LIVERPOOL won the English title, the first after as many as thirty years of waiting. After scoring a record number of points last season and remaining a little too short for City, this season they secured the title seven rounds before the end.
When Jürgen Klopp took the helm of the Reds, in the fall of 2015, few would bet that in five years they would become the best team in the world, the English and European champions. A good result, with the exception of one season in those years, was an exception, and the staff did not inspire optimism in a better tomorrow.
This kind of team was not created overnight, but is the result of long-term smart investments, a sense of market opportunities and the recognition of needs within the team. For that, the right people had to come, with the right vision. That’s what happened and they made the loser team champions.
What kind of team welcomed Klopp?
Klopp took over Liverpool in October, when the transition period was already over and he was greeted by an already defined team.
Graphics: Sofascore for IndexSport
The team looked, at the very least, questionable at the time. Mignolet was on goal, who was a “unit” until the season before last, but it was clear that this is one of the weaker links in the team. Skrtel and Lovren were daily targets of ridicule by the British media, while few remember Clyne and Moreno today.
The middle of the field was quite busy. Lucas Leiva was a great back midfielder, but with the best years of his career far behind. Emre Can was the team’s first playmaker, which testifies enough to the amount of creativity Klopp had at his disposal at the time.
On the right wing, he most often played Lallan, who then and today remained only an eternal talent, while the game’s leader and most dangerous player was Coutinho. Firmino had just arrived from Hoffenheim, but not all of his qualities were visible at first. In order for the team to make the most of his movements and perfect understanding of the ballless game, wing players compatible with him needed to be brought in.
Already the first season showed hints of “kloppism” – fierce pressing and quick attacks on which he built his success in Borussia, but it was even more obvious that this is a team in which a lot of work will need to be invested. And in training, but also in transfer deadlines. In order for Liverpool to become better, they first had to change their way of thinking in the market.
Why Liverpool must be grateful to America
The concept of Moneyball has its roots in American baseball, but soon its value was recognized in (this our) football. It is an advanced analytical model that, when scouting players and making recommendations, emphasizes their measurable characteristics, and not just what a scout can notice by watching a match. It is not enough to choose just the right player, the point of moneyball is to choose the right player for a good price.
By applying moneyball, Oakland parried much richer baseball franchises, and that’s exactly what Liverpool needed. The first man to implement such a strategy was Michael Edwards, a former player who devoted himself to football analytics after his career. Admittedly, he had been at the club before Klopp, but he never managed to reconcile his ideas with Brendan Rodgers.
Although Liverpool had a lot of money, with their results and credibility it still fell significantly below clubs like Real, Barcelona, PSG and others. It was clear that I could not get a planetary star, because she would choose a tidier and, at that moment, better club.
Liverpool became synonymous with bad trade in the years before Klopp. In them, he overpaid either the stars who could no longer provide much, or the “consolation prizes” of the market. It wasn’t about the players they targeted, but it was about the backup options they wanted to get to Anfield.
Thus, in the three transfer window before Klopp, Liverpool had transfers such as Joe Allen, who paid 20 million pounds, Fabio Borrini (15 million), Iago Aspas (12 million), Albert Moreno 820 million), Mario Balotelli (20 million), Lazar Markovic. (25 million), Adam Lallan (32 million), Danny Ings (10 million), Nathaniel Clyne (20 million) and Christian Benteke (48 million). Almost no player on the list played a significant role, nor could it bring added value to Liverpool. Something had to change.
One of the few good moments of Benteke in Liverpool
Klopp realized this in time and accepted the model. Edwards was not only skilled with numbers, but in coordination with Klopp he was only looking for those players who could meet the specific requirements of his system. According to the club, Edwards had enough feelings and lucidity to inquire about the life of potential reinforcements on and off the field – how often they go out, whether they are lonely, what their work habits are and whether their character will be a problem for the atmosphere Klopp builds at Anfield .
All the prerequisites for the new Liverpool were there. A modern and intelligent scout service, a coach who knows his team perfectly and knows what it needs and the fact that these two structures are looking in the same direction. The results became spectacular.
The text continues below the ad
This is what Liverpool looks like today. This team was built according to plan
Liverpool’s exit transfer policy was very simple. Klopp only got rid of those players who, due to their profile or quality, did not have a place there, and those offers that were simply so big that they could not be rejected. These include the transfers of Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho who were, each in their time, club records.
In this way, they provided the club with enough income for a painless transition and change of the entire team. Since Klopp was Liverpool’s coach, the Reds have spent just £ 80 million more on transfers than they earned, which is a negligible difference if you look at the outcomes of those transfers and the results. It is clear that with the growth of ambitions, salaries are also growing, but that segment is in the domain of other structures in the club anyway.
Although it now seems that the big result is a logical consequence of a great team, it is necessary to take into account the context in which each of these players arrived in Liverpool.
Graphics: Sofascore for IndexSport
Alisson was paid a huge sum (£ 62 million) but was worth every penny. Andrew Robertson was brought in as a semi-anonymous player from Hull for Alexander-Arnold’s child of Liverpool School. Klopp had the courage and knowledge to entrust to two complete anonymous perhaps the most important roles in his team’s offensive system. Today, no club in the world has such a back pair.
Virgil van Dijk held a record compensation for one defender. But already in his second season at Liverpool, he almost became only the second defender in history to win the Golden Ball. If Celtic knew that when he sold it, he could have gotten more than £ 85 million. Joe Gomez is objectively just a replacement for Matip who came from Schalke for free.
In Fabinho, Klopp got one of the key players – the back midfielder who allows the defenders to be extremely offensive and is great in his reactions to other balls in the middle of the field. There is probably no more ideal midfielder for the Klopp system than him. Wijnaldum is perhaps the best example of smart, planned shopping. In Klopp’s system, midfielders do not have great creative roles, so in possession it is much more important how they play without the ball. By bringing in Wijnaldum, Klopp got a player who can become a second striker in the attacking phase thanks to a great sense of space and play from the background. Barcelona’s two goals with which Liverpool entered the Champions League final last year were the final confirmation of why Liverpool needs such a player.
Finally, while Liverpool have the most powerful attack in the world, it’s not something many would bet on until recently. Salah arrived as a “failed” star of Roma and Fiorentina. Edwards and Klopp saw in him a still living spark that they had forged into one of the best players in the world. Sadio Mane was still a star in Southampton, but it was only in Liverpool that he became a candidate for the Golden Ball and with a partner on the other side, the best African player of today. The figure of around £ 80 million paid in total for the two of them seems like a real “theft” from this perspective.
Klopp planned to look for the main players on opposite sides of the field so as not to disturb each other and take away each other’s space. Their tendency to start the attack wide so that they are inserted diagonally towards the goal ideally coincides with Firmin’s ability to open space for them.
Klopp and Edwards saw in the new players what no one else did
Liverpool didn’t just bring in the right players. He brought them in at the right time, right in those positions where they needed the highest quality or a certain player profile at the time. Their every move was a logical step in putting together just such a team and had its own market and football logic. From the club that did the worst in the world, Liverpool has become by far the best club when it comes to market activity.
He saw in these players what probably no one else has. Edwards brought the potential that Klopp honed within his system almost to perfection. If a European version of Moneyball is ever to be made, the motive must be Liverpool. One of the biggest clubs in history has plunged into the wrong sports policy and tragicomic decisions that deepened the gap between themselves and those who were the best at the time.
Their rebirth and success are the result of a fantastic collaboration of all services within the club – a coach with a clear vision of the game and a profession that can direct him to the players to whom he can achieve it.
Liverpool’s success is the success of patience, analytics and process, something that is not so common in elite football. Liverpool has completely changed the way it works. And that’s why he’s a champion again.
Last Liverpool title 30 years ago