WE now know more about what a Liverpool side managed by Jürgen Klopp looks like. It runs a lot.
Yesterday on The Tuesday Review (on Monday) Sean Rogers and Paul Cope talked at length about the work the Liverpool players got through at White Hart Lane, in particular focusing on sprints.
This was something our mate Jamie Carragher picked up on during Monday Night Football on Sky as well, the programme highlighting that Liverpool were the number one-rated team for sprints in the Premier League last weekend, compared with a position of eighth in the first eight games.
It was a mostly similar team, but with a notably different attitude. The players outside the first 11 that day would certainly have been watching with interest. Not least Jerome Sinclair, Joao Teixeira and Connor Randall, who were unused substitutes that day but no doubt lifted by the experience of being around the first-team squad on match day.
For a young player, the first 11 can be a daunting thing. All the talk is of a huge physical difference, about how every mistake is punished, how there is no substitute for experience.
On top of that, before the departure of Brendan Rodgers and the arrival of Klopp, there was a manager at Liverpool who preached about “death by football”. A boss who spoke in the summer about the need for greater Premier League experience in his team.
Hardly music to the ears of someone like Sinclair, who a few years previously Rodgers had made the youngest-ever Liverpool player at West Brom away in the League Cup, but now seemed as far from the first team as ever with his contract running out and his club seemingly indifferent regarding his future.
But the new fella? He just wants us to run.
And, suddenly, the first team doesn’t seem quite such a scary place. You saw that for Divock Origi, still only 20 years old and making his Premier League debut at Spurs.
The rookie striker has looked unsure of himself ever since arriving at Liverpool but on Saturday he looked a much more promising prospect by fulfilling a much more basic brief: run. Origi covered a greater distance in that game than Daniel Sturridge has in any game since he joined the club.
Young players getting the opportunity to thrive under Klopp isn’t new information, of course. We all know about players like Mario Götze who emerged from the Dortmund Academy to develop as a world-class talent. We all know about players like Mats Hummels, taken from the Bayern Munich B Team for a paltry amount and thrown into the Dortmund first team as a 19-year-old centre half alongside Neven Subotić, who was just six days older.
Klopp himself was quick to state that this philosophy would remain at Liverpool. In his first press conference he said to journalists: “When I’m managing a club, each young player should smile because the chance is bigger than it ever was.”
Smile they did. The next day Jürgen Klopp was at the academy in Kirkby to watch the Under-18s.
Captain Corey Whelan and goalscorer Ovie Ejaria were interviewed after the game and both talked about the positive feeling the new manager’s arrival had created among the young players.
Because of this I was very interested in the Under-21s game against Sunderland at the weekend. I thought we’d see extra effort from the players, all keen to grab the manager’s attention and prove they had the stamina to play for a Jürgen Klopp team. What happened was even more interesting. None of them played.
Only three players who started the previous Under-21 game against Swansea, before Klopp joined the club, kept their places against Sunderland. One of those was the goalkeeper, with the two outfield players, Matthew Virtue and Madger Gomes, aged only 18.
It was an exceptionally young team, mainly consisting of players who usually play for the Liverpool Under-18s team. Five players were making their debuts at that level, including two who were only 16.
For Sinclair, Teixiera and Randall this was perhaps understandable under normal circumstances, as they were in the first-team match day squad the day before. But the Under-21 league is far from normal circumstances.
As we often mention on our academy show The Central League, Under-21 fixtures are few and far between. Surely you would take the chance to give these lads a game? Also missing were Pedro Chirivella and Cameron Brannagan, who didn’t make the 18 at Tottenham. Where were they on Sunday?
Is it possible, with his strong belief in giving young players a chance, that these five youngsters are now seen by the manager as first-team players? Leaving them out against Sunderland Under-21s may have been a message to them: you are competing at Melwood now for a place in the squad.
The managerial change might have come at a perfect time for these youngsters.
During the international break many of them went to train at Melwood, as is traditional to make up the numbers. Manager of Liverpool Under-21s Michael Beale spoke of how Klopp had been impressed by what he had seen.
It seems that many of them haven’t gone back and now with a period where games come thick and fast on Thursday-Sunday-Wednesday, a few more bodies might be needed.
The Rubin Kazan team sheet may contain a few surprises, and offer a chance for a few players who a month a go hadn’t expected an opportunity to come so soon.
One thing for sure is they will be crystal clear on what the new manager expects from them: run.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo