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The Liverpool starting XI from Klopp's first game in charge highlights the fantastic job he's done since

It was confirmed today that the manager has signed a new contract to remain with the Reds until 2024.

Jurgen Klopp (file pic).
Jurgen Klopp (file pic).
Image: John Walton

Updated at 22.25

IT’S JUST OVER four years since Liverpool sacked Brendan Rodgers.

After an underwhelming 1-1 draw with Everton, the Reds sat 10th in the table, prompting the Antrim native’s departure.

After the highs of the 2013-14 campaign, when the Reds finished just two points behind champions Man City, they struggled to maintain this brilliant form.

The following year, after their best player, Luis Suarez, left for Barcelona, the season felt like an extended hangover. 

They finished sixth in the table, amid a campaign that culminated in a 3-1 loss to Crystal Palace and a 6-1 defeat by Stoke.

Rodgers needed a positive start to the following season and when that didn’t happen, his departure felt inevitable.

Jurgen Klinsmann, Frank de Boer, Walter Mazzarri and Carlo Ancelotti were all tipped as possible successors, but instead Liverpool opted for Klopp — an astute decision in hindsight.

The coach was immediately regarded as the primary candidate to take over the Reds. In seven years at Dortmund, he had won two league titles and one German Cup, as well as guiding the team to the Champions League final in 2013. His last season at the Bundesliga club, however, ended on a sour note.

They sat bottom of the table in February, with Klopp subsequently announcing his impending departure the following April, with a strong finish seeing them up to seventh and reaching the DFB Pokal final, which proved to be the manager’s final game in charge.

Klopp’s start at Liverpool wasn’t exactly an unequivocal success. The club finished eighth after he had taken over in October, though they did get as far as the Europa League final in that campaign, losing 3-1 to Sevilla ultimately.

A look at the team for Klopp’s first match in charge though highlights how much the side has changed during his time in charge.

Liverpool had spent close to £292 million during the Rodgers era, and not all of it had been invested wisely, with a controversial transfer committee receiving much flak for recruiting the unsuccessful likes of Mario Balotelli (£16m), Fabio Borini (£11m) and Lazar Marković (£20m).

That first match, a 0-0 draw away Spurs, featured the following starting XI and subs…

Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Sakho, Moreno, Leiva, Can, Milner, Lallana (Allen), Coutinho (Ibe), Origi.

Subs: Toure, Allen, Ibe, Bogdan, Sinclair, Vilaca Teixeira, Randall.

Of the team that travelled to London that day, none are automatic starters for the current Liverpool team.

The majority have moved on, with only James Milner, Divock Origi and Adam Lallana still considered important squad members.

Klopp had a clear vision of how he wanted his side to play, which is why he was able to reverse their fortunes relatively swiftly.

He showed little hesitation in discarding Christian Benteke, for instance. The striker had been bought from Villa for £32.5 million only shortly before Rodgers’ reign came to an end. Nevertheless, the Belgian striker didn’t have the lightning pace and willingness to press that Klopp demands of his attackers.

Consequently, he left after just 10 goals in 42 appearances in 2016, with Liverpool actually recouping most of their money — selling him to Palace for £27 million along with £5 million in potential add-ons.

Klopp and Liverpool in general have invested wisely in recent years. When transfers haven’t worked out — Loris Karius being a prime example — the issue has been quickly rectified.

Players brought in such as Sadio Mane, Mo Salah, Fabinho, Virgil van Dijk and Alisson weren’t exactly cheap, though they have certainly been worth the big fees, with each contributing substantially to a remarkable improvement, with the club appearing in back-to-back Champions League finals, while they look odds-on to win the Premier League this season.

In addition to his obvious tactical nous and eye for a good player, what also makes Klopp stand out is his man management.

He has effectively sold an entire team and replaced it with a new one during his four years at Liverpool. To oversee all these changes takes considerable skill. In the modern game especially, players are more sensitive than ever. But you rarely hear of a footballer falling out with Klopp, nor does he often criticise his players individually in public. A Liverpool team has never been accused of having ‘stopped playing’ for him, an issue which has arguably afflicted big clubs such as Man United, Chelsea and Tottenham in recent years. He is ruthless when necessary, yet seemingly remains a popular figure both inside and outside the Anfield dressing room.

Emotional intelligence is one of the most underrated qualities for a manager. The days when coaches such as Brian Clough could rule with an iron fist are gone 

Klopp is very much a coach symptomatic of his era and it’s why he has been so successful in recent years, with news today that he has signed a new contract until 2024 a surprise to no one.

Upcoming Premier League fixtures (all games kick off at 3pm unless stated otherwise):

Saturday

Liverpool v Watford (12.30)
Burnley v Newcastle
Chelsea v Bournemouth
Leicester v Norwich
Sheffield United v Aston Villa
Southampton v West Ham (17.30)

Sunday

Man United v Everton (14.00)
Wolves v Tottenham (14.00)
Arsenal v Man City (16.30)

Monday

Crystal Palace v Brighton (19.45)

Originally published at 16.41

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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