Six Liverpool players Jurgen Klopp has improved – and four who have regressed

Six Liverpool players Jurgen Klopp has improved – and four who have regressed

Jurgen Klopp recently celebrated two years in charge of Liverpool.

Since arriving at Anfield, following the highs and lows of the Brendan Rodgers administration, Klopp has shaped the 18-time English champions in his image.

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To date, he’s gone through 60 different players, many of whom he inherited and made them even better – thus becoming integral to his heavy-metal football – whereas others have fallen by the wayside.

Here are some of those.

Improved

Adam Lallana

Out of sorts during Brendan Rodgers’ final months as Reds boss, Lallana has looked a different beast under Klopp, so much so the German tactician recently claimed the former Southampton captain as one of the most technically-gifted players he’s coached.

The numbers don’t lie: Lallana, who plays deeper as an attacking midfielder in Klopp’s predominant 4-3-3 system and dutifully instigates the Reds’ pressing game, averaged 1.1 tackles and 0.65 interceptions per game in the Premier League last season.

In terms of creativity, the St Albans-born created no fewer than 42 chances across his 31 league outings, whilst successfully completing 33 take-ons subsequently establishing himself as an integral part of the Klopp machine.

It’s said that through absence a footballer’s stature increases. Lallana, who hasn’t kicked a ball this season, has only seen his stock continues to rise as he continues to recover from a serious hamstring injury.

Philippe Coutinho

Across much of his first three-four seasons on Merseyside we caught glimpses of his explosive power, but like an explosion it all vanished with the moment, it couldn’t be controlled until now.

Coutinho’s specialness has never been in question, but it’s fair to say with Klopp educating the Brazilian playmaker he’s become more consistent, which seen him go from prodigious to world-beater.

Under the auspices of Klopp he’s registered 29 goals across 78 matches, with him only managing 17 in 112 before his arrival. This extraction of his prowess – among many other factors – has seen the Reds go from sitting outside the top four, and occasionally challenge, to being in the mix.

Heavily linked with a summer move to Barcelona, which saw him subsequently hand in a transfer request, Coutinho remained at Anfield after the powers that be made it clear under no circumstances he’d be leaving.

Things could have gone two ways. Coutinho would either become a disillusioned menace within Klopp’s squad – or, as has transpired, put everything behind him and remain a pivotal member.

Joe Gomez

Gomez, who suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury just before Klopp took the helm, has to date featured 13 times in the league under the current Liverpool boss, with all but three of those coming this season.

Having always been highly thought of, including by Klopp, the question was could the multifunctional defender – capable of playing across the backline – force his way into the Reds’ starting XI?

The answer, so far, is yes. Across Liverpool’s opening nine league matches, the England U21 international has started in six of those outings, all at right-back, and completed the full 90 minutes on each of those occasions.

Yet to turn 21 (that will happen next May) it’s unclear whether Gomez’s development is down to nature or nurture. Either way, Klopp, a champion of promoting youth, has no doubt played a significant role.

Alberto Moreno

It’s funny how things work out. Heading into the new season it seemed the future of Alberto Moreno was not going to transpire at Anfield.

Moreno couldn’t get a look in last season after losing his place as Liverpool’s first choice left-back to midfielder James Milner.

If there ever was a damning indictment, it was that. But, despite this demotion, Moreno’s spirit wasn’t broken, especially when this kind of humiliation might have led to others walking out.

Moreno bided his time, knowing if he continued to work hard in training Klopp would turn to him.

And that has been the case this season, with Moreno having to date made seven league outings, leaving him five behind his overall total (12) for the 2016/17 campaign, which he could equal when Liverpool visit Stoke in late November.

It is far from a complete transformation. No one is suggesting Moreno is the second coming of Paolo Maldini.

But he’s no longer the ‘worst’ player at Klopp’s disposal, and that counts for something.

Instead of supporters holding their breath every time the Spaniard gets the ball, it’s quite the opposite now, as Moreno on more than one occasion has bailed out the Reds, having won more possession for Liverpool through tackling in the Premier League more often than any teammate this season so far.

Sadio Mané

Prior to playing his first, game Sadio Mane’s former coach at Red Bull Salzburg opioned that he’d be perfect for the football Klopp wants at Anfield.

“He works a lot for the team in defence, which is very important for Liverpool,” Oliver Glasner said.

“He’s used to doing this from Red Bull Salzburg. He wants to do this because he knows that he will profit, so then he can score goals and make a lot of assists.”

His statement has come to pass. Not only has Mane – who let’s not forget was exceptional in his final season with Southampton – been vitally important for the Reds in terms of end-product, his tirelessness has enabled Klopp’s vision to be implemented.

In his first season Mane – alongside Coutinho – finished as the club’s leading Premier League goalscorer. Nominally a winger, he’s averaging a goal every 195 minutes under Klopp, whilst he’s created 10 goals across 38 matches in all competitions.

More importantly, Mane’s electric pace and ability on the ball combine to create havoc in the opposition half, particularly when taking on fullbacks.

Currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, Mane was missed in their recent humbling away to Spurs, which only strengthened the case for those who see him as Liverpool’s most important player.

Roberto Firmino

If there’s one quality Klopp admires from his forward-thinking players, it’s graft.

Given the high-octane football the German tactician prefers to adopt, there’s pressure on those nearest the opposition goal to become Liverpool’s first line of defence. Many under his tutelage have answered his call.

Roberto Firmino, who has often been used as a false nine, is one such forward who has embraced the added responsibilities.

To date he’s featured 97 times under Klopp, registering 29 goals and 26 assists – the only player to enter the 20s in each of those categories – which is a reminder of how far he’s come on under the German tactician, even if he has struggled in October.

Declining

Dejan Lovren

There was a reason why Liverpool were hell-bent in signing Virgil van Dijk this summer.

The 26-year-old Dutch central defender is unquestionably an upgrade on those Klopp is able to call upon.

It was painfully illustrated in their capitulation at Wembley against Spurs when their defensive fragility reared its ugly head.

Unfortunately, one player symbolises their plight: Dejan Lovren.

Since the start of last season no Liverpool player has made more defensive errors (4) in the Premier League than him. His days at Anfield are seemingly numbered.

Joël Matip

Despite heavy (and rightful) criticism levied towards the Liverpool defence, Klopp has tried to rectify the situation, with Joël Matip arriving in the summer of 2016 – on a free transfer from boyhood club Schalke 04 – seen as a coup.

However, it’s not developed into the signing most envisaged, with Matip deserving of his portion of the blame for Liverpool’s defensive record.

Matip’s errors may not be as high-profile as Lovren, which has allowed the former Cameroon international to escape criticism in certain instances.

Daniel Sturridge

Sturridge was impressive in Jurgen Klopp’s first season in charge but since then the England striker has regressed so much that he is no longer able to command a regular place in the starting line-up for Liverpool.

Klopp’s preference to deploy Roberto Firmino up front has harmed Sturridge’s development and it seems as though the 28-year-old has had the freedom taken out of his game by the German coach’s strict methods.

Injuries have inevitably played a part in halting Sturridge’s progress, but Klopp has failed to make the most of the striker’s qualities to the extent where he is often unable to make an impact as a substitute – he has scored just once in seven Premier League appearances this season

Ragnar Klavan

A dependable performer at his former club Augsburg, Klavan settled in quickly after joining Liverpool in the summer of 2016 and it initially seemed as if Klopp had made an inspired purchase that could help to address his team’s longstanding defensive issues.

As last season went on, however, Klavan started to become increasingly error prone, not helped by the lack of protection that he was afforded by Liverpool’s midfielders.

Now Klavan is completely out of favour and has played just three times in the Premier League this season, even though Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren have continued to struggle.