Football Features

The starting XI from Jurgen Klopp’s first game shows just how far Liverpool have come

By Steve Jennings

Published: 8:30, 29 April 2022 | Updated: 13:29, 1 May 2022

October 8, 2015. A day that many Liverpool fans will never forget.

No, it’s doesn’t signify any cups or titles, instead it was when Jurgen Klopp was announced as the Reds’ new manager, replacing Brendan Rodgers with Liverpool in limbo.

Shortly after he would take charge of his first game, a goalless draw against Tottenham Hotspur, who were also going through an interesting patch, but in an arguably better position than Liverpool.

But since that day, Klopp has overseen nothing short of a revolution at Liverpool, leading them back to the top of Europe in 2019 and finally, after 30 years, England.

One look at the starting line-up from Klopp’s first game in charge is enough to recognise why they are flourishing now. Liverpool have made drastic changes to a team that simply didn’t possess the quality to challenge for major trophies, and now, an unprecedented quadruple is a distinct possibility.

So, with Klopp recently putting pen to paper on a new contract extension that will keep him at Anfield until 2026, we cast our minds back to his first game as Liverpool manager all those years ago. Oh how the team has changed so much…

Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet

One of the biggest upgrades Klopp has made over the last five years is between the sticks. Too many mistakes saw Simon Mignolet replaced by Loris Karius, who proved to be even more costly in the calamity department, with his two horrendous errors costing Liverpool Champions League glory in 2018.

Klopp knew he had to act and swiftly brought in Alisson from Roma. The Brazilian has emerged as one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers, if not the best, while Mignolet is now turning out for Club Brugge in his homeland, Belgium.

Right-back: Nathaniel Clyne

An attacking right-back who had all the qualities of a Klopp No. 2, Clyne never really kicked on in front of the Kop, with the Londoner seeing his time on Merseyside marred by persistent injury problems, which ultimately paved the way for Trent Alexander-Arnold to emerge in 2017/18 and go on to establish himself as one of the game’s leading full-backs.

Centre-back: Martin Skrtel

A no-nonsense, throwback defender in every sense, Skrtel had the appearance of a hard man who would flourish in the physically-imposing domain of Premier League football. Signed by Rafa Benitez in 2008 to remedy a defensive injury crisis at the time, Skrtel had his moments at Anfield, but was never really consistent enough to push the club onto loftier heights. Virgil van Dijk on the other hand…

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Centre-back: Mamadou Sakho

The less said the better really. Mamadou Sakho joined Liverpool with a burgeoning reputation at Paris Saint-Germain as bullish centre-back who could ruffle feathers and play out from the back. The problem turned out that he ruffled Klopp’s feathers rather than opposing strikers following several disciplinary breaches which culminated in him being demoted to the reserves and ultimately ousted to Palace.  

Left-back: Alberto Moreno

Another, like Clyne, who seemed to tick all the right boxes of a Klopp full-back, from an attacking sense (though he is certainly no Andy Robertson). However, defensively Moreno was suspect, often looking all at sea when opposition wingers charged at him, leading to several key blunders and an inconsistency which meant Klopp had to move for a more domineering defensive unit, chiefly a hard-nosed Glaswegian who also happened to be exceptionally creative.

Central midfield: Lucas Leiva

Possibly one of the game’s most underrated defensive midfielders, Lucas had to buy his time at Anfield following a meteoric jump from Gremio to Liverpool in 2007, with a midfield trio of Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano and Steven Gerard hard to displace, but when he got going, he proved an invaluable member of the Reds, even securing the club’s Player of the Year award in 2011, a feat he has since replicated twice for current club Lazio, in 2018 and 2019.

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Central midfield: Emre Can

Can was one of the few success stories of Liverpool’s infamously woeful 2014/15 transfer window, which saw Rodgers splurge on £50m on Lazar Markovic, Mario Balotelli and Alberto Moreno, but Can’s £10m move from Bayer Leverkusen as a precocious 20-year-old proved somewhat exceptional business. The versatile German never really settled into a fixed position at the club, shifting regularly between defence and various midfield roles, but under Klopp he came alive, particularly in the 2017/18 season. Unfortunately, it proved a short-lived as he would eventually up sticks for Juventus.

Central midfield: James Milner

The Forever Man, football’s own Benjamin Button has continued to prove a stalwart, a reliable cog in Liverpool’s team under Klopp. Always willing to put in the hard yards and slot in where necessity dictates, Milner’s continued first-team involvement with Liverpool at the age of 36 is a testament to his mental fortitude, application and dedication to his craft.

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Attacking midfield: Philippe Coutinho

A leading light at Anfield, Philippe Coutinho flourished under Klopp, who allowed the creative maestro license to express himself in the final third, which naturally saw him excel and lead to several high-profile clubs courting his signature. One of whom, Barcelona, captured the diminutive genius, though of course that tale played out similarly to Can at Juventus, with neither player able to replicate their form under Klopp.

Attacking midfield: Adam Lallana

You always got the sense that Klopp just really liked Adam Lallana. A creative type, the former England international was a playmaker wizard when fit and firing on all cylinders, regularly transfixing the terraces with his balletic stride and twinkle-toed exploits. However, injury would ultimately curtail Lallana’s progress in the North West, and Klopp sought more consistent attacking options, leading to the now-Brighton man falling down the pecking order.

Striker: Divock Origi

Liverpool’s ultimate cult hero. Divock Origi would fire a blank in this game against Tottenham, but he would ultimately go on to haunt the club in the Champions League final a few years later. And he continues to produce the goods in key games, becoming a magnet for drama — and even this season. The Belgian recently netted in the Merseyside derby and scored a crucial 94th-minute winner against Wolves earlier this season.

Substitutes:

Joe Allen

Though a neat and nimble tempo-setter, Allen is a world away from the world-class metronomic stylings of Thiago.

Jordon Ibe

A promising and menacing forward on his day, Ibe never kicked on to realise his early promise.

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