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Mentality Monsters: Jürgen Klopp Approaches 200 Premier League Games

 

With Jürgen Klopp set to lead Liverpool for the 200th time in the Premier League, Michael Reid analyses the dramatic transformation in the club’s fortunes since his arrival.

By: Michael Reid

Cast your mind back to May 2nd, 2010. Exactly 200 Liverpool Premier League games before Jürgen Klopp took charge of the club.

The Reds, led by Rafael Benítez, fell to a 0-2 home defeat to eventual champions Chelsea to leave themselves seventh in the table and confirm that they had failed to earn qualification for the Champions League for the first time since the 2002-03 season, when they finished fifth.

Now, in January 2021, Klopp is set to lead Liverpool for the 200th time in the Premier League. And it comes against fierce rivals Manchester United on Sunday.

The transformation in the club’s fortunes under the German has been dramatic. In their 200 league games before his arrival, a spell that encompassed Benítez’s final two matches in charge as well as the reigns of Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish’s second spell and Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool picked up 94 wins, 48 draws and 58 defeats.

By contrast, Klopp has already won 127 of his 199 league matches in charge, drawn 47 and lost just 25. That’s 33 more wins and 33 fewer defeats than the 200 games before he joined. And 98 more points earned.

Even before his 200th match, Klopp’s 127 wins stacks up remarkably well among the most in any manager’s first 200 Premier League games. Only current Tottenham boss José Mourinho, who took former club Chelsea to the title in both of his first two seasons in charge, won more times in his first 200 Premier League outings (137) than Klopp with Liverpool.

That output is made all the more remarkable given Liverpool’s record before Klopp arrived at the club. Just compare it to his rivals in the above table.

Mourinho took over a Chelsea side that had finished the previous season second in the Premier League. Alex Ferguson was six years into his Manchester United tenure when the Premier League began. Pep Guardiola took over a Manchester City side that had won two league titles in five seasons prior to this arrival, only finishing below second once in that spell. Even the Liverpool side that Benítez took charge of had finished in the top four in eight of the previous 10 seasons before the Spaniard’s reign.

But when Klopp joined Liverpool, the club could boast just one top four finish in the last six seasons. His starting point with Liverpool was significantly tougher than that of his counterparts with the most wins in their opening 200 Premier League matches.

His impact has been exceptional. He has guided the Reds to Champions League qualification in all four of his full seasons in charge, ultimately securing their first league title in 30 years last season.

Indeed, Klopp’s success has been such that in Liverpool’s history, a history that boasts 19 First Division/Premier League titles, his win ratio is comfortably the best of any Reds manager in the top-flight. Over 6% above Kenny Dalglish, who won three league titles as Liverpool boss, and over 7% better than Bob Paisley, who won six in just nine years in charge.

Klopp arrived at Liverpool with a reputation of success against the odds. A promotion to the Bundesliga with Mainz in 2004. Two consecutive Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund in 2011 and 2012. The job he did at both clubs stood him in good stead for turning around Liverpool’s fortunes.

His progress as a manager is clear. In his first 200 Bundesliga matches (102 of which were with Mainz, 98 with Dortmund), Klopp won 81, drew 57 and lost 62. In his first 200 league games in charge at Dortmund alone, he won 117, drew 48 and lost 35.

Impressive figures, but he has reached new heights with his 127 wins as Liverpool manager in the Premier League – already the most by any Reds boss in the competition since it began in 1992.

But what of his players? Tellingly, three of the five players who have made the most Premier League appearances for Liverpool under Klopp were at the club before the German arrived in October 2015.

Klopp’s Most Used Players – Premier League:

Liverpool - Premier League under KloppAppsStartsMins
Roberto Firmino18616914.604
Georginio Wijnaldum15814212.398
James Milner1511039.671
Sadio Mané14313511.616
Jordan Henderson14212210.804
Mohamed Salah12411910.410
Andrew Robertson1111099.805

Roberto Firmino, a signing made under Brendan Rodgers, has been Klopp’s go-to man ever since he joined the Reds, featuring in 93% of Liverpool’s league matches under the German.

Then there is the club’s captain, Jordan Henderson, and vice-captain, James Milner. Signed for Liverpool by Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodgers respectively, both players have made more Premier League appearances under Klopp than with any of their previous managers, with Henderson having debuted in the competition with Sunderland in 2008 and Milner with Leeds United in 2002.

How Klopp has brought on and developed the players he inherited in 2015 has been crucial to the success of his Liverpool side. Notably, Jordan Henderson won the FWA Footballer of the Year award in 2019-20 having captained the club to a first league title in 30 years. Few would have tipped him for such success when he replaced Steven Gerrard as permanent club captain.

But the German’s record in the transfer market has also been impeccable. Key signings such as Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah have propelled Liverpool’s fortunes. Along with Firmino, they have formed a triumvirate that boast 183 league goals since they first played together in August 2017. In Europe’s top five leagues, no other club’s top-scoring three players have scored more than Mané, Firmino and Salah have for the Reds since the start of the 2017-18 campaign.

Joint-top with Liverpool’s front three for the top-scoring trios since 2017-18 are Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (106 goals), Luis Suárez (62) and Philippe Coutinho (15) – also netting 183 goals combined. The latter of which, Coutinho, is the most significant departure for Liverpool under Klopp, leaving for the Spanish giants in 2018.

Still fourth for most Premier League goal involvements by Liverpool players under Klopp, Coutinho’s sale paved the way for Klopp to make two hugely influential signings at the other end of the field: centre back Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson Becker.

Before van Dijk’s Premier League debut for Liverpool in January 2018, the Reds had shipped 110 goals in 91 league matches with Klopp at the helm, or 1.2 per game. Since his debut, that figure has fallen to 0.8 goals conceded per match (86 in 108 games).

Alisson arrived slightly later, in the summer of 2018. He has conceded an even lower 0.7 goals per Premier League match he has played (57 in 81 apps). In fact, Alisson’s rate of conceding every 127 minutes he plays in the Premier League is the best ratio of any goalkeeper with 5,000 or more minutes to their name in Premier League history.

Then there is Klopp’s full-back pairing, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. The former was signed from a relegated Hull side, while the latter is a product of Liverpool’s academy. The duo have reinvented the full-back role.

Robertson has 33 Premier League assists for Liverpool and Alexander-Arnold has 28. Since they first lined up alongside each other in September 2017, that ranks both of them in the top four for most Premier League assists, keeping company with Kevin De Bruyne (45) and teammate Mo Salah (30). Not bad for two defenders.

Put all of this together, and it’s clear how Klopp has struck a balance in each area of the field. A fierce front three, leadership in midfield, the creativity of the full-backs and a strong core to piece it all together.

It’s fitting that Klopp’s 200th Premier League game comes against Manchester United. The only club with more English top-flight crowns than Liverpool. The club Liverpool have lost to more than any other in the Premier League.

Indeed, Klopp’s Liverpool side average just 1.22 points per game against their north west rivals – fewer than they do against any other opponent.

The winner of their meeting at Anfield on Sunday is guaranteed to finish the day top of the table. As if Klopp needed any more motivation for his 200th Premier League game.


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