Jurgen Klopp: How manager is changing Liverpool's fortunes
When Liverpool appointed Jurgen Klopp as successor to Brendan Rodgers, it was regarded as a powerful statement of intent. Two statements made since by the new manager carry even more weight.
Liverpool looked like a team that had lost its identity and inspiration under Brendan Rodgers, a manager who had almost won their first title in 24 years only 18 months before his dismissal.
Since he walked into Anfield, Klopp has re-energised Liverpool. The home defeat by Crystal Palace was a sharp jab of reality but away wins at Chelsea and now Manchester City have shown what the 48-year-old German is capable of inspiring.
How has Klopp changed Liverpool?
Liverpool are experiencing the 'bounce' most clubs enjoy when a new manager arrives - but Klopp's effervescent, positive approach is being allied to sound common sense that has put them back on the road to recovery.
Rodgers did much fine work at Liverpool and it should always be remembered that he was within a Steven Gerrard slip of bringing the Premier League title back to Anfield, a feat that would have written him a chapter in the club's legend.
This season Liverpool, under Rodgers, looked stale and uninspired. Even the manager's confidence and belief and his positive approach seemed to have deserted him as they became conservative and cautious, almost frightened of defeat.
Klopp, a manager rich in pedigree from his Bundesliga successes with Borussia Dortmund, has started putting his own pieces in place.
Liverpool pressed City from the first whistle, spreading anxiety around Etihad Stadium on and off the pitch and unrest in their opponents' ranks.
It makes them a very dangerous proposition away from home, harassing opponents intent on attack high up the pitch and hitting them rapidly on the counter.
Klopp has brought a positivity back to Liverpool, a bundle of energy on the touchline, urging his players forward, applauding the good and reacting furiously to the bad.
Liverpool's players reflected the attitude of their manager at City - perpetual motion, positive and bristling with intent. Manuel Pellegrini's motionless discontent was a sharp contrast.
Klopp has also brought the best out of Philippe Coutinho, who is back to creating havoc for opponents and scoring the goals that make a difference, here at City as he did at Chelsea.
Roberto Firmino, the Brazilian brought in under Rodgers for £29m from Hoffenheim, has always been a Klopp favourite. The manager's faith - selecting him ahead of £32m Christian Benteke at Stamford Bridge and Etihad Stadium - has brought out the best in him. The results prove the wisdom of that choice.
Klopp also knew Emre Can well from when he played at Bayer Leverkusen and made what should have been the relatively simple choice of playing him in his best position in midfield.
Can struggled at right-back and in a three-man central defence. There was a good reason for this. He is not a right-back or a central defender.
He is a midfield player, Klopp has played him there and Can proved his class and vision with a brilliant backheel that allowed Coutinho to set up Firmino for Liverpool's third.
So while the new coach has brought a big managerial personality to Liverpool, he has also applied sound logic. Together it makes a potent combination.
Beating rivals brings a new belief
Klopp has not had an easy introduction at Liverpool, but away from Anfield he has made light work of a daunting list of fixtures.
He opened his reign with a goalless draw at Tottenham but the wins at reigning champions Chelsea and title favourites Manchester City have spoken most eloquently of how he has quickly instilled belief into a team that had lost its way in the 18 months before his arrival.
Rodgers did not beat a top-four team until his ninth attempt and had only one win in his first 12. Furthermore, it took until his eighth attempt to beat a top-four side away from home. Klopp has won his first two.
Klopp's reputation as one of Europe's premier coaches brings belief and confidence of its own and one of his early successes is how quickly he has been able to transmit it to players who were so short on those precious commodities.
|Rodgers' first eight games against the 'big four'|
|Liverpool 2-2 Man City||Drew|
|Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal||Lost|
|Liverpool 1-2 Man Utd||Lost|
|Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool||Drew|
|Man Utd 2-1 Liverpool||Lost|
|Arsenal 2-2 Liverpool||Drew|
|Man City 2-2 Liverpool||Drew|
|Liverpool 2-2 Chelsea||Drew|
How far behind the top teams are they?
The loss to Crystal Palace and the draw against Southampton at home must act as the warning signs against getting carried away - and, despite the carnage of Saturday, Manchester City still possess more star quality and strength in depth when all of their players are fit.
City, Chelsea and Manchester United also possess more financial firepower than Liverpool - as do Arsenal should manager Arsene Wenger ever choose to use it.
What is clear, though, is that Liverpool are in a position to take advantage of the inconsistency and unpredictability in the top half of the Premier League to make a push for the top four.
There will be other teams of similar standing, such as Tottenham and Everton, who will also have the same sort of designs.
Liverpool's defence can still look vulnerable under pressure and at set-pieces, while Klopp rightly asked a journalist "are you crazy?" when he was asked could they win the title.
Klopp will need to keep the lid on the expectations just in case Liverpool's fanbase get carried away with the upturn in fortunes - but the smiles they shared together at the final whistle on Saturday showed things are on the up again at Anfield.
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