A lot happened in 1990. Maragaret Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, England reached the semi-finals of the World Cup, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air first aired on TV, and Madonna had her Blonde Ambition tour. It was also the last time that Liverpool won a league title. This was a time before the Premier League even existed. It launched for the 1992/93 season. Anyone born the year Liverpool last won the league will be about to turn 30.
This doesn’t mean the Reds have been nowhere for the last 30 years. They have come second in the Premier League four times, most recently last season and then in 2013/14, 2008/09, and 2001/02 before that. They’ve also won the FA Cup three times (1991/92, 2000/01, and 2005/06), the Community Shield in 2001 and 2006, the UEFA Cup once, and the UEFA Super Cup in 2001, 2005, and 2019. Most notably they also won the Champions League twice, last season and before that in 2005.
Liverpool have been through two major eras in the last 20 years. There’s the time when Rafael Benitez was manager between 2003 and 2010, and then the last four years with Jurgen Klopp at the helm. These are the two managers that have led Liverpool to their Champions League victories, and both came close to winning the Premier League. The period in between these two managers was tumultuous, with Sammy Lee (as caretaker), Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish, and Brendan Rodgers all having limited success.
It wasn’t until October 2015, when Jurgen Klopp joined the club, that Liverpool would see a path to success opening up again. For his first two full seasons in charge, Liverpool FC finished fourth in the Premier League twice, improving on the 8th and 6th places the two years prior. They then went on to achieve a second place in the 2018/19 season, scoring 97 points, a score that in any other year would have been enough to win.
The reds appear to be building on this success in 2019/20, as they currently sit top of the league, 8 points clear of Manchester City, their rivals from last year. Football fans who enjoy wagering on games should be wary about betting against Klopp’s Reds, who despite a few wobbles recently continue to set the standard in the Premier League.
Who is Jurgen Klopp
Born in June 1967 in the German city of Stuttgart, Jurgen Klopp was a professional footballer who spent most of his career at Mainz 05. After finishing his playing career in 2001, Klopp went on to manage the same team until 2008, when he moved to Borussia Dortmund, who had a series of domestic and European victories during the 7 years of Klopp’s leadership.
Klopp believes emotion is an important part of his role as manager, which often sees him partaking in enthusiastic celebrations from the touchline. He adopts a different style of football to many other managers. Following the lead of the coach from his time as a player at Mainz, Klopp is a proponent of the Gegenpressing style, whereby the team attempts to immediately regain possession of the ball after losing it, instead of the more common approach of falling back to regroup. Commentators have described his choice of attacking style as “heavy metal” football, due to the high amounts of attacking play.
The rationale for this aggressive, pressing style is that it gets players to attack the opponent whilst they are still looking for passing opportunities, are lower on energy, and less aware of their surroundings. In effect, the theory has it that the opposing player is at his most vulnerable state immediately after he has gained possession.
The implementation of this pressing style took some time. At first, Liverpool were criticised for their inability to control the game and for their propensity to concede goals. Over his first couple of seasons, Klopp developed the tactics to include more organisation in the midfield and more possession. By his third full season, the hard work had paid off and Liverpool made a record start to the domestic season, achieving 12 clean sheets by the half way point of the season. They had also only conceded 7 goals, the lowest for any team in the Premier League.
Despite the early criticism, Klopp has set many records as manager of Liverpool. At 2.07 goals per game, he has the highest goal to game ratio of any Liverpool manager in the last 123 years. Between February and March 2019, Liverpool went 517 consecutive game minutes without conceding a goal, testament to the improvements in the team’s control of the game. He reached 400 goals in 197 games and 300 points in 146 games. Both are less than any other Liverpool manager in history. He has also achieved 17 successive Premier League victories, more than any other time in Liverpool’s history.
Liverpool have continued their strong performance in 2019/20, winning all of their games so far. This season may be their best chance for 30 years to win the Premier League, as their closest rivals, Manchester City, will be focusing on victory in Europe. The Blues have the opposite record to Liverpool. Whilst they have seen a lot of success in domestic titles, they are yet to win a Champions League title. Therefore, the two teams are likely to focus on different competitions this year in order to end the droughts that both are facing.
Klopp’s record as manager at other teams has been to settle in for the long term, leading Borussia Dortmund and Mainz for 7 years each. It is likely he will serve a similar length at Liverpool, providing he is able to deliver the much needed Premier League title.
Times are good at Liverpool right now, better than they have been for a decade or so. This is made even sweeter by the fact they have waited 30 years to get this close to winning the Premier League. The torment from rivals over in nearby Manchester has been painful for Liverpool fans on occasions, but the 2019/20 season looks like it may finally be Liverpool’s time, and they have Jurgen Klopp to thank for that.