Are you already sick of hearing who will ‘do a Leicester’? Well, if Liverpool won the title next year it would hardly be as earth-shattering as the Foxes’ win this season. Jurgen Klopp would throw himself into the Anfield stratosphere and possibly become the most popular man on Merseyside. No bookies would currently give Liverpool much of a chance, though.
Liverpool’s form since Klopp’s arrival has been patchy in the league. The occasional brilliant performance – like their thrashing of Manchester City at the Etihad – has been met with equally appalling performances – like their recent humiliation at home to Swansea. However, their form in the Europa League should be enough to give Liverpool fans hope; it could be their year.
For starters, Jurgen Klopp is a simply exceptional manager. The German is one of the very best in the world and he knows how to build a team, he has his own ideas and seems to motivate players to a better degree than almost any other manager. It is no easy task to pip Bayern Munich to back-to-back Bundesliga titles, but, in 2010/11 and 2011/12, Klopp did just that. His sensational Borussia Dortmund team were, for a time, one of the best in Europe and could easily have won the Champions League when they met Bayern Munich in the final. Klopp’s teams pass the ball with intent, work tirelessly and have a togetherness that is granite-strong.
Each league-winning side needs an exceptional manager, it’s just a staple. Klopp is that. But, Liverpool have more going for them than that at the moment. Unless they were to win the Europa League (they face Sevilla in the final) they would also be able to play next season without the frustrating distraction of European football and may well help to keep their stars fully fit (looking at you, Mr Sturridge). Although Tottenham managed to excel in the league whilst in the Europa League, it is often a challenge that damages sides with slightly smaller squads and can be detrimental to any top four hopes. If Liverpool do not have any European football, they will already be at an advantage fitness-wise over Leicester, Spurs, Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs. Klopp’s game is physically demanding, it asks a huge amount of his players, so the extra recuperation time would be invaluable. History shows just how important an empty fixture list can be and Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester are a fairly decent example of this.
The quality is already there for Klopp to work this, but Liverpool are bringing in Joel Matip this summer, too. Defensively the Reds are weak, but in the attacking third they have some of the best players in the league, with depth to match their quality. The arrival of Matip may well be followed by a couple more defenders – particularly with Mamadou Sakho’s looming ban in mind – and a rebuilt defence could be enough to provide Klopp with the basis for a title-challenging side.
The triumvirate of Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana Lallana and Philippe Coutinho may lack natural width, but their creative ability has already proven hugely dangerous in the Premier League and Europa League. Klopp’s perfect concoction needs pace and width, admittedly, so a winger is likely to arrive this summer and, whilst Emre Can continues to dominate, the midfielders are playing better than they ever did under Brendan Rodgers. The Reds have a far more gifted squad than many would give them credit for and the goalscoring instincts of Christian Benteke – if he stays at the club – and Daniel Sturridge can at least carry the Kop towards the top four. And as the Premier League looks tighter than ever, why can’t that be taken one step further with a real title challenge?
They’ve got the manager, they’ve got the basis of the squad and they have the potential for a relatively empty calendar. Liverpool could be the surprise package of 2016/17 and every other club will be wondering why they didn’t hire Jurgen Klopp.