Article by Imraan Adam @imadam786
Liverpool football club; Champions of Europe for a sixth time: Ah that feels good to say and as I sat down round the table with my family on Tuesday morning for some Eid day breakfast the celebrations were only just beginning. It’s amazing to think that we have come from, a club that what was on the brink of not existing only about 10 years ago to a club which is now back at the summit of European football. But how? How has this club managed to drag itself out of its own grave and become what I think is the best team in world football at the moment?
It was in 2008 and a 2-2 draw against Aston Villa at home where the “Yanks out” movement first hit the headlines in the main stream media and from inside my college dormitory while I listened to the match on the radio and hearing the chants of “you Yankee bastards get out of our club” that I began to realise the severity of the situation that was unfolding. At this point the Tom and Gerry ownership had been instilled for around 10 months and the signs were not good.
The American duo were basically treating the club like their own personal bank, transferring their debt onto us and leaving the club in financial ruin and even though Fernando Torres had been acquired that summer investment into the club had been virtually nonexistent. As time moved forward things became more and more desperate with Tom and Gerry running the club in a fashion that would have even left their cartoon counterparts scratching their heads, and despite Liverpool mounting a title challenge in 08/09 things were becoming worse and worse for the Anfield club. I can’t exactly remember when the news broke that Liverpool might be in danger on going under but what I do remember is that sinking feeling in my heart and the thought that I’m sure every single Liverpool fan thought of, what do we do without LFC?
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After a barrage of protests both on match days and normal days the American owners finally decided to give up and sell the club. Now we all knew how greedy these two individuals were but even by their standards the price they were asking for was ridiculous. £500 million for a club that was severely in debt and who had finished seventh in the Premier League that season was a long way off what most investors were willing to fork out. After a series of high court battles it was agreed that Martin Broughton would be brought in to oversee the sale of the club. At this time there was question marks whether Broughton, a self confessed Chelsea supporter, had the best interest of the club at heart, and the appointment of Roy Hodgson as Liverpool manager in the summer of 2010 did nothing to allay the concerns of supporters. In the autumn of 2010 it was announced that the American company Fenway Sports Group would be buying the club and I remember thinking straight away great, another bunch of Yanks. Thankfully I was proved wrong and even though FSG have made mistakes in their tenure on the whole you have to give them enormous credit for where Liverpool is now.
Admittedly the early days of FSG were a bit like watching Bambi when she’s first born, they were stumbling around trying to find their feet without really knowing a great deal about football. Yes their ideas sounded great in building a young team full of youth but the reality was football had changed and the comments made by Alan Hansen 15 years earlier about how you can’t win anything with kids was ever true. Personally I think it took FSG a long time to find their feet and win over the trust of the supporters, Yes there was the title challenge in 2013/14 but really that was a one off and more down to momentum rather than having a team that could actually challenge. The next couple of summers saw big question marks being raised by Liverpool supporters over the ownership and the direction the club was going, the selling of Luis Suarez was a bitter pill to swallow but the fact that a replacement was not brought in left fans in uproar.
It also didn’t help that at the beginning of the 2014/15 season Steven Gerrard announced publicly that he only had 1 year left on his contract and had not been offered a new one by the club. This led to a fans backlash and even though the Gerrard situation wasn’t down to the ownership fans automatically assumed that FSG was responsible for the club losing one of its greatest ever players.
It was until autumn of 2015 that FSG finally began to get their act together and after a dismal 1-1 draw at Everton which led to the sacking of Brendan Rodgers did FSG finally make an appointment that got everyone connected with the club excited. Jurgen Klopp, who had won two German League titles with Borussia Dortmund was given the Liverpool hot seat and promised that he could rebuild the team in his image.
Klopp was charismatic from the start and seeing video clips of his antics on the touch line at Dortmund you could tell he was passionate about the beautiful game. He came with a style of play that had completely revolutionised the way football was played in Germany, they called it Gegenpress. A fast flowing, high pressing high energy style that involves winning the ball back high up the pitch with devastating results, finally Liverpool Football Club had a world class manager at the helm. Admittedly it took a while for Klopp to settle in, unable to win his first three matches, the Germans first victory came in a EFL Cup tie against Bournemouth, with an impressive 3-1 win away at Chelsea the following weekend. However it wasn’t until a few weeks later that we got a glimpse into what Klopp could achieve at Liverpool, on a cold November Saturday evening in Manchester Klopp took his team to the Etihad and completely destroyed Manchester City in unbelievable fashion. The 4-1 victory that night left fans licking their lips and asking for more of that please.
However, Klopp’s main problem in that first season was his defence, especially with regards to the pressing game as teams worked out very quickly that you could beat the press by knocking the ball long and out muscling the Liverpool defenders. It probably took Klopp a lot longer than he would have wanted to sort this problem out and it wasn’t until the first day of 2018 that Virgil van Dijk was brought in for a club record of £75 million. Van Dijk has been a revelation at the back for Liverpool adding a coolness and solidity that has cost us prior to the Dutchman’s arrival, especially when you consider the EFL cup final and Europa League final that we lost in Klopp’s first season.
On an attacking front Liverpool have gone from strength to strength ever since Klopp arrived. Roberto Firmino was already at the club when Klopp came in but his best position was still up for debate, Klopp solved this issue almost immediately by turning him into a false number 9 and allowing him to spearhead our pressing game. Sadio Mane was brought in that summer to provide some much needed pace on the wing and Mohammad Salah came in Klopp’s second summer window to be what we thought was a understudy to Mane, the Egyptian had other ideas and with the guidance of Klopp quickly established himself as Liverpool’s number one player and the best forward in world football.
Liverpool reached the Champions League Final rather unexpectedly last season and with Klopp’s first experience of a European final for Liverpool ending so badly two years before he felt confident that this time he could land the big one. However there was one more position that Klopp and FSG had failed to address and that was the goalkeeper. Loris Karius’s two blunders against Real Madrid in the Champions League Final last season was probably the most decisive moment in the last 30 years for Liverpool Football Club. It meant Klopp and FSG had to go big on buying a world class goalkeeper to ensure that Liverpool were completely solid at the back in the big matches when the pressure was on. Liverpool reportedly scouted over 300 different goalkeepers and in the end Alisson Becker was the one that got the nod over everyone else and as Liverpool prepared a record breaking £68.8 million for their new keeper we went into this season confident that we could mount a challenge in on the league title, even then nobody expected this.
Obviously Liverpool just fell short in the Premier League losing out by one point with a total of 97 points, the third highest total in English football history. However, it was in Europe once again where the magic really happened, an extraordinary night at Anfield in the semi final second leg saw Liverpool come back from a 3-0 aggregate deficit to win the tie 4-3 sparked scenes of joy that will probably go down as Anfield’s greatest night ever, setting up a final clash with Tottenham and a chance for redemption.
While I know it wasn’t the greatest game of football the world has ever seen what commentators on BT failed to understand was how beautifully Liverpool controlled that game. Once we went ahead early on Liverpool didn’t need to score again and with Tottenham failing to make any in roads on our defence Liverpool didn’t need to shift into turbo all we had to do was control the game, which we did and this was instructed by Klopp.
On a tactical level Liverpool completely outplayed Tottenham even though the stats suggested otherwise if you actually watch that game from an analytical point of view without any bias, which some of the commentators on BT clearly were in favour of Tottenham, you will actually realise Klopp played a smart game whereby we controlled the match without having a lot of the ball and having to exert a large amount of energy. Liverpool became European Champions by not necessarily playing the most attractive game of football but simply out smarting Tottenham and that’s what makes us so dangerous going forward.
So as we all try to catch our breath over the summer ready to go again next season Liverpool will be hoping that they can finally conquer England, and possibly retain our European crown by doing an unprecedented double, and if Klopp can do that they seriously need to make room in that car park for a statue.
Article by Imraan Adam @imadam786