English Premiership

Charismatic Klopp starting to make his mark at Liverpool

2016-08-10 11:11
Jurgen Klopp (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - It's usually unwise to take anything from preseason friendlies, yet some results are too good to ignore.

Liverpool's 4-0 win over Barcelona at Wembley Stadium on Saturday may force some pundits to revisit their predictions for Juergen Klopp's side this season.

Klopp is heading into his first full season at Anfield after an inconsistent but encouraging seven months last campaign, when he took over from the fired Brendan Rodgers and took Liverpool to the finals of the League Cup and Europa League, losing both.

There are more of Klopp's fingerprints over the 2016-17 squad, and the thrashing of Barcelona - Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez both started in that game - is perhaps a sign that the methods of the charismatic, bespectacled German are starting to make a difference.

"We didn't think before the game we were on a level with Barcelona and we don't think now we are on a higher level than them," Klopp said. "We are not crazy. But you win 4-0 and you have to use it."

Liverpool, a five-time European champion, always loves its European nights but the team's failure to qualify for continental competition this season may well turn out to be a blessing.

Klopp's men struggled with the packed schedule last season, resulting in vastly differing performances one week to the next. Players found it hard to enact Klopp's favored high-energy pressing style three games a week, and should be more consistent this season with a less-cluttered fixture list.

Especially domestically, there were obvious areas where Liverpool needed to make improvements. One was in defense, and Klopp has changed things round at center back by agreeing to the departure of Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure, and bringing in Joel Matip from Schalke and Estonia captain Ragnar Klavan.

Left back was also a problem position, and Klopp tried out James Milner - a versatile midfielder - in that position against Barcelona before he got injured. Alberto Moreno is the first-choice left back but is error-prone, and Jon Flanagan has been loaned to Burnley for the season.

Klopp also struggled to settle on a regular starting center forward, with Daniel Sturridge and Danny Ings beset by injuries, Divock Origi adjusting to life in England in his first season in the Premier League and Christian Benteke failing to justify his $50m price tag.

No new strikers have been signed, though. Klopp has said Benteke would be allowed to leave on a permanent transfer and Brazil forward Roberto Firmino is another option in the central-striker role, with Liverpool flush with attacking midfielders.

Midfield looks to be Liverpool's strongest asset like it was last season, when Philippe Coutinho, Firmino and Adam Lallana often produced moments of class. Two more exciting midfielders have been added, with Sadio Mane and Giorginio Wijnaldum joining for more than £50m combined.

Following the sale of Jordon Ibe to Bournemouth, Sheyi Ojo could get more game time and the 19-year-old looks to be the latest in a string of talented wingers to come through Liverpool. Ojo has been compared to Raheem Sterling, who left Liverpool for Manchester City last year.

With Liverpool completing work on renovating the main stand at Anfield, the team's opening three games will be away from home, starting at Arsenal on Sunday.

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30 September 2016
Everton v Crystal Palace, Goodison Park 21:00
01 October 2016
Swansea City v Liverpool, Liberty Stadium 13:30
West Ham United v Middlesbrough, Olympic Stadium 16:00
Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion, Stadium of Light 16:00
Hull City v Chelsea, The KC Stadium 16:00
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02 October 2016
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