Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp's side show their title credentials

By Phil McNultyChief football writer
Liverpool celebrate Roberto Firmino's goal
Liverpool host Paris St-Germain on Tuesday in their first Champions League game of the season

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is approaching the third anniversary of his appointment - a reign that started with a gritty goalless draw against Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

The German's elation at the end of Saturday's 2-1 win over Spurs at Wembley was even more obvious than usual after a result and performance that emphasised the giant strides the club and team have made in that period.

This is their best start to a Premier League season - the last time they recorded five straight league wins in the opening weeks of a campaign was 1990.

So how far have Liverpool come under Klopp - and can his rejuvenation finally result in the title returning to Anfield for the first time in 28 years?

A match to highlight the scale of Liverpool's transformation

When Klopp succeeded the sacked Brendan Rodgers, following a sabbatical after his time as Borussia Dortmund coach, Liverpool were 10th in the Premier League and the momentum that almost carried them to the title in 2014 was lost.

It was against Spurs, the side beaten so impressively here to maintain a 100% start to the season, that he handed in his first teamsheet as Liverpool manager.

And a look back to that day - 17 October 2015 - outlines the scale of Klopp's turnaround.

James Milner was the only surviving starter for Liverpool at Wembley, while Spurs had six: Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose, Mousa Dembele, Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane.

An examination of Liverpool's substitutes that day, and its comparison to three years later, delivers arguably the starkest illustration of how Klopp has strengthened them into a Premier League power once more.

In 2015, Liverpool's bench included experience in the shape of Joe Allen and Kolo Toure, but also youngsters Jerome Sinclair, Connor Randall, Jordon Ibe and Joao Teixeia, with Adam Bogdan as reserve keeper.

The contrast three years later is quite startling.

Klopp was able to call on club captain Jordan Henderson and England striker Daniel Sturridge from a bench that also included almost £60m worth of summer signings in Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri, plus Alberto Moreno and Joel Matip. Simon Mignolet - who was in his first team - was deputy to Alisson.

Liverpool have not only a powerful first-choice team but a huge range of options on the bench to make up the sort of squad that looks ready to challenge for the title.

And it is that wealth of talent that means they have already picked up more points (three) away from home against last season's top six than they did in the whole of 2017-18 (one).

Turning doubters into believers

It was the game of the season so far - Klopp

When Klopp walked into Anfield he began his introduction to Liverpool's fans by announcing: "We must turn doubters into believers."

It could have been a hard sell to a set of supporters starved of the title since 1990, but the manner in which Spurs were beaten, this flawless start to the season, and the clear progression of recent campaigns, now sees belief oozing out of those who may previously have doubted.

The good news for Liverpool and Klopp is they have still not quite hit the heights they reached on so many occasions last season in the Premier League and Champions League, where the likes of Manchester City and Roma were blown away before defeat in the final by Real Madrid.

Klopp's transitional first season, tentative steps towards where Liverpool stand now, still saw them reach the League Cup final and Europa League final, losing to Manchester City and Sevilla respectively.

Now, so much further into development, Liverpool are looking even more like a team built exactly how Klopp likes it and in the manner of his work when he unseated the superpower of Bayern Munich to twice win the Bundesliga at Borussia Dortmund.

He has addressed the most obvious flaw with the signing of £75m defender Virgil van Dijk in January and £67m goalkeeper Alisson from Roma in the summer - although that was obviously too late to stop Loris Karius' calamitous performance in the Champions League final.

Klopp has bolstered his midfield with the industrious Naby Keita, whose approach and ability helps Liverpool suffocate and harass opponents in the manner that is the manager's trademark.

He has spent the sort of money that brings demands for trophies with it - and rightly so - but it must also be factored into the equation that funds were found from the £142m sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in January.

In attack, again in an identikit of what Klopp always demands from his teams, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah give him width, pace, guile and goals in a triumvirate that will test any defence.

They have scored 66 goals in 32 combined starts.

Since the three players were put in unison following Salah's arrival from Roma at the start of last season, they have scored 99 goals in their 165 appearances. Firmino has scored 29 goals in 59 games, Mane 24 in 49 and Salah a remarkable 46 goals in 57 games.

Firmino tends to be underrated by some, although no-one at Anfield, but he has been directly involved in 61 Premier League goals under Klopp - 38 goals and 23 assists. This is more than any other player.

This Liverpool team is now unrecognisable, both in personnel and style, from when Klopp walked through the door.

So can Liverpool win the title?

Liverpool's growing maturity under Klopp led to them being touted as the team most likely to challenge Manchester City - and their vast transfer outlay means this must be an expectation this season.

This is Klopp's third full season - and he had most of the 2015-16 campaign - so realistically, given the investment and talent at his disposal, he should be expected to win a trophy this term.

The Premier League title should be a realistic aim, although City are understandably still favourites and Chelsea will harbour renewed title ambition of their own after their perfect start put them top of the table ahead of Liverpool on goal difference.

"We all thought Liverpool would challenge for the title this season and so far they look the business," said former England winger Chris Waddle, co-commentator for BBC Radio 5 live at Wembley.

"They have the Champions League starting and the cup competitions to come so we'll see how they get on, but it's a strong start.

"Klopp has the squad for it and this is the year that, if you're Klopp, you've got to win a trophy."

Liverpool could not have started the season any better with a maximum haul in these first five league games - they did not reach 15 points until 28 October last season.

Inevitably, something which is part of life at Anfield, expectations will soar in line with the emotion that fuels their support and Klopp must deal with that.

This Liverpool side, however, looks built to last this season and that meeting with Manchester City on 7 October is already ringed in red on the calendar.


Join the conversation

These comments are now closed.


Top Stories

Elsewhere on the BBC