The Hindu explains: From Jurgen Klopp to the Sundarban wetlands

Who is Jurgen Klopp, premier coach?

Soccer Football - Pre Season Friendly - Blackburn Rovers v Liverpool - Ewood Park, Blackburn, Britain - July 19, 2018 Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp during the warm up before the match Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Only one man stands between Manchester City and a second successive Premier League title — Jurgen Klopp. Unlike in 2017-18, when City won in a record-breaking fashion — most points (100), most goals scored (106) and most wins (32) — the 51-year-old Liverpool manager has ensured that Pep Guardiola’s men will have to mine every last reserve to secure the trophy again. City may currently be the league’s sole leader, but Liverpool remains within touching distance. With just two months left in the campaign, the stage is set for an absorbing and nail-biting dash to the finish line.

What’s the secret of his success?

After Jose Mourinho, the former Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester United boss, Klopp has been Guardiola’s Achilles heel. Their rivalry stretches back to 2013-14 in Germany when Klopp was managing Borussia Dortmund and Guardiola was in charge of Bayern Munich. Klopp’s teams were pioneers of Gegenpressing, a technique which involved harrying the opposition immediately after losing the ball, and also specialised in rapid transitions from defence to offence. When Guardiola’s possession-heavy football came in contact with Klopp’s, it often proved a brittle art.

How has it been at Liverpool?

Klopp has certainly refashioned his ideals at the English club. It took two years and a bunch of carefully selected players to implement his vision, but the results, as seen from the 2017-18 season, have been staggering. The front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane scored 91 of Liverpool’s 135 goals, leaving everyone gasping for breath. Guardiola bore the brunt, losing thrice in a three-month window in early 2018, including 5-1 on aggregate in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final. Liverpool eventually lost in the final of the elite European tournament, but as a whole, the journey was a vindication of Klopp’s methods and evidence enough to suggest that Liverpool would be a title-contender. In fact, in 16 matches, Klopp has defeated Guardiola seven times and has earned three draws. One may argue that two such games in a season do not by themselves decide the direction of a title race, but a clash of ideas rarely exists in isolation. The tactical cues that emerge, if picked up well, will surely lead to a more competitive league.

Have there been any challenges?

Amid the highs of last season, there were indications that Liverpool couldn’t sustain its frenetic playing style at all times. While it did reach the Champions League final, the domestic campaign fizzled out. In 2018-19, Klopp has been mindful of the need to conserve his players’ energies by not going full throttle in all matches. While this has certainly added some steeliness — Liverpool has lost just once in 29 league games and is well placed after the first leg of the Champions League round-of-16 tie against Bayern Munich — five draws in the last seven matches have raised questions. Through this period, Salah, Firmino and Mane have looked subdued, leading to suggestions that the side is over-dependent on the trio. And last October’s 0-0 draw against City, in which Guardiola finally found a way to neutralise Klopp, wouldn’t have gone unnoticed.

What next?

More endless scrutiny, for one. Liverpool is gunning for its first league title in 29 years and it is inevitable that every little step will be watched. Throughout his career, Klopp has revelled in the role of an underdog and it may work to the club’s advantage that Liverpool is back in the second position chasing City. There are also rumours that Spanish giant Real Madrid, currently helmed by a caretaker coach, has an eye on Klopp. The German’s head though is unlikely to turn.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2021 7:49:19 AM |

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