The 2016/17 season is almost here, and there are few clubs able to match the sense of optimism being felt at Liverpool.
The Reds endured a turbulent campaign last time out that saw a change in management from Brendan Rodgers to Jurgen Klopp, and although the results were not dramatically better under the German, there is a real sense that the seeds have been sewn for the immediate future.
And as if the excitement couldn’t increase further, we’ve teamed up with 7 Of The Best to bring you a footballing treat for the coming campaign. It’s free to play and the best team each week wins £1,500, as well as monthly prize of £4,000 for the best individual. Want to win bigger? Nab yourself a whopping £500k if you get all seven of your selections correct for seven consecutive weeks.
How do you play? All you need to do is pick seven teams each week, one being your banker, five being teams you expect to win and one you believe will draw.
With the theme of SEVEN in mind, here are seven of the bets things to have happened at Liverpool since Klopp’s arrival…
Before Klopp’s arrival Can was ambling towards a genuine crossroads in his Liverpool career. Granted, saying as much after around 18 months at the club may be a bit dramatic, but there was a feeling that the young German had no set position, didn’t know his own strengths and was confused about his status in the team.
However, just under a year on and things couldn’t be much different. Can is now, arguably, the Reds’ key midfielder after being moved from right-back/centre-back into his favoured midfield role, is fully aware that his size and power are standout traits and appears increasingly aware that he is one of the key components in a well-oiled engine room.
Time passes quickly in football, so it’s quite difficult to remember how fractured the Liverpool support was in the closing days of Rodgers’ tenure. There seemed to be three ‘pools’ of fans: 1) The anti-Rodgers brigade 2) the Rodgers loyalists 3) The disillusioned group. We don’t need to explain how each set felt, but it’s plain to see that the comedown from the epic high that was 2013/14 had had a lasting effect.
Since the arrival of Klopp those bands of supporters have been somewhat united behind a single cause. Although there are, as there always will be, some dissenting voices, it’s hard to find a significant set of fans whose loyalty is anywhere but with the German. Perhaps his greatest move was to call out supporters when they left early during a disappointing loss at home to Crystal Palace, with the atmosphere having altered dramatically since then and been further boosted by great occasions such as the Dortmund and Villarreal wins in the Europa League.
We all know that Rodgers’ Liverpool leaked goals. The Northern Irishman’s policy of attack at the expense of defence both fuelled and destroyed their title challenge in 2013/14, and the 2014/15 season was marred with soft goals going in at the wrong end. Although the stats reveal that, in league action, the goals against tally went from 1.25 to 1.33-per-game under Klopp last season, the numbers don’t tell the whole story, with Liverpool feeling far more solid as a unit at the back. Dejan Lovren has been revived by his German boss, while Nathaniel Clyne’s game has come on leaps and bounds after a hot and cold opening few weeks on Merseyside.
Believing is a big part of football. Whether it be from the fans or the players, having faith in where the team is going and pulling in the right direction as a collective is key, and under Klopp that seems to be the feeling at Anfield.
The ex-Dortmund boss has united a divided fanbase behind the team, and all involved with the Reds seem to be pushing for the same end goal with a degree of patience, which makes 2016/17 very promising.
Would that Europa League win have been possible without the Klopp effect? Doubtful.
Return from injury. Score a goal or two. Get injured. Miss months of football.
That seemed to be the routine for Sturridge before the arrival of Klopp, with the English striker often rushed back to be the focal point of Rodgers’ team. Of course very few people know if the Northern Irishman was picking him before he was fit enough to effectively carry out his duties, but the current Kop chief was extremely patient with the 26-year-old forward at the turn of the year.
Indeed, Klopp was insistent that Sturridge needed two weeks of full training before being selected and he stuck to his guns even though his forward options were depleted to the point that Roberto Firmino was often being used as a ‘false nine’.
Although the midtable finish could have been somewhat improved on with a few more goals, Sturridge has now been match fit, aside from a small hip niggle that ruled him out of two recent friendlies, for the best part of four to five months, which is some going based on the previous two years! Patience, it seems, was the best approach all along.
Klopp has stood tall and shouldered the blame since his arrival. There have been very few occasions that the German has called out his players for poor performances, and his word has been final among the supporters.
Okay, two final losses and a midtable finish in the league haven’t made for an impressive return, but one can only imagine the anger that would have been vented by Kopites had it been Rodgers in charge for the same period.
Klopp is somewhat in his honeymoon period still, but he’s stood up and spoken with honesty, taking the responsibility for poor performances and not getting carried away during the purple patches his team enjoyed.
Although this somewhat overlaps the ‘genuine optimism’ point made earlier, the sense of optimism at Anfield cannot be overlooked.
Supporters are entering the season in high spirits for the first time in recent memory, with the squad strengthened, key players still in place, a feeling that there’s a plan and real leader at the helm.
Roll into this the lack of European football, and there are natural parallels being drawn between this coming campaign and the 2013/14 season.