Football: Liverpool's chief schemer Klopp the architect of their success

Klopp's tactical mastery proves he is more than a motivator with dispatching of City

Since Jurgen Klopp's arrival in England four years ago, there has been a tendency to characterise him as, essentially, just a motivator.
Since Jurgen Klopp's arrival in England four years ago, there has been a tendency to characterise him as, essentially, just a motivator.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Jurgen Klopp and Jordan Henderson were the last two figures on the pitch at Anfield as they thanked the Kop after Liverpool's thrilling 3-1 Premier League win over Manchester City on Sunday.

That was not enough for the TV cameraman tracking the Reds manager's every move, though.

There is a cliche shot of Klopp, one that tends to feature after every significant Liverpool victory - the German manager pumping his fists three times as the Kop cheers.

It is an image that neatly conveys the idea that he is the bandmaster and the home fans his orchestra.

That was the shot the cameraman wanted, and the shot Klopp seemed to be denying him. And so, wordlessly, he pumped his fists three times, as if to remind the Liverpool boss of his post-match routine.

The 52-year-old, however, made it clear that he was not going to be "a clown" and take instructions on how to celebrate the most important victory since the Champions League final in June.

Since Klopp's arrival in England four years ago, there has been a tendency to characterise him as, essentially, just a motivator, whereas City counterpart, Pep Guardiola, is seen as a tactical mastermind.

  • 8

    Liverpool's lead after winning 11 of their first 12 Premier League games this season. Only Manchester United in 1993-94 have had a bigger lead at this stage (nine points).

  • 25

    Manchester City's points this season. It is the lowest total by a Pep Guardiola side after 12 games.

But Liverpool do not sit eight points clear at the top of the table, and nine ahead of the title-holders because of his charisma and his ability to get the crowd riled up.

They are not European champions because they are more motivated than all of their rivals. They are not a team which have lost just once in their past 52 matches, and are unbeaten at Anfield since April 2017, because of their "Fab Three" of Sadio Mane, scorer of the third goal, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.

More than anything, what this team have become is a triumph of coaching.

Every aspect of Liverpool's play is drilled with intense precision and when opponents sit back, they simply open the play through full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.

If an attack breaks down, the players melt back into their defensive shape seamlessly before hunting the ball again, ready to pounce on the counter-attack.

It is a product of intense work on the training ground and Liverpool's second goal represented the culmination of Klopp's hard work.

Seven minutes after Fabinho's long-range opener, Alexander-Arnold's cross-field ball picked out Robertson, whose pinpoint cross was met perfectly by Salah.

On the free-flowing move, Klopp claimed he "did not think I ever saw a goal like that", but Liverpool are soaring because he has tuned his players to his needs, rather than motivating them through fist pumps.

Their ability to force City "into our game" is why pundits are convinced the hosts are "odds on" to lift their first league title since 1990.

Former Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho told Sky Sports he could not "see how Liverpool can lose this advantage", adding: "From my position, it (the title race) is done unless something dramatic happens, like an injury situation that breaks the team. This team's adapted to the quality of the players and the puzzle is complete."

Graeme Souness also claimed only injuries could derail his former club's title charge and even Virgil van Dijk yesterday had to admit the win over City was "a bit special".

The Liverpool defender said: "It's like any other three points but because you are playing against the champions, your direct rivals.

"We're very happy with the position we're in, but we can't take it for granted. We have to keep going."

While Rodri, whose teammate Bernardo Silva nabbed the consolation goal, came out fighting yesterday, insisting City could still catch up, he also conceded the Reds "are very strong at the moment".

That is down, in so many ways, to Klopp's ability to quietly plot every aspect of his team's performance.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2019, with the headline 'Liverpool's chief schemer'. Print Edition | Subscribe