Ten games that were key to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool conquering the world

Few managerial appointments in the Premier League era have come with quite as much hype and excitement as Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, back in October 2015. 

The German coach presented himself as “the normal one” after being unveiled in front of the media, arriving on Merseyside after winning back-to-back Bundesliga titles at Borussia Dortmund and entering the European spotlight as they thrashed Real Madrid en route to the 2013 Champions League final.

It’s been quite a journey for Klopp, but after five years in charge, few would argue that he’s failed to deliver on the promise. Here are the key moments that helped them become champions of England, Europe and the world.

Liverpool 2-2 West Brom – December 2015

Klopp’s decision to get his players to applaud the Kop after a disappointing draw at home to West Brom a few months into his tenure invited bafflement and derision from the English media, and prompted Baggies midfielder James McClean to call him “a bit of an idiot”.

But for all it was unorthodox, the show of appreciation was evidently valued by the supporters, and has helped build a strong bond from the outset.

“I really wanted from the first day that the people know about their importance,” Klopp told JOE, looking back three years later.

“In football, people always say it – that supporters are important – but then you don’t treat them like that so you have to make sure it’s really a healthy relationship.

“We know without them we wouldn’t play on our highest level, no chance. You have to appreciate that and it’s very easy for me, but it’s still very different routines in England and in Germany.”

Liverpool 4-3 Borussia Dortmund – April 2016

Even when they weren’t great, Liverpool have always made Anfield a difficult place to visit in European competition. 

That was certainly the case in Klopp’s first season, in which the domestic form remained sketchy as he struggled to instil his brand of football, but they remained a force to be reckoned with on their own patch – as Klopp’s former club found out.

Liverpool looked dead and buried in their Europa League quarter-final against Dortmund, having managed a creditable 1-1 draw in Westphalia, they’d conceded two away goals within ten minutes of the second leg, and were 3-1 down at the hour mark. Cue a half-hour, three-goal, capped off by Dejan Lovren in injury-time.

The stadium erupted in response, and ever since, maintaining and even expanding that special aura at Anfield became a key pillar of Klopp’s tenure, and feature of the European success that was to follow.

Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool – August 2016

There were lots of positives to be taken from Klopp’s first season, with hints of the high-intensity football he was looking for, and runs to two cup finals, but ultimately they finished eighth and trophyless.

After a first full pre-season, Liverpool made a statement on the opening day of the 2016-17 campaign with a madcap seven-goal thriller at Arsenal, with Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum exceptional on their competitive debuts.

This was the first evidence of how well head of recruitment Michael Edwards has done in the transfer market during the Klopp era. There’d be plenty more evidence to come.

READ: A forensic analysis of Liverpool’s 4-3 opening-day victory at Arsenal

Leicester 3-1 Liverpool – February 2017

After starting in the 2016-17 campaign in great form, Klopp’s Liverpool suffered a serious mid-season wobble, with three wins, three draws and just one win from their first seven Premier League games of 2017. 

January had also seen them exit the FA Cup with a defeat at home to Wolves, and lose home and away to Southampton in the League Cup semi-finals.

A sorry 3-1 defeat at Leicester, inflicted with a goal from Danny Drinkwater and brace from Jamie Vardy, saw them fall out of the top four for the first time since September.

It was a serious slump, and Klopp was under pressure, but he triggered an excellent response from his players – they won eight of the last 11 to secure a fourth-place finish and Champions League football for the first time during his tenure.

Tottenham 4-1 Liverpool – October 2017

For all their improvements and progress, Liverpool remained prone to calamitous defensive displays, and they didn’t come much more calamitous than this as Spurs raced to a two-goal lead inside 12 minutes and poor Dejan Lovren was taken out of the firing line and substituted by Klopp after just half an hour.

A performance that screamed “f*ck it, get Virgil van Dijk in”. That’s not worked out badly for them since.

Liverpool 5-0 Watford – March 2018

After not getting much of a chance at Chelsea, Mohamed Salah had shown he was pretty damn good at Fiorentina and Roma. Still, few would have predicted quite how good he’d become as Klopp’s Liverpool brought him back to the Premier League in the summer of 2017.

Completing the front three that in many ways has defined their success in recent years, Salah was astonishing in his first season with the club, beating the 38-game Premier League goalscoring record with 32 goals in 2017-18.

There are few better examples than his four-goal haul against Watford in March 2018.

“I think Mo is on the way [to being the best in the world],” Klopp said after the match, comparing him to Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona.

Liverpool 1-3 Real Madrid – May 2018

Just as Lovren’s display at Tottenham convinced Klopp there needed to be investment in the defence, Loris Karius’ horrorshow in the Champions League final in Kyiv’s Olympiyskiy Stadium.

Enter Alisson, the final piece of the jigsaw. The Brazilian joined for a world-record fee for a goalkeeper but was worth every penny, making vital saves as Liverpool went one better and lifted ol’ big ears a year later. 

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona – May 2019

A game, and a performance, that defied explanation. A mindblowing display from a Liverpool side missing Firmino and Salah, with Xherdan Shaqiri, James Milner and Divock Origi on the teamsheet.

Even far from full-strength, Liverpool shocked the La Liga champions with a performance that had all the hallmarks of Klopp’s best football: mental resilience, athleticism, intensity, invention.

Some scoff at the cliché of “special European nights at Anfield”, but how can you deny it? After a night like this it appeared inevitable the Champions League trophy would follow, and sure enough it did.

Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United – January 2020

There were still 16 games left to play, but as Salah scored in injury-time to wrap up a 2-0 win over their biggest rivals in January, everyone knew the title was done.

This was Liverpool’s 13th straight league win – a run they’d extend to 18 – to open up a 16-point lead over Manchester City. Liverpool were absolutely relentless for the first three-quarters of their 2019/20 title-winning campaign, unbeaten and dropping just two points from their first 27 games, ensuring they could sit back and enjoy the run-in.

There would be no late slip, tension or nerves as a 30-year wait for the title came to an end. Klopp had created a winning machine. “F*cking mentality monsters”.

READ: How Liverpool’s 18-point win compares to Europe’s other title winners

Chelsea 0-2 Liverpool – September 2020

Where can you go from 195 points over two seasons, winning the Champions League, Club World Cup and Premier League? Enter Thiago Alcantara.

The Spain international was absent for the inexplicable 7-2 defeat at Aston Villa, but his debut offered evidence that he would have made a difference.

He was afforded the luxury of being brought on against a ten-man Chelsea, but his 45-minute cameo was special as he helped exert complete control, suffocating Frank Lampard’s Blues at Stamford Bridge. He completed 75 passes, more than any Chelsea player in the entire match, and a record for 45 minutes on the pitch.

We can’t wait to see what he does next.

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