we will have to wait until May for the final verdict.