IN a city where the idea of determination and defiance as a collective seems to be ingrained within the very fabric of its streets, there’s a certain romanticism in believing Liverpool’s manager can upset the apple cart with the same values as the patch he now resides in.
Even through oppression, Liverpool has proven itself as an outpost of unity; illustrating an ability to ‘make water flow uphill’ when working together towards a common goal — especially when the rest remain averse.
“We’ve climbed the hill in our own way,” the banner read.
Jürgen Klopp is a football romantic, who acted on instinct when choosing Merseyside rather than waiting for Munich or Madrid. He arrived in Liverpool enticed by the idea of disrupting the established order in a league of wealthy consumers and their expensively assembled squads.
He is determined to prove that he can restore this club’s standing amongst the elite of Europe, sparking a Reds resurgence against the odds and on his terms.
There’s an accusation often levelled at the Liverpool fanbase that our aspirations are divorced from reality — that we only ever deal in delusions of grandeur. But on his arrival last October, wearing his signature spectacles and a smile that is as endearing as it is maniacal; Jürgen Klopp preached the power of belief.
As the German’s first anniversary approaches at Liverpool Football Club, a new identity has been established and a cultural shift is emerging. Nobody wants to play this group of Reds, they are feared as a collective. The players and the fans have bought into our new manager and his mantra.
With six more years signed for, Jürgen Klopp has bought into us too.
You could argue that our expectations are often unreasonable and that this weighs heavily on our managers. Brendan Rodgers arrived as an innovator, enthusiastic in his ideas but departed downbeat and despondent, defeated by what might just be the most demanding job in world football. It consumes you, then breaks you and throws you away.
His successor, it seems, is less susceptible to pressure. Klopp possesses an unshakable belief in his methods built on the foundation of his successes at Dortmund and Mainz.
His Modus Operandi? Transforming the culture within each club, instilling a togetherness to defy odds against those who seem better equipped thus cultivating his distinction from the so-called ‘power’ clubs.
This takes time, but even in a league known the world over for its transient nature, the manager has now been afforded with that unfamiliar luxury.
Life in Liverpool began with a display of grit and gusto against Spurs with an evident shift in tactical approach — the kind of intensity that we would later become accustomed too.
More so, it was an indication that there would be no instant messianic transformation as a depleted Liverpool left White Hart Lane having only scored eight goals in nine games by mid-October.
Performances throughout the season would continue to oscillate between outstanding and ordinary and false dawns became fashionable.
For every Chelsea or Manchester City away, there was a Watford or Crystal Palace. For each late goal celebrated there was one conceded.
At Norwich we witnessed both, where the idea of emotional football spiralled into the obscene and the burgeoning bond between Klopp and his players was there for all to see in the celebrations.
While cup competitions hindered our progression in the league, they would illuminate Klopp’s debut campaign without providing him with any tangible success. The Europa League run breathed new life into the club, reigniting a feeling within us reminiscent of 2005 and dispelling any doubts that Anfield’s atmosphere couldn’t live up to what it once was.
Liverpool — as a collective — had reawakened in front of the eyes of Europe with a brand of football built on emotion, implemented by players written off before as the remnants of a previous regime.
It was a joy to support Liverpool again.
We were a fan base reinvigorated by our adventures in Europe; waltzing past Manchester United, welcoming the team bus with pyro and defeating Borussia Dortmund in the most dramatic of circumstances.
The downright defiance against Klopp’s former club was the highlight, but all of the joy would only be in each journey to Wembley and Basel, with no silverware to show for a relentless first campaign under Klopp — and ultimately as many questions about his squad as answers.
The second half capitulation in his 52nd game in charge against Sevilla altered the complexion of a season that by late April seemed destined to end with Champions League qualification. A mental fragility had been exposed within the squad, as had the need to address problem positions in the summer.
Though one thing was apparent as the season drew to a close. Our relationship with Klopp was flourishing at a quicker rate than we could have envisaged and although difficult to quantify into points and trophies, there was certainly conviction in the direction this Liverpool side were heading.
“I wait for the day when the transfer window is closed. I can’t believe how obsessed you all are with this.”
Where there was a clamour from our rivals to purchase high-end performers from the previous season, Klopp concerned himself with developing those with potential into next year’s.
There was temerity in how he approached this window that demonstrated an unwavering confidence in his own ideas. When the rest were averse to the German’s beliefs, he remained defiant, even ruthless.
Only once before in our history have there been so many outgoings during an off-season, with 13 sold in total. Although much of this business was to be applauded, the subsequent positive net spend for the summer was not.
Each acquisition seemed sensible and considered, but overall fans were left feeling a little underwhelmed.
If the failure to sign a left-back was seen as negligent before the opening fixture at the Emirates then afterwards it felt entirely unforgivable.
Yet James Milner replaced Alberto Moreno as an auxiliary left-back in August and finished September as quite possibly the highest performing in that position in the league.
Rather than signing a defensive midfielder, Klopp was bold in his belief that he could reinvent Jordan Henderson, reviving his Liverpool career in an unfamiliar position and allowing him to silence detractors along the way.
When World Cup winner Mario Gotze refused to offer his former manager any assurances on a reunion, Klopp shelved plans to sign him and recruited Sadio Mane instead.
The former Southampton attacker would introduce himself at Arsenal with a goal that exemplified exactly what Liverpool had been lacking and, in just six league performances, quelled any suggestion that his new club had overpaid.
This is a signing that made a mockery of our infatuation with signing stellar names over the attributes we are actually in need of. The majority would have chosen Gotze over Mane because he’s marquee, but stylistically the Senegalese international was the kind of signing Liverpool had been crying out for.
Klopp has control, working harmoniously with the transfer committee and signing only those he sees fit. Most encouraging of all, Liverpool were successful in ensuring only those deemed surplus to requirements were sold, with no key players departing for the first time in three years. If you’re still here now, Jürgen wants you.
The Reds may have competed in two cup finals last year, but they have 31 more to contend with this time around. Sitting two points from top in the league with nine games played, there is a sense that something is stirring at Liverpool.
The installation of Klopp’s ethos has been clear to see, gradually developed on the training pitch in the summer months and ingrained within the squad with all of the emphasis on the machine as a collective — each cog as vital as the last.
There is a resurgence of players emerging with a renewed sense of value who stand alongside new signings who so far have excelled because they’ve been chosen by Klopp with his philosophy in mind.
This is an intense Liverpool that hunts in packs together and then pens you in. They’ll bully your backline by running you ragged and a fifteen minute flurry is quite possibly all they’ll need.
Where Arsenal away signalled new beginnings, Burnley felt like a football match we had watched one hundred times over. It served as a reminder that this team are far from the finished article, but right now it’s a result that remains an anomaly.
Our exile from Europe looks increasing advantageous, with one less obstacle to overcome and so allowing Klopp the preparation time he so craved last season.
Liverpool are winning games they would not have before, Swansea the latest showing of resilience and shift in mentality.
And it feels like Klopp is the figurehead at the forefront of a movement, leading a side in his image in a city that identifies with each of the characteristics it possesses. Cohesion. Unity. Defiance.
He’ll call us out when we’re leaving early or tell us off for singing his name, yet still draw devotion. This while succeeding in seducing his own players, supporters in the stands, opposition fans and the British media all at once.
There’s the laugh, the hugs, the self deprecating press conferences and his anarchic sideline manner living every kick just like us.
There is no division in the stands. Now no talk of Luis Suarez. No identity crisis. No reliance on the return of one player. No end to the potential of this side under Klopp.
But what is most exciting is that we’re living the beginnings of what we were sold when Jürgen joined one year ago.
The Reds are not perfect but together they’re rejuvenated. The collective. Bring on yer Manchester United.